Women Could Be At Risk, Warn Taxi Drivers

PUBLISHED: 11:29 08 October 2008 | UPDATED: 10:35 04 May 2010

YOUNG women could be at risk at night if Ely taxis are forced to reduce the size of the lettering on their vehicles, cab owner John Skipper warned this week. City taxi firms have been told that lettering on the side of their private hire vehicles should b

YOUNG women could be at risk at night if Ely taxis are forced to reduce the size of the lettering on their vehicles, cab owner John Skipper warned this week.

City taxi firms have been told that lettering on the side of their private hire vehicles should be no larger than two inches high.

"Our customers look for our name, to make sure it is safe to get in," said John Skipper, a partner in A 10 Taxis.

"A girl in Cambridge was murdered after she mistakenly got into a car that was not a taxi. It is very important that we are easily recognised."

Mr Skipper - whose signage currently breaks licensing regulations - say his company has not blatantly broken the by-laws, but there has been a misunderstanding. Some other taxi companies have also fallen foul of the laws.

"We thought the regulations only referred to advertising for a third party, and not to our livery," he said. "This is our name, why should be not have it on our cars? This law needs changing.

"Young women at night need to know what taxi they are getting in, it is important for large letters to be used for their safety."

Six months ago A10 taxis were featured on TV because they were so smart, and no reference was made to the lettering at that time, said John

Changing the lettering would leave John's firm with huge bill, he added. Current lettering on his vehicles cost £6,000, and it would cost thousands to change it.

Liz Bailey, the district council's principal environmental health officer, said: "We want to make sure all vehicles comply with the conditions of their licence. Those conditions have not changed, but many taxi companies in the area have decided to flout them. We need to be seen to be enforcing conditions fully and consistently."

"The way vehicles within the district have been badged and labelled makes it very difficult for members of the public and enforcement officers to see at a glance whether vehicles are Hackney Carriages or Private Hire vehicles. Private Hire Vehicles can have lettering down the side; just not more than two inches high and wording must not give an impression it is a Hackney Carriage, by using words such as the 'cab' or 'taxi'. Hackney Carriages can have a roof sign and are those vehicles that operate from a taxi rank or are hailed down.

"By not having clear, distinguishable signage, members of the public could hail down Private Hire vehicles, which is an offence on the driver and operators behalf. By not having clear signage unscrupulous drivers both inside and outside of the district are encouraged to operate illegally, thus putting the public at risk''.

Mrs Bailey said companies who do not comply by a set deadline could face "a range of legal options" to ensure that the conditions of the vehicle licence are complied with but no final decision as yet has been made over what they might be.

"There are hundreds of authorities in the UK who have the same and similar type of licence conditions relating to signage - we are not unusual," she said. "The other alternative is to impose livery conditions - to specify the exact type of vehicle, colour and signage."

The council receive regular complaints - about one a week - from customers unhappy with services provided by the vehicles they have used within the district. Some of the complaints include drivers using mobile phones when driving, refusing to take a guide dog on board, smoking inside vehicles and poor standards of driving.

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