Operation shows poor taxi safety

PUBLISHED: 12:21 20 July 2006 | UPDATED: 10:31 06 May 2010

A taxi is checked over

A taxi is checked over

A POLICE operation has revealed that more than 70 per cent of taxis checked were defective. That is the figure which came from Operation Stalk – a joint police and council taxi checking event held in Stevenage on Friday evening. Police officers on motorbi

A POLICE operation has revealed that more than 70 per cent of taxis checked were defective.

That is the figure which came from Operation Stalk - a joint police and council taxi checking event held in Stevenage on Friday evening.

Police officers on motorbikes made taxi drivers attend London Road council depot to have a vehicle safety check, have their details run through the police national computer and the vehicle scanned by the ANPR (automatic number plate recognition).

Twenty-three vehicles were checked. Eight of them were private hire taxis and the rest were hackney carriages.

Some vehicles had serious problems such as no brake lights, driver's view obscured and tyres worn beyond legal limit - all of which were rectified before being allowed to leave.

One driver was driving without a private hire licence, 70 per cent of vehicles had defects ranging from defective exhausts to no brake lights and three people were caught making fraudulent benefit claims while working - although the council say this figure could rise.

Of the vehicles tested 59 per cent failed their Stevenage Borough Council compliance test - this covers mechanical defects as well as things like condition of upholstery, cleanliness of vehicle, position of licence plate and presence of fire extinguisher.

Checking the cars was Mark Balaam, of VOSA, the vehicle and operator services agency, he said: "Our job is to make sure these vehicles are road worthy. We check the seatbelts, the tyres, the steering and the brakes."

A private hire car driver whose vehicle passed the test told The Comet: "It is a waste of their (police officers) time.

"This should be checked by the taxi companies and maybe by the council.

"Any cab should have MoT and insurance etc. They should not be on the road if not. But these chaps (police officers) should not have to be checking on this."

Insp Mark Furnival described the results as disappointing but said it showed the operation needed to take place.

He said: "We needed to do this to make sure the vehicles being used are safe to be on the road and the drivers are licensed and insured. We hope by doing this the public can feel safer when getting into a taxi. By holding this event we aim to catch the rogue drivers."

A borough council spokesman said thanks to the operation 18 per cent of vehicles with serious safety issues had to have them corrected before they could leave.

He said: "Over the last 12 months we have not had any complaints of incidents involving hackney or private hire vehicles that have caused any degree of personal injury to passengers or the public.

The council say people should only use licensed vehicles - these must display a plate at the rear (usually just under the 'number plate') with a licence number, vehicle registration mark that matches, and an expiry date that is not overdue. Only hackney carriages can pick up passengers without prior booking, these vehicles will always have roof lights with the word TAXI on them, they don't always look like 'black cabs'. Private hire vehicles must be pre-booked.

* A Mid Beds District Council spokesman said taxis in Mid Beds go through a similar set of checks.

She said: "We check drivers annually on renewal - for motoring offences and any relevant criminal offences. We check vehicles annually (compliance test) the vehicles are tested at a designated testing station. Normal MoT is done plus additional items checked for licensed vehicles.

"They are also subject to random tests for road worthiness by licensing enforcement and police."

* A spokesman from NHDC said its licensing department carries out regular routine inspections on taxis to check them for safety.

The spokesman said: "Recently they have put in place a rota of inspections starting with Hitchin and moving on to Letchworth and Baldock. This is part of a policy to be proactive rather than reactive and to offer residents an even better service.


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