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Private hire able to accept street hails from September

08/05/2013

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All taxis will be able to pick up fares from September

From BBC NEWS Northern Ireland

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A major change to how taxis operate in Northern Ireland will come into force in September.

From then, private-hire taxis will no longer have to be pre-booked and, like public-hire black cabs, will be allowed to pick passengers up off the street.

The change was due to come into force in April, but was delayed to allow the taxi industry to prepare for the move.

Environment Minister Alex Attwood said the change would provide the public with "more choice".

He said the introduction of a single-tier licensing system is designed to make it easier for the consumer to tell if the vehicle is a legal taxi and to give the customer greater choice as to the type of taxi they wish to use.

Its introduction will also allow drivers from outside Belfast to come into the city centre and work, increasing the supply of taxis in the city centre at peak times, particularly at weekends.

"I remain fully committed to providing a safe, fair and fit-for-purpose taxi industry in Northern Ireland. Single-tier licensing is a significant step which will help achieve this goal," he said.

"Having the ability to obtain any taxi without pre-booking will help to provide the public with more choice. It will also give those in the taxi industry more opportunities for business in these difficult economic times."

Mr Attwood said he was also temporarily de-regulating taxi meters and fares for Belfast public hire taxis to bring them into line with the rest of the taxi industry.

‘Competitive market’

"This will establish a level and fair playing field as Belfast public hire taxis will be able to charge competitive rates to consumers and will not have to adhere to taxi fares set by law.

"I am also looking at a package of measures to enable public hire to develop and enhance their business opportunities, consistent with the taxis legislation.

"I believe this will help to create a competitive market and will bring about benefits for operators, drivers and passengers alike."

At present, only Belfast public-hire taxis are required by law to have meters installed.

Not all private-hire taxis in Northern Ireland have meters.

The department of environment said it will introduce a maximum fare structure for all taxis operating in Northern Ireland in 2014.

This will include the requirement that all taxis must have an approved taxi meter and receipt machine installed.

Within Belfast only wheelchair accessible vehicles will be permitted to stand at taxi ranks.

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