PARTS of Richmond ground to a halt yesterday as taxi drivers flooded the town centre with cars in protest at a decision to deregulate the industry.
More than 40 hackney cabs and private hire cars drove into the town at 4pm in an attempt to show what drivers believe will happen when the limit on the number of plates issued in the district is removed.
Taxi drivers said they will carry out further protests about the decision to deregulate, which they say has been made without proper consultation, unless the council listens to their concerns.
Yesterday’s action saw cars snaking down the market place and along The Channel, leading to tailbacks through Frenchgate and beyond.
Police officers persuaded the taxi drivers to move to the side of the road to allow other vehicles to pass to ease congestion and the taxis dispersed after about 25 minutes.
The number of registered hackney cabs in Richmondshire is currently capped at 65, but the council’s licensing committee voted to deregulate in an attempt to attract new business and encourage a better service in rural areas.
Members of Richmond Independent Drivers’ Association (RIDA) and the Taxi Drivers’ Association say deregulation will result in even less taxis in rural areas and have vowed to take the council to judicial review to get the decision overturned.
Richmondshire District Council said proper consultation had taken place and that the decision had been made in line with government advice.
George Pearson, chairman of RIDA, said: “We are sorry to cause inconvenience to the people of Richmond but it’s a very brief demonstration of what would happen if there was double the number of taxis, which is what will happen if deregulation goes ahead in April.
“Hackney cabs have been joined by private hire drivers who don’t want deregulation either, even though they would be the ones to benefit from it.”
Councillor John Blackie, leader of Richmondshire District Council, said: “There is no evidence that deregulation will lead to Richmond being flooded with cars – when Hambleton deregulated there was no change to the number of cars operating but it did mean that people could get a car when they need one.
“As for the protests, we shall just have to wait and see what happens.”
Taxi drivers protest at deregulation plan