Council chiefs have vowed to crackdown on illegal taxis that are operating without licences on weekends in Hartlepool.
Hartlepool Borough Council says passengers are putting their safety at risk and there have been reports that cheap taxi rides are being advertised on Facebook and other social media.
The council has issued a warning that the unmarked cabs unlicensed taxis that are charging a £5 fixed charge.
Reports have been received that a number of vehicles have been seen on Friday and Saturday nights in the town centre area offering revellers a lift home.
There are also reports that ‘cheap taxi rides’ are being offered via Facebook and other social media.
Ian Harrison, the council’s trading standards and licensing manager, said: “Using unlicensed taxis can be dangerous.
“The council has strict vetting procedures for taxi drivers, including criminal record and medical checks to ensure that the public can travel safely.
“The vehicles are also regularly inspected to ensure they are safe and insured appropriately.
“Vehicles that are operating as unlicensed taxis will not be insured and therefore anyone travelling in them is putting themselves at risk. There are also obvious dangers associated with accepting a lift from a complete stranger who has not been the subject of rigorous independent checks.
“I am greatly concerned about the motives behind those who are offering ‘cheap’ taxi rides to people who have been enjoying a night out and who may have had too much to drink. Not only may they be putting the public at risk but they also undermine the trust that the public can have in the licensed taxi trade.
“Hartlepool’s taxi fares are among the very cheapest in the country and whilst I appreciate there may be times that it can be hard to find a licensed vehicle, the risks associated with using an unlicensed vehicle are simply not worth it.
“Acting as an unlicensed taxi driver is a criminal offence and the Council’s Licensing Team will be using all of the resources available to it to catch those concerned. Any bogus taxi drivers that are found will be prosecuted.
“All properly licensed taxis will have a taxi licence plate with a Council logo on the front and back of the vehicle and will have stickers showing the taxi licence number on the front doors. If the vehicle has not been booked in advance through a legitimate Private Hire Company, only yellow taxis with a ‘Taxi’ sign on the roof can be legally hired in Hartlepool.”
Anyone with information about unlicensed taxis should call Hartlepool Borough Council’s Licensing Team on (01429) 523354.