With thousands of new students in Bath for the beginning of a new educational year, local taxi drivers are warning young people about the dangers of getting into a vehicle that they haven’t pre-ordered.
Paul Roles, spokesperson for Bath Taxi Drivers, said: “Only BaNES licenced hackney carriages are allowed to pick up a hail on the street, or from a taxi rank, and their large white taxi sign will be lit up when they are available for hire. All other vehicles must be pre-booked.”
“Although young people might think it is convenient to jump into a car that just happens to be there, touting for business, they should think again.
“Such rides are un-registered and un-insured. Not only would there be no record of you ever having got into the vehicle, if you were involved in a crash, you would not be insured.”
The warning comes after it was revealed that 2 people had reported alleged sexual assaults by Uber drivers in Avon and Somerset in the last 18 months, of which the B&NES licensing authority had no idea.
“Drivers have seen taxis and private hires registered as far away as South Yorkshire working as Uber drivers in Bath, touting for business, waiting on the street to pick up any unsuspecting customer,” said Paul Roles.
“This follows Uber being banned from London, and Cllr Paul Crossley (Libdem) Southdown, calling for Uber to be banned from Bath. “
Bath MP, Wera Hobhouse added: “I am concerned that the cross-border rule change (by David Cameron’s government) means that Bath is now being swamped by drivers who have been licensed in other towns and cities, and I think we need to get that reversed.
“These vehicles are harder to identify, and everyone needs to be safe getting into a taxi. In the meantime, I support Bath Taxi Drivers in their calls for all drivers to adhere to licence requirements in the area they are driving in.”
She continued: “I was also shocked to learn that a driver who had his licence revoked by the BaNES Licensing Authority, for not being a fit and proper person to work as a Hackney/Private Hire driver, is back working here having got an Uber licence from TFL in London.
“I cannot emphasise enough to young people, never, ever, get into a car unless you have pre-booked it, or if it is a licenced Hackney Carriage. If you get into a private hire you haven’t booked, you’re not insured.”
B&NES private hire vehicles (which must be pre-booked) display yellow numbered identification plates on the front and rear of the vehicle, as well as private hire roof signs.
Inside the driver will have photo ID, which will also be on display in the interior as well as the yellow identification plate.
BaNES licenced Hackney Carriages, such as the one in the photo (which can be hailed in the street, or picked up from taxi ranks), have large, white, illuminated, Bath and North East Somerset Taxi signs on the roof. On the front and rear they have white, numbered identification plates.
Inside the driver will also have photo ID, which will be on display with the identification plate.
An Uber spokesperson said: “Thousands of people use Uber in Bath to book a safe and reliable journey home. All drivers who use the app are licensed for private hire and every trip is pre-booked through the app.
“With Uber you can track your car arriving in real time and passengers are sent the name and photo of their licensed driver as well as the make, model and registration of the vehicle so they can easily find the correct car.”
Uber has clarified that it does not have any part in the licensing process and only drivers who hold a valid private-hire license are able to use the Uber app. All Uber Drivers are licensed by the council which includes the same enhanced background check (DBS) as black cab drivers.
Uber have also said that all the cars ordered through their app are pre-booked and passengers are sent their driver’s name and photo as well as the make, model and registration of the vehicle so they can easily identify the right car before getting in. Uber say they permanently bans any drivers caught illegally plying for trade from being able to access the app.