City move slated by taxi driver

Taxi driver John Hill.
Taxi driver John Hill.

A TAXI driver has hit out at a decision to stop his employers working from a Newcastle base, costing him hundreds of pounds in lost earnings.

Blue Line Taxis was banned from working from a new site in Walker as part of an expansion of its Wallsend operation, following a dispute with Newcastle City Council over a phone number.

And the decision has meant John Hill, of Hadrian Lodge, has not only been out of work for two weeks, but has had to pay out almost £500 to obtain a North Tyneside Council licence to be a taxi driver.

And since the decision, Blue Line took 2,815 fewer bookings through its call centre and had to let 90 members of staff go.

Mr Hill, a taxi driver for 14 months, said: “Newcastle City Council hasn’t looked at the consequences of their actions, it’s a petty decision.

“I had my taxi licence renewed in September, but since this has happened I have had to apply again to North Tyneside Council and pay for the same checks I had last month.

“They say you can go to work for another Newcastle-based firm, but it’s not as easy as that, and Blue Line is a popular firm and there is more work with them.

“People who book a taxi don’t care where it has come from, as long as it arrives on time and takes you safely to your destination.”

Newcastle City Council placed a condition on the company’s operating licence which prevented it from using the same telephone number for both its office in Walker and its North Tyneside base in Wallsend.

A spokesperson for the city council said: “The rules are very clear about taxi firms using phone numbers that correspond to the area in which they operate.

“A Newcastle-licensed company must have a Newcastle number, not a North Tyneside number as Blue Line presently does.

“This is not something just cooked up by Newcastle City Council; we are abiding by national legislation and it was a decision upheld by the High Court.”

Blue Line argued it had spent years advertising and promoting its (091) 262 6666 number.

Blue Line managing director Ian Shanks said the lost business represents thousands of pounds that could have been paid to drivers.

A North Tyneside Council spokesman said it has been running extra knowledge test sessions to accommodate drivers wishing to transfer to North Tyneside.

However, North Tyneside Council’s policy is that a CRB check cannot be transferred between from one local authority to another, a new one is always required.