St Albans taxi drivers set to stage demonstration

UP to 150 taxis could join a procession through the city centre next Monday in a bid to send a message to the district council.

The cabbies are frustrated with a lack of progress on calls to cap the number of hackney carriage vehicle licences in the city.

On Monday members of the St Albans and Harpenden Taxi Association (SAHTA) are leaving in convoy from the St Albans station at 4pm, up Hatfield Road, down St Peter’s Street, and along Victoria Street before returning to the station.

Mohammed Khan, chairman of the association, said the UK’s economic crisis had hit local cabbies hard as some customers considered catching a taxi “a luxury”.

St Albans district council’s licensing committee recently refused a bid by the association to impose a limit on licences. The association told the committee that long-term drivers were leaving the trade and there was overcrowding on city ranks. Drivers were being forced to drive three or four laps of the city centre until a space was available.

Between 1995 and 1999 the council adopted a policy of restricting the number of hackney carriage vehicle licences it issued. But it was later felt that this was too restrictive and there was a wish to increase the number of wheelchair accessible vehicles so the limit was removed.

Currently the number of hackney licences stands at 259.

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Mohammed said the association was not asking for a cap on drivers but the number of licences had almost doubled since deregulation.

Chairman of the licensing committee, Cllr Gordon Myland, said: “If they decide to do a drive-through, I’m not sure what they are hoping to achieve, but it’s their decision to do so. It could be awkward for other drivers in the area.”

He said councillors had thoroughly discussed the issue but felt it was unfair to restrict the number of licences.