Taxi Licensing Strengthened to Ensure Passenger Safety Across England

To enhance passenger safety and curb unfit taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) drivers, the Department for Transport and The Rt Hon Mark Harper MP have introduced robust new rules across England. These measures aim to crack down on drivers with a history of misconduct and create a safer environment for passengers using taxis and PHVs. The latest legislation mandates councils to use a national database that records instances where taxi drivers have had their licenses removed due to wrongdoing, preventing them from easily reapplying in other areas without authorities being alerted.

The primary focus of these new regulations is to instil greater confidence in passengers when using taxis and PHVs, fostering more robust communities and boosting pride in towns and high streets across the country. While the vast majority of local taxi services operate safely and responsibly, a small minority have been linked to incidents of sexual harassment, abuse, and poor driving. The safety of passengers, particularly women and girls, is of utmost importance, and these new measures seek to eliminate any risks posed by unscrupulous drivers.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper emphasized the significance of these steps in ensuring that passengers can travel safely and without incident. By identifying and removing drivers who abuse their position and pose a threat to passengers, the government aims to protect the public and promote a secure transport environment. Implementing these measures also pays tribute to Sian O’Callaghan, whose tragic murder by a PHV driver in Swindon in 2011 prompted her family to campaign for stricter measures to safeguard passengers.

The Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Safety and Road Safety) Act 2022, led by Darlington MP Peter Gibson, has received support from Sian O’Callaghan’s family and the personal safety charity, Suzy Lamplugh Trust. Suky Bhaker, CEO of Suzy Lamplugh Trust, expressed approval of the tighter checks on drivers, recognizing it as a crucial milestone in improving passenger safety.

While the existing database has been used voluntarily by some local authorities, not all councils in England have embraced it, with only 74% currently utilizing the system. To address this, the Department for Transport has now made it compulsory for all driver license applications. Licensing authorities will be closely monitored to ensure compliance, and those failing to conduct the necessary checks may face legal repercussions.

Hosted by the National Anti-Fraud Network, the database records instances where taxi and PHV driver licenses have been refused, suspended, or revoked due to safeguarding or road safety concerns. By enhancing information-sharing between licensing authorities, the system prevents unfit drivers from obtaining licenses elsewhere without facing scrutiny.

The benefits of the database have already been demonstrated in places like Luton and Winchester, where it exposed applicants with a history of misconduct, resulting in their applications being rejected. These instances illustrate the effectiveness of the system in identifying and weeding out potentially dangerous drivers.

The government’s commitment to supporting survivors and prioritizing the prevention and prosecution of those who exploit their position of trust is evident in these new measures. In conjunction with other initiatives like the Grooming Gangs Taskforce, focused on tackling child sexual abuse and exploitation, these regulations aim to safeguard passengers and maintain the integrity of taxi and PHV services.

In conclusion, the implementation of the Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Safety and Road Safety) Act 2022, along with the compulsory use of the national database, marks a significant step forward in improving passenger safety. By weeding out unfit drivers and preventing them from slipping through the system, the government aims to create a more secure and reliable transportation environment for all passengers.