Bristol City Council is pushing ahead with plans to colour code the city’s entire hackney taxi fleet, insisting that all hackney taxis in the city will have to be Bristol Blue by 1st May. The pledge comes in spite of warnings from the taxi trade that more than half the fleet will be forced off the road when the new rules come into force.
In 2008, the local authority ruled that all new hackney taxis sales in the city had to be painted ‘Bristol Blue’. Existing hackney cabs were allowed to continue in operation but were given a three year deadline to change over to the new colour scheme.
Now, with the deadline loaming, less than half of the nearly eight hundred registered cabs have the correct livery. The council has now issued letters to drivers warning that they will be fined or have their license revoked if they don’t comply.
When the change was originally announced, Bristol taxi drivers staged a Saturday night strike. One group of drivers also mounted a legal challenge to the policy, though this was abandoned in its early stages.
Cabbie Michael Maddock commented: "It's a stupid decision, forcing people out of work.
"A taxi driver is not allowed to increase what he charges, he just has to work longer hours from a decreasing amount of available work to cover the taxi expenses. This is not going to give Bristol a better quality service.”
Peter Taylor, a taxi driver from Bishopton, stated: "I think they're doing this for aesthetic reasons rather than safety. It's a waste of time."
However Bristol City Council spokesperson, Vicky O’Loughlin, said: "Ensuring hackney taxis are easily recognisable by adopting one colour is fully backed by the police as being far safer for passengers and has been adopted by many cities".
Ms. O'Loughlin added: "Requiring hackney taxis to be blue also incidentally helps protect the taxi drivers' trade, by preventing private hire drivers or others from picking up passengers.
"The taxi trade were consulted on the blue policy. Then - at their request - they were given an extended period of three years to arrange for their taxis to be blue.
"This measure is one of many taken to protect the safety and rights of passengers."
With the deadline for the implementation now less than a month away, there is uncertainty as to what will happen to those drivers who do not comply with the policy.
Shafiq Ahmed, of the National Taxi Association, commented: "We're not exactly sure what the council will do on May 1, they haven't made it clear. I find it ludicrous they could take a vehicle off the road. The council is not living in the real world."