Taxi drivers angry at lost trade

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A COUNCIL is investigating complaints that some private hire drivers in Bury St Edmunds are ‘picking-up’ illegally.

Taxi driver of 26 years Halil Salih says that five years ago he drove 180 miles a shift. Now he drives just 70 miles.

He blames some private hire drivers for his reduced custom and has provided the council with a record of those he says have been plying for business, an offence which can incur a £2,500 penalty.

The father-of-three, from Bury, said: “It’s affecting me making a living.”

He was also concerned that the behaviour could cause a driver’s insurance to become invalidated in the event of an accident.

Donald Donnelly, a taxi driver of 35 years, said private hires waited in town where they were likely to ‘pick-up’ instead of at their base.

The 71-year-old said: “It’s affecting my business big time. I’m earning half the money I used to.”

Ian Thompson, 48, from Thurston, said: “It’s a massive problem, it always has been but it’s getting worse. We need enforcement officers on the streets.”

A spokeswoman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council said: “We take abuse of licensing regulations very seriously and have diverted staff resources into investigating allegations that some private hire vehicles are plying for trade without a booking, which they are not allowed to do.”

In response to increased complaints made during the last six months, every taxi and private hire operator in Bury has been warned about patrols being carried out.

Shakeel Asghar, director of Private Hire Association (PHA), agreed this was an increasing problem throughout the UK but said the law was outdated as it did not recognise the improved communication available to drivers for legal ‘pick-ups’.

“There are bad apples in every trade,” he said, adding that PHA supported using marshals, council funded and police enforced, to ‘get rid of illegal plying for hire drivers’.