FERRARIS, Lamborghinis or maybe just the humble Smart car could all be picking up taxi passengers in Chester shortly.
Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) licensing committee members has voted to change the rules on private hire vehicles, allowing two-seater cars to pick up passengers to give customers “greater choice”.
Under the new rules, companies can ask the council to approve single passenger vehicles as long as the vehicle has no more than two seats, has two doors, has not been modified in any way and meets safety standards.
Previously private hire vehicles had to have at least four seats and four doors.
Speaking in the licensing meeting at council HQ, Peter Willett, the team leader of licensing enforcement, admitted that super cars could technically be used as private hire vehicles under the new rules.
He said: “In this particular proposal, the first firm likely to ask for it is for a Smart car. But each car would be accepted on its own merits so you could have a Ferrari.”
CWaC had complaints from taxi drivers opposed to the change, saying it was a ‘backwards step’ and may become a problem for people with guide dogs or people with a lot of luggage.
Tommy Owens, of the Unite union, said: “There’s a strong feeling that the cars are not up to the job.
“Why should a person have to sit in the front with a driver. They are limiting the persons choice for sitting in the vehicle.
“The actual vehicle itself is not safe. If there is an impact on a four-door vehicle you can get out the back usually. But in a two-door there’s no chance.
“There is a woman I know who takes her dog shopping with her because she is blind. Where’s the dog supposed to go?
“I think it is just the start. Next we will have rickshaws allowed on the streets.”
But licensing committee members spoke in favour of passenger choice with only one, Cllr Brian Jones, voting against the proposal.
Cllr Bob Rudd said he agrees people should have the choice when they ring up to book a private hire vehicle.
He said: “I wouldn’t choose to travel in one. If someone has the choice when they phone up to book a private hire vehicle, I would have no reason to object.”
Cllr Graham Heatley said the cars would help the environment. He said: “I think it is great. Great for the environment and great for the choice of passengers.”