Safety concerns raised over ‘outrageous’ waits of up to two hours for city taxis



‘Outrageous’ waits of up to two hours for a taxi could be risking lives it is being claimed, amid calls for more vehicles to be allowed on the road.

Stirling Council currently caps taxi vehicle licenses at 69, with an extra 10 purely for rural areas. Any applications out with the cap have to come before the council’s planning and regulation panel.

The authority, however, also has to carry out unmet demand surveys every three years – but the last one was carried out in April 2016.

The panel heard last week that officers hoped to be able to embark on a new survey next month following a delay due to the pandemic.

However, one taxi operator – applying for three further licenses – told members that waiting times at the moment were already “outrageous”.

Craig Haire of Stirling Taxis said: “We have had councillors, police, licensing etc all approach us to try to get waiting times down on the rank and the current number of vehicles isn’t cutting it.

“Demand is at an all-time high and we can’t see that changing.

“January was slightly quieter with the restrictions being in place, but October, November and December were outrageous and waiting times were consistently over two hours on the phone and at the rank.

“Now the students have returned and a Wednesday night seems to be when they go out, and on Friday and Saturday nights we simply can’t cope.”

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Mr Haire originally lodged the applications in October last year – before nightclubs re-opened – telling licensing officers: “Since the return of the night trade to Stirling I have seen demand for taxis dramatically increase – higher than it has ever been in my 16- year experience in the trade. It is the weekend where the lack of vehicles is most acute.

“Additional vehicles are required to help cut waiting times at the ranks.”

He said the 2016 survey findings “no longer represent the situation we are currently in.”

Panel chair Councilor Alasdair MacPherson said he had particular concerns about student safety and cited the tragic case of David O’Halloran, an 18-year-old who in 2013 was found dead after vanishing on a night out.

Police said the Stirling University student, who was wearing only a T-shirt, shirt and jeans in temperatures of -4C, suffered hypothermia.

Told by licensing officials there was currently no information to evidence unmet demand, Councilor MacPherson said: “That’s not what I’m hearing on the street. I’m hearing of people waiting hours on end for taxis.

“It concerns me given the students are now back. That poor lad David O’Halloran ended up walking home and lost his life. It was a tragic case.

“Surely it should be a concern for this panel that we potentially have students queuing at the ranks, especially on a Wednesday night.”

The panel heard that Stirling Taxis still operated a Safe Taxi scheme which, if quoted, could give students priority.

Licensing officers also said there had been a scheme allowing caretakers to pay the taxi fare for students and later claim it back from them. Night buses, however, were currently not running and they were unaware whether First Bus intended to reintroduce them.

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The panel agreed to defer a decision on the three license applications to give officers an opportunity to carry out the unmet demand survey.

Councillor MacPherson said: “I don’t think the cap is working but I think we owe it to the industry to get further views and information. I have great sympathy with moving approval but I think it’s premature.”

Councillor Graham Houston added: “I think it’s right that we wait for further guidance from the survey and other operators in the business and our electorate.”

Licensing officials said population changes, bus services, the views of organizations including police and the Students Union, would be taken into account in the survey, however there would also be cameras and personnel at taxi ranks and members of the public would also be able to comment.




www.dailyrecord.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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