Edinburgh taxis: Complaints against private hire and taxi drivers in Edinburgh sees 'worrying' increase

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Complaints were made about illegal parking, ‘seagulling’ and overcharging.

Complaints lodged about private hire and taxi drivers in Edinburgh have soared this year, new figures have revealed.

Edinburgh council was inundated with 1,120 complaints, 308 against taxis and 753 about private hire cars – more than double the number of gripes related to cabs. Overall, complaints increased by more than 50 per cent, along with taxi complaints which rose from 203 last year to 308 according to figures obtained by a Freedom of Information request.

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But complaints lodged about private hire drivers saw the most stark increase, with a more than 90 per cent jump from 395 last year to 753 so far in 2023. Council chiefs said it ‘reflected the size of the fleet’ in Edinburgh and numbers of complaints had returned to the same levels as before the pandemic, when lockdowns and restrictions saw a drop in the numbers of complaints received.

Photograph by Ian GeorgesonPhotograph by Ian Georgeson
Photograph by Ian Georgeson

Since 2019, Edinburgh has had more private hire cars registered than cabs. As of December 15, there were 2,652 licensed private hire cars and 1,222 licensed taxis. But a local MSP branded the figures ’worrying’ and called for information to be disclosed on the most complained about operators.

Scottish Conservative Lothians MSP Miles Briggs said: “It’s important to understand who is receiving the most complaints and why. It’s imperative for the city that those tasked with moving people around in taxis and private hire vehicles are law-abiding and responsible. To see private hire vehicles receive so many more complaints is worrying, and the council must look into exactly why this is.

“Black cab drivers, with the knowledge they must learn of the city before qualifying, are the gold standard, but there is a place in Edinburgh for both. Passengers who use these services deserve to be safe and satisfied with their experience.”

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Among the top complaints are driving manner, which can include speeding and illegal parking, as well as 'seagulling' where private hire drivers pick up passengers illegally. Complaints about drivers illegally plying for hires rocketed from 25 in 2002 to 118 in 2023.

When seagulling takes place, primarily but not exclusively by private hire drivers, passengers are not insured for the journey. Calls have been made for the council to make the public aware of the risks of getting inside a private hire vehicle which has not been pre-booked.

A report this month to the licensing and regulatory committee revealed that licensing chiefs received 63 complaints of aggressive behaviour by drivers, 118 of seagulling, 160 of inappropriate parking and 48 relating to overcharging. Miscellaneous complaints increased from 209 to 346 in 2023. Complaints about sexual behaviour fell from 14 last year down to one received in 2023.

Regulatory Committee Convener, Councillor Neil Ross said: “The report to the regulatory committee on December 4, 2023 set out data on complaints from 2018 to October 31, 2023. With a notable decrease in the years 2020, 2021 and 2022 given the impacts of COVID-19 we’re now seeing a return to pre-pandemic levels.”

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