CCTV cameras would be introduced in black cabs across the Capital under plans being put forward by an organisation representing thousands of city taxi drivers.
The Edinburgh Licensed Taxi Partnership (ELTP) believes the introduction of cameras would cut down incidents ranging from disputes over fares to verbal or physical abuse against drivers.
It plans to put the proposal to the council’s regulatory committee later this year and if approved, black cab drivers across the Capital would be given the option of having the cameras installed in their vehicle.
The cameras – ideally three in each vehicle – would cost each taxi driver around £400, with one located in the driver compartment and two in the passenger compartment.
Les McVay, chair of the ELTP and secretary of City Cabs, believes many of the problems experienced by taxi drivers on a weekly basis would be avoided if CCTV was installed.
The 57-year-old, who has worked as a taxi driver in Edinburgh for 32 years, said: “I have done night shift for 30-odd years and I have had cracked ribs and a broken wrist. You go into all these areas without thought.
“CCTV would help to protect the driver and the public. It would defuse a lot of hotspot situations – if somebody knows they are going to be recorded, they might think twice about taking the incident further.
“We are not trying to force this on anybody, it would just be an option for licence holders.”
The ELTP hopes to have a decision from the council before the end of the year and pointed out that taxi drivers themselves would not be able to view the CCTV footage, which would be passed to a “third party” such as police or the city council. A special code would be required to access the footage, which would be deleted after around 30 days.
The option for CCTV in black cabs has been highlighted in the ELTP’s first manifesto setting out its goals for Edinburgh’s taxi service over the next five years, and sent to all prospective council candidates ahead of next month’s local elections.
Also included is a regular fare review, better regulation of taxi advertising and a review of taxi ranks.
Mr McVay said several cities south of the Border, including London, already had CCTV operating in taxis, and if the proposal was approved by the city council, it was likely there would be an initial pilot project.
Passengers would be made aware that the CCTV was in operation inside the vehicle via a notice.
James Kelly, from Livingston, who has been a taxi driver for more than 20 years, agreed that a CCTV system could be a taxi driver’s “best friend”.
He was assaulted by a would-be passenger last summer after refusing to pick him up in Fountainbridge because he was eating takeaway food.
The 45-year-old said: “He punched me through the window on the side of the face. I had to drive away – if you get out of the taxi, you’re opening yourself up to more confrontation.
“If I had that incident on film, I could have gone to the police.”
Councillor Rob Munn, convener of the regulatory committee and licensing sub-committee, said: “The safety of passengers and drivers is of paramount importance, so the committee will carefully consider any proposal aimed at promoting this.”
The city’s three main black cab firms – City Cabs, Central Radio Taxis and ComCab – formed the ELTP last year to represent the 5000 people in the trade.