With thousands of new students in Bath for the beginning of a new educational year, Bath taxi drivers are warning young people about the dangers of getting into a vehicle that they haven’t pre-ordered.
“Only BaNES licenced hackney carriages are allowed to pick up a hail on the street, or from a taxi rank, and their large white taxi sign will be lit up when they are available for hire. All other vehicles must be pre-booked.” Said Paul Roles, spokesperson for Bath Taxi Drivers. “Although young people might think it is convenient to jump into a car that just happens to be there, touting for business, they should think again. Such rides are un-registered and un-insured. Not only would there be no record of you ever having got into the vehicle, if you were involved in a crash, you would not be insured.”
This warning came after it was revealed that 2 people had reported alleged sexual assaults by Uber drivers in Avon and Somerset in the last 18 months, of which the BaNES licensing authority had no idea.
“Drivers have seen taxis and private hires registered as far away as South Yorkshire working as Uber drivers in Bath, touting for business, waiting on the street to pick up any unsuspecting customer.” Said Paul Roles. This follows Uber being banned from London, and Cllr Paul Crossley (Libdem) Southdown, calling for Uber to be banned from Bath."
In a strongly worded letter, Insp Neil Billany of London’s Metropolitan police’s taxi and private hire team suggested the company was putting concerns for its reputation over public safety. In 2016, the Met were made aware of six sexual assaults, two public order offences and one assault, reported by Uber to TfL.
He said: “The two public order offences mentioned above are subject to a six-month prosecution time limit so subsequently both were taken no further as, by the time we became aware of the offence, we had no power to proceed, despite both having clear evidence of an offence taking place.”
Bath MP, Wera Hobhouse said: “I am concerned that the cross-border rule change (by David Cameron’s government) means that Bath is now being swamped by drivers who have been licensed in other towns and cities, and I think we need to get that reversed. These vehicles are harder to identify, and everyone needs to be safe getting into a taxi. In the meantime, I support Bath Taxi Drivers in their calls for all drivers to adhere to licence requirements in the area they are driving in.”
She went on to say: “I was also shocked to learn that a driver who had his licence revoked by the BaNES Licensing Authority, for not being a fit and proper person to work as a Hackney/Private Hire driver, is back working here having got an Uber licence from TFL in London. I cannot emphasise enough to young people, never, ever, get into a car unless you have pre-booked it, or if it is a licenced Hackney Carriage. If you get into a private hire you haven’t booked, you’re not insured.”
BaNES private hire vehicles (which must be pre-booked) display yellow numbered identification plates on the front and rear of the vehicle, as well as private hire roof signs. Inside the driver will have photo ID, which will also be on display in the interior as well as the yellow identification plate.
BaNES licenced Hackney Carriages, such as the one in the photo (which can be hailed in the street, or picked up from taxi ranks), have large, white, illuminated, Bath and North East Somerset Taxi signs on the roof. On the front and rear they have white, numbered identification plates. Inside the driver will also have photo ID, which will be on display with the identification plate.