Colin Keir: Know your taxis from private hire cars

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It’s the time of year where many of us like to party. We’ll venture into town or other points far from home in order to enjoy ourselves.

But while we might think of the different methods of getting home, how many of us think about our own personal safety? We assume that when we board a bus, train, taxi or private hire car our safety is assured.

We all usually know what train or bus service takes us home, but what about taxis and private hire cars? Do you know the difference? The simple answer is that few people know the difference.

Taxis are looked upon as a public service in Edinburgh. They can legally pick up from the street or can be booked in advance as well as having rights of access to Greenways.

Private Hire Cars (PHC) must be booked in advance with your details recorded. It’s also illegal for them to accept a fare who hails them on the street. It’s all about identification.

Both taxis and PHCs are extremely safe if you use them correctly. Taxis in the city are easily identifiable with a roof light and identification easy to see.

Because PHCs are normal-style cars with some stickers on the side some people assume they are a taxi.

It used to irritate me when I was a councillor in charge of licensing of PHCs and taxis to hear people refer to PHCs as taxis and there was a good reason why.

My first TV news interview was in relation to a woman who entered a car mistakenly thinking it was a taxi. She was taken to a secluded location and raped. If this doesn’t focus your mind as a politician I don’t know what will? From that event some years ago I make no apologies for being hard line on licensing of the taxi and PHC industry.

Drivers, taxis, PHC and operating companies are all police-checked and licensed by Edinburgh City Council. I believe we have an extremely safe system in the Capital so it’s up to us to use our heads.

Be safe, pre-book your PHC or taxi and only get into a vehicle hailed on the street if you can clearly identify it as a taxi.

Colin Keir is MSP for Edinburgh Western