The BBC’s Inside Out West Midlands programme, originally broadcast on 13/01/14 brought to light the problem of ‘plyers’, or private hire taxi drivers who pick up fares off the street without a booking, thus invalidating their private hire taxi insurance.
Focussing on Birmingham, the programme revealed that around 100 plyers are caught in Birmingham alone every year. The only taxis which are eligible to pick fares up off the street are Hackney carriages, or ‘black cabs’, of which there are about 1,300 in Birmingham. Plyers naturally take legitimate business from these drivers, who have to pay the council for the privilege.
The only fares a private hire taxi can pick up are those which have been prebooked, thus ensuring there is a record of the journey, not least for the safety of the public. Anyone getting into what they think is a cab off the street is doing so entirely at their own risk. There is as I said no record of the journey, and the private hire taxi insurance is therefore invalid. The consequences of a private hire taxi driver being caught picking fares up off the street are a hefty fine, the loss of their licence and the seizure of their vehicle, really not worth it for a fare of a few pounds.
There is also a more sinister side also, where people who aren’t even cabbies ply for trade on the streets, normally late at night at pub and club closing time when there is an abundance of drunk, vulnerable young women desperate to get home. Approximately 75 women have been sexually assaulted in these circumstances in Birmingham in the last two years, or 3 a month which is horrific. Birmingham City Council now has a dedicated team of officers stamping out the plyers, which can only be good news for genuine bona fide taxi drivers all round.
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