The law is clear, only taxis can be hailed. Yet every day and night the public endanger their lives by jumping into unlicensed or licensed vehicles which have no valid insurance
Partygoers are being urged to pre-book their journeys home after officers stopped 44 vehicles during a licensing operation on Broad Street over the weekend (12/13 December).
Birmingham City Council’s licensing officers, working with West Midlands Police colleagues, caught two drivers illegally plying for hire – including a member of the public posing as a licenced driver, who picked up two undercover police officers.
The city council intends to prosecute both drivers: If convicted, the private hire driver who attempted to pick up fares, could also have his licence permanently revoked by the Licensing and Public Protection Committee.
In a separate operation, Vehicle and Operator Service Agency officers stopped nine public service vehicles – minibuses too big to be private hire vehicles – on Friday night (12 December): one for having no operator licence, one working under a false operator licence and six for tachograph offences, exceeding their daily or weekly driving limit.
Four vehicles were also taken off the road as a result of concerns over their safety.
This action comes as the council’s new public safety campaign urges revellers to be safe and pre-book their taxis home after their Christmas and New Year celebrations.
Revellers are being warned not to flag down a private hire car in the street as the driver will commit an offence if he picks them up – and if the driver has an accident, the passengers will not be insured. Those who have not pre-booked can get a taxi from one of two marshalled ranks in the city centre on Broad Street or Ladywell Walk, near the Arcadian.
Cllr Barbara Dring, Chair of the city council’s Licensing and Public Protection Committee, said: “This is the busiest time for our bars, clubs and restaurants which are packed with people enjoying themselves – and we want them to get home safely.
“Drivers’ backgrounds are checked as part of the licensing process to see if they have a criminal record, but as one of the drivers caught was a unlicensed member of the public anyone who got into his car was getting in with a total stranger.
“The vast majority of the vehicles stopped by officers are licenced and roadworthy. Our licensing team monitor this kind of activity all year round but it’s particularly important at peak times like the Christmas party season.
“However the message to all partygoers – at any time of year – is clear: be safe, pre-book your taxi.”
Between 1 April and 30 November 2014, licensing officers stopped 302 Hackney carriages and 817 private hire vehicles, of which 263 and 716 complied with the safety-related conditions of their licence.
Only Hackney Carriage vehicles can pick up fares on the street. Private hire drivers cannot accept passengers unless a booking has been made through their private hire operator. Customers who get into private hire vehicles that have not been booked through an operator place themselves at risk because the driver’s insurance does not cover plying for hire.
Birmingham is one of more than 40 British cities awarded Purple Flag status – similar to the Blue Flag for clean, safe beaches – for standards of excellence in delivering an enjoyable, diverse, and safe night out.