Edinburgh taxi drivers raise 'serious' safety concerns over 'unchecked' illegal private hire pick-ups as voice recording exposes unlicensed driver

Edinburgh cabbies have claimed a lack of enforcement on illegal street pickups made by private hire drivers could allow more opportunists to target vulnerable customers - after a recording emerged of one driver admitting he wasn’t licensed.

By Jamie McKenzie
Thursday, 15th October 2020, 7:00 am

The city’s taxi driver union has made fresh calls for a dedicated team - set up by the city council and enforced by police - to clamp down on private hire drivers who ply for trade despite laws which state their fares must be pre-booked.

It comes after one Edinburgh taxi driver, who has worked in the city for 20 years, recorded a Saturday night exchange in George Street with another driver who, when questioned, agreed that Uber had not allowed him to obtain a license.

The taxi driver said that, moments before recording the exchange last month, he spotted the driver making a u-turn in the street to pick up a fare, prompting him to go over and check his license and badge.

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The taxi driver said: “This is not a one-off. I have been complaining about this for three years.

“Private hire insurance does not involve pick-ups so they are uninsured if they pick up illegally.”

The taxi driver claimed that, just before the incident, he asked two police officers passing by if they would check whether several private hire vehicles parked in the vicinity were operating legally, but was told they had been instructed to “walk away” by a superior officer and that he should "deal with the problem himself."

And he claimed that, on another occasion a year ago outside the Dome, he was told by a police officer it was more of a priority for them to get people home quickly at the end of a night.

Taxi drivers want more enforcement on illegal plying for hire. Pic: Edinburgh Taxi drivers/Twitter

He added: “It’s not a concern for police until someone crashes a vehicle or someone is assaulted. What’s the point in having laws?”

A police spokesperson said “targeted operations” over the use of unlicensed vehicles have previously been carried out and that these will continue.

The spokesperson insisted both police and Edinburgh City Council’s licensing department work together to ensure those in the trade comply with their licensing conditions, adding: “The safety of residents and visitors within our communities is paramount and robust action will be taken against those who do not adhere to the conditions of their licence as well as those seeking to operate a taxi service out with the licensing system.

“We would encourage any member of the public who believes someone is operating a vehicle out with their terms and conditions, or without a licence at all, to contact Police Scotland. To operate or drive a vehicle without a licence is a criminal offence.”

Chairman of the Unite Edinburgh cab branch, Scott Blair, has repeatedly called for a dedicated enforcement team in the Capital, especially at weekends, and says he has “serious concerns” about illegal pick-ups.

He said: “Anyone could be driving your family home.

"It’s not a matter of if, it’s when. It could be a physical assault, and involve people who are under the influence.”

Councillor Denis Dixon, vice-convenor of the Regulatory Committee, said their officers are working with police to monitor and inspect the private hire and taxi trades to ensure the public are safe, with periodic spot checks carried out and complaints investigated.

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