by Northern Correspondent
In 1931, the Road Traffic Act 1930 changed everything. Bus services became regulated. This was because of the concerns about cutthroat on-street competition. And the buses themselves were licensed by regional traffic commissioners, not local councils. This was because those boroughs and (largely) urban districts that had previously licensed buses were small when compared to the distances bus services were then travelling. Some were even prejudiced towards or against particular operators. Rural districts tended not to licence at all. The whole system was seen as cumbersome, unfair and in need of reform.
Recognising that this myriad of regulation is not necessarily in the public interest, the Law Commission is consulting on a national standard for taxis. That seems like a positive step. Taxi drivers are (or should be) themselves subjected to criminal records checks but not every licensing authority tests vehicles to the same standard. That looks set to change.
This blog and commenters have already considered whether taxis are part of the road public transport mix, or not. It isn’t necessarily a straightforward question to answer. If taxis are to play a greater role in this arena, the countless rules & regs need straightening out. This may actually lead to a reduction is standards in some areas, while uplifting others. But at least there would be a one national yardstick and that would lead to public confidence.
The restrictions that apply to booking outside a particular area are also a hindrance, if these vehicle types can act as quasi bus services. But there would also be the added bonus in that limousines could fall under the licensing system. If ever there was a grey area, this is it. Who knows how many people could squeeze into a limousine. Is it a taxi or a minibus? It seems all too easy for them to flaunt both private hire and PSV regulations and the question is, just who’s currently responsible for them?