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There's too many taxis in Norwich, say cabbies

Steve Royal, secretary of the Norwich Hackney Trade Association.

Steve Royal, secretary of the Norwich Hackney Trade Association.

Archant © 2011

Taxi drivers have called on the council to limit the number of black cabs allowed to operate in Norwich, saying the city is so flooded with them that they are struggling to make a living.

There are currently 217 licensed black cabs in the city, but the Norwich Hackney Trade Association says that is too many and the city has reached saturation point when it comes to taxis.

The association says people who have lost their jobs in the recession are turning to cab driving and there are simply not enough fares to go around.

Steve Royal, secretary of the Norwich Hackney Trade Association, presented a petition to Norwich City Council’s licensing committee last November urging them to consider limiting the number of black cab licences it issues.

Officers are drawing up a report on whether that might be possible and are asking members of the public whether they think limiting them is a good idea.

Mr Royal is in no doubt Norwich is already at saturation point for black cabs. He said: “Just in the last couple of years we have seen more people becoming taxi drivers.

“You get a situation where people might lose their job and they look to taxi driving as something they can do.

“Sooner or later you came to a saturation point and I think we have got there. If you go to the taxi rank at the railway station you often see them stretching all the way back around the car park.

“It’s not uncommon now for us to have one job in an hour and if that’s a fare for just £5 or so, that’s not enough to make a living.

“It leaves people working longer hours to try to make a living which isn’t good for the taxi drivers or for the public.”

Mr Royal said, with insurance costs soaring by 25pc for many drivers and sky high fuel prices, limiting the number of licences was vital to keep taxi drivers in work.

The council cannot legally refuse to licence a hackney carriage (black cab) once licensing conditions have been satisfied.

It can only refuse an application for a hackney carriage vehicle licence to limit numbers if it is satisfied there is no significant ‘unmet demand’ for taxi services within the city.

In order to figure out if that is the case. the council might need to bring in consultants to carry out a survey - the cost of which would have to be recouped from hackney carriage vehicle licence fees.

If a limit is put in place further surveys might have to be carried out in the future to ensure the restricted number still satisfies the ‘unmet demand’ test.

An alternative to placing a restriction on the number of hackney carriage licences issued by the council could be to change the existing hackney carriage licence conditions or vehicle specification.

For example, the specification could be changed so all vehicles have to meet a certain exhaust emissions standard.

A Norwich City Council spokeswoman said: “This survey is part of a wider exercise to gather information on the future of taxi licensing for black cabs which has included writing to all hackney carriage owners seeking their views.

“Asking for feedback from members of the public is an extension to that work and we’re interested to hear any comment on our proposals.”

Fares for Hackney carriages, which are the taxis you can ‘flag down’ at a taxi rank or off the street, are set by the city council.

The city council also licences private hire vehicles, which have to be pre-booked. There are 335 private hire vehicles in Norwich, but they are not part of this review.

• If you would like to offer your views, visit the homepage of the council’s website www.norwich.gov.uk and complete the online taxi licensing survey by Monday (March 21).

• You can also let the Evening News know your views by writing to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk

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