Plans to give Newcastle’s black cabs a distinctive makeover have been parked for now following concerns from the city’s taxi drivers.
Newcastle City Council planned to introduce white bonnets to the city’s fleet of almost 600 public hire black taxis – to reflect Newcastle United’s famous black and white shirts – in a bid to make travelling by taxi safer for everyone.
The BBC reports that the move was taken amid concerns of criminals posing as taxi drivers to target victims – particularly lone women – after a night out. The council said it was aware of “a number of recent police investigations” into sexual assault allegations relating to unlicensed vehicles.
It is also carrying out 11 prosecutions following an undercover operation in December, 2022, during which unlicensed vehicles picked up passengers. In cases such as this, passengers are exposed to extortionate fares, as well as risks to their safety.
The BBC says the new design had been praised by the city’s street pastors, nightclub door supervisors, and organisations trying to prevent violence against women.
While they are not against the aims of the plans, taxi drivers questioned whether the design would have the desired effect. They were also concerned that although the council was offering £100 towards the cost of the initial white wrapping, they would have to foot the bill when it needed replacing.
They also told the Newcastle Chronicle that criminals could easily copy the new taxi design and that the black and white livery could deter non-Newcastle fans.
As a result of the opposition from taxi drivers, on Wednesday, the council delayed the introduction of the new Hackney Carriage & Private Hire Licensing Policy and will sit down with drivers to discuss the way forward.
A spokesman told the Chronicle: “Taxis play an important role in keeping our city moving and many people in our communities rely upon them. Everyone who uses a hackney carriage or private hire vehicle in Newcastle should feel safe doing so and that’s exactly what these new measures set out to achieve.
“It’s clear there has been some misunderstanding about the purpose of the policy and the positive impact this will have for public safety. We have held productive conversations with the GMB and these will continue. The GMB are clear they are not asking their members to object to the policy.
“Over the summer we’d like to continue that engagement with GMB and the trade to clarify the purpose of the policy. The item for discussion will be deferred until the next council meeting to allow these conversations to take place.”
As well as the distinctive white bonnets, the proposed changes would mean black cabs in the city would have to display the council’s red crests on the front doors and have a taxi sign on the roof. It is only these cabs – with public hire insurance – that can be hailed in the street or at a taxi rank.
Private hire vehicles must display the name of the licensed operator on the rear passenger doors and be marked as private only. They can only be booked in advance through a taxi office or via an app. Picking up passengers without bookings will void their private hire insurance.
While the council and taxi drivers will hopefully reach an agreement over the details of the plans, safety is at the forefront for everyone.
Ahead of Wednesday’s council meeting, Cllr Paula Maines, Newcastle City Council Cabinet member for a Resilient City, told Taxi Point: “Everyone who uses a hackney carriage or private hire vehicle in Newcastle should feel safe doing so and that’s exactly what these new measures set out to achieve.
“The new colour scheme for hackney carriages – chosen to reflect those of Newcastle United – and the signage requirements for private hire vehicles will make it easier for people to identify them.
“This will assure passengers that the vehicle and the driver have passed our stringent vetting processes and they will be collected and transported to their destination safely.
“It will also help protect people from unlicensed taxi drivers who illegally ply for trade, particularly at night when people are out enjoying themselves.”
What do you think of the plans?
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