Camera car set to zoom in on taxi ranks?

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COUNCIL bosses are considering using a controversial camera car on taxi ranks to stop motorists disrupting the queues.

Hartlepool Borough Council has already used the vehicle to snare motorists who park their cars illegally while dropping youngsters off at school and at bus stops.

The £40,000 hi-tech car, which is fitted with a camera and computer equipment to catch cars parked on yellow or zig-zag lines, automatically takes photographs of offenders and then a fine is posted out to the driver.

Council chiefs are now considering using it to marshal taxi ranks, such as those off Church Street and Victoria Road, after cabbies complained of drivers parking in their lines.

Currently council staff have to go out on foot to monitor the ranks, but that is said to be an problem as it usually takes place at night, which the council says can cause health and safety issues.

A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesman said: “We do have regular meetings with the taxi trade and they have highlighted parking by motorists in taxi ranks, particularly later at night, as an issue.

“The only way of taking enforcement action against this has been to have our enforcement staff go out on foot, although there are health and safety implications for staff working at night time.

“The camera car has the potential to remove a lot of the risk and we are considering whether to use it for this kind of enforcement.”

Ray Tweddle, from Streamline Taxis, welcomed the idea, but said the problem was not that big an issue with cabbies.

He said: “It’s good if they can get it on the ranks and stop people parking because it does happen occasionally. I’ve seen people park up and go for a meal before they come back to their car sat in the middle of the rank.

“But Church Street has a marshall system on a night now through the bus station and a lot of people are eating down the marina.”

The Mail reported earlier this month how the car caught 813 motors parked illegally in just eight weeks – including four council vehicles.

The scheme sparked a barrage of criticism from drivers who have been snapped dropping people off in bus stops, pulling onto double yellow lines to drop goods off in charity shops and even on mounted kerbs outside their own homes.

The fines, which are fixed at £35 if paid early rising up to £70 after 21 days, could see the council rake in £56,910 in the first two months of the operation being launched.

Many irate motorists have claimed the vehicle is being used as a “cash-cow” at a time when the council is looking to save money at every opportunity, though bosses insist that is not the case and say the reduction in the number of tickets being issued proves drivers are not taking as many risks on the road.