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Manchester wants to put brakes on Wolverhampton taxis

Manchester Taxi

Concerns have been raised about safety as the number of out-of-town private hire taxi drivers operating in Greater Manchester continues to rise.

The Manchester Evening News has revealed that more than one in three private hire taxi drivers operating in Greater Manchester are licensed by Wolverhampton Council.

The newspaper found that of the region’s 25,577 private hire drivers, 8,952 – 35% – are licenced by Wolverhampton Council and live in Manchester.

This has more than doubled since March when there were 4,049 Wolverhampton-licenced drivers operating in Manchester, representing one in five private hire drivers in the city region with Wolverhampton plates.

The Manchester Evening News reports that Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham condemned “out of town” taxi drivers amid claims they were registering elsewhere to avoid meeting local standards.

The Evening News’ Freedom of Information request found there are 36,033 private hire drivers with a Wolverhampton plate in total in the UK, but only 16,343 private hire vehicles with a Greater Manchester licence plate.

Licensing checks

In March, it emerged that almost a third of England’s private hire taxi drivers are registered in Wolverhampton. The city has even had to take on 20 new staff to cope with demand but strongly denied claims that thorough checks aren’t being carried out on drivers and vehicles. And it points out that in 2021 and 2022, 55 per cent of applicants failed the checks.

During BBC Radio Manchester’s ‘In The Hotseat’ segment, Mr Burnham asked: “How are they allowing it, the other authorities, who are 100 or so miles away? How are they not checking up on those taxis and those drivers? But they’re taking in the money for it.

“How are they allowing that situation? They shouldn’t be doing it because they’re giving plates without being able to then monitor the performance.”

Local standards of driving

The Evening News reveals that the main difference in standards relates to the age of vehicles allowed, with Greater Manchester councils requiring newer vehicles to be used on the roads as well as more advanced background checks, according to Mr Burnham.

He said there is also a concern amongst cabbies that drivers are getting in a taxi without knowing all the rules, prompting questions of safety for passengers.

Current legislation means that private hire drivers can operate anywhere in the UK outside of London, even if they are not licensed in that particular area.

Different costs in licensing

It is understandable why private hire drivers might want to register with a different authority. Manchester City Council charges £255 to register as a new private hire driver plus costs for tests and between £222 and £342 to register a vehicle (depending on its age). But the application fee for a new private hire driver through Wolverhampton Council is £49 for a one-year licence or £98 for a three-year licence and £95 to register a vehicle under 10 years old.

A Transport for Greater Manchester spokesperson said: “Taxis and private hire services are a crucial part of our transport network, providing approximately 45 million trips a year. The sector provides an important service, particularly for those without access to a car, and people who don’t live or work near other parts of the public transport network.

“Current legislation means that outside of London, private hire drivers can operate anywhere in England and Wales, regardless of where they are licensed.

“The existing system means that local councils can’t guarantee a high standard from ‘out of area’ drivers and their vehicles. A change in the law is required to make sure that anyone who drives or operates a taxi or private hire vehicle in Greater Manchester meets high safety standards and is licensed in our area.

“Greater Manchester leaders have sought powers from the government to tackle the challenges posed by ‘out-of-area’ operation of private hire services and to date these have not been devolved.”

Should councils be able to stop out-of-town taxis operating in their region?

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