New taxis could help reduce drink-driving in rural areas

AN INCREASE in the number of taxi licences available in Richmondshire could help reduce drink-driving cases in one of the most remote areas of the country.

Officers at Richmondshire District Council are looking at how taxi coverage of rural areas can be improved after members of the licensing committee voted to issue 12 extra licences, bringing the total to 77. The new licences will be available in time for the run-up to Christmas, when demand for public transport in rural areas is at its peak. The festive period often sees a rise in drink-driving and the council hopes an increase in the number of taxis, particularly in rural areas, will help to reduce the problem.

Council leader John Blackie said: “The intention is that the 12 new plates will be issued immediately and so in time for the traditional uplift in taxi trade during the festive season.”

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Following extensive consultation with the community, visitors and taxi drivers, the council has decided that the 12 new licences will only be issued to vehicles which are full accessible to people with mobility problems, with the ability to take wheelchair passengers if necessary.

Councillors on the authority’s licensing committee wanted to target the new licences at people who are not already in the taxi trade, particularly those hoping to set up a taxi service in the rural areas of Richmondshire.

Council officers, meanwhile, are also investigating whether it would be possible to limit operators to particular zones, as has happened in Sunderland, to improve the coverage for rural areas which has previously been limited by a cap on the number of licences available. The results of their research will be brought before the licensing committee as soon as possible so the policy for allocating new plates can be finalised.

Coun Blackie added: “Richmondshire District Council is committed to engaging with its communities and its businesses, and the outcome of the debate around taxis demonstrates it has lived up to this objective.

“The result is a win-win-win – for the travelling public especially those with mobility issues, for the rural areas where to date no taxi service has ever operated, and for entrepreneurs wishing to start up a small business at a difficult time in the local economy. This is good news for everybody.”