Belfast Telegraph

Animosity between Belfast’s private hire firms and black taxis intensifies

By Linda Stewart

A war of words has erupted between Belfast’s taxi drivers. The conflict between public hire taxis (black cabs) and private hire taxis (such as Value Cabs) has been simmering for years, but is set to heighten as a series of new black taxi ranks are about to be announced in the new year.

One senior representative of the private hire industry said the behaviour of black cab drivers is creating a bad impression for visitors to Belfast.

“They park on the bus lanes outside the station, get out of the vehicle and stand at the doors shouting ‘Taxi’,” he said.

“They park on double yellow lines at the bandstand at Victoria Square and nobody does anything about it. You and I couldn't pull in there and pick someone up, and it makes it impossible for disabled people to embark as they completely block the roads, but they seem to get away with it.

“If anybody else comes to pick a fare up, they give them abuse. It goes on every day and it’s getting worse. The DoE keeps giving out licences — it was 400 three years ago and now it’s up to 700.

“We’ve gone to every relevant MLA and committee and we feel we have educated people about our position but nothing has changed. The enforcement authorities — the DoE, DRD and PSNI — do nothing basically.

“You’re only allowed to ply for hire if you’re in a public hire taxi — they can be hailed on the street so they don’t need to park on double yellow lines and block bus lanes.”

But Tommy Doyle, chairman of the Belfast Public Fire Taxi Association, paints a different picture, saying no-one is doing anything to enforce the rule that says private hire taxis can’t be hailed on the street.

“Our view is that the Belfast public hire taxi are the only yellow plated taxis and the only legal taxi allowed to pick people up on the street,” he said.

“If someone sticks out their hand, private hire taxis just stop and lift them, and as far as we are concerned DoE enforcement aren’t doing anything about that situation.”

A PSNI spokeswoman said police are committed to taking positive action to address breaches of parking and waiting restrictions.

“These issues receive police attention consistent to the other demands placed upon resources,” she said.

“We do not set up specific operations to target this — however local police react to reports when informed.”

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