Tombland marshal scheme could damage trade, says Cabbie

A Norwich cabbie may encourage customers to boycott a taxi marshal scheme due to fears that it will damage his trade.

Steve Royal, secretary of the Norwich Hackney Trade Association, believes taxi customers may chose other modes of transport rather than pay a new �1 fee to fund marshals at the Tombland rank.

The voluntary charge is set to begin in mid-February, providing planning permission is given for a pay and display machine in Tombland.

In a letter the 60-year-old, from Bowthorpe, said: 'Should the levy scheme go ahead, Hackney drivers will make it clear to the public that they will continue to pick up customers from the Tombland rank irrespective of whether they have paid a levy or not.

'No doubt most will go further by actively discouraging the purchase of a ticket.'

Speaking to the Evening News, he said: 'Generally we would be in favour, but we do not see why the taxi driver has to pay for it.

'We could see a situation where there are more flag-downs to save a pound rather than pay the levy.'

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The taxi marshal scheme, which costs �20,000 a year, started two years ago funded until December 2010 by local business, the Safer Neighbourhood partnership, Norfolk Constabulary, Norwich City Council, and the Norwich Nightsafe Partnership fund.

Marshals work at the Tombland rank between 10pm and 3am on Friday and Saturday nights, which is mainly used by clubbers.

Public money for the scheme ran out at the end of December and organisers are looking to taxi customers to pay for the service by making a �1 voluntary contribution per cab journey.

They can then get their money refunded by showing a valid pay and display ticket to a participating venue.

Julian Foster, chairman of the Central Norwich Citizens' Forum, said: 'About 1,200 people in Norwich used the taxi rank every weekend, with more than 130,000 people having used it so far.

'Many people who use the scheme say we are great.'

A decision on the plans to install a solar-powered pay and display machine at Tombland is set to be decided by officers on January 26.