Newcastle taxi drivers protest over plans to rebrand vehicles in black and white

Taxi drivers protesting outside Newcastle Civic Centre against plans to force them to install white wraps on their black cab bonnets.
Taxi drivers protesting outside Newcastle Civic Centre against plans to force them to install white wraps on their black cab bonnets. Credit: LDRS

Taxi drivers have held a protest to against plans to make them rebrand their vehicles.

The drivers have said proposals which would require them to fit a white wrap around their bonnets would be a "huge burden".

Newcastle City Council said the rebrand - designed to match the colours of Newcastle United - will make licensed taxis easily recognisable amid concerns offenders are posing as cab drivers to target vulnerable women.

About 40 drivers staged the protest outside Newcastle Civic Centre on Monday 19 June calling for the idea to be dropped.

The council is planning to give a £100 grant to each of the 597 licensed hackney carriage drivers in Newcastle to help with the cost of fitting the white vinyl wrapping. However, it is feared drivers will have to pay for them to be replaced in the future.

The proposal would see taxis rebranded to have a white bonnet. Credit: Newcastle City Council

Mohammed Subhan, secretary of the Newcastle British-Bangladeshi Taxi Drivers’ Association, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “They think this will safeguard the public, but we don’t understand how it will do that. It is a huge burden on the drivers and it does not make any sense.

“In the night time you won’t be able to tell if a car has a black or white bonnet or not. We drive these cars miles and miles – a white bonnet is going to get dirty very quickly, the wrap will get ripped and it will lose its elasticity. 

“After three or four months they are going to need to be replaced and every time it will cost us £150. In a time of a cost of living crisis, how can we afford to keep doing that?”

Mr Subhan said installing improved CCTV in cars and at taxi ranks would be a better use of money.

Other concerns from drivers who spoke to the LDRS outside the civic centre included criminals still being able to easily copy the new taxi design, passengers mistakenly thinking that drivers had been forced to replace their bonnet after being involved in a crash, and the black and white livery deterring non-Newcastle fans.

According to a report given to the council's cabinet, 96% of surveyed drivers were against the changes.

The cabinet voted in favour of the proposal but for it to come into force, the full council will also have the approve it next month.

Labour councillor Paula Maines, the council’s cabinet member responsible for taxi licensing, said that the new look would help people recognise official taxis and find drivers who have passed the council’s vetting procedures.

She added: “Recent police and licensing operations have shown that we must take some action to safeguard vulnerable people in our city who are a part of our night time economy. A distinctive fleet of hackney carriage and private hire vehicles are seen as being essential to this.”

The black and white branding will only be required on hackney carriages, like those that rank outside Central Station and are licensed to ply for hire, and not for private hire companies that can only pick up pre-arranged bookings.

They will also need to display red council crests on the front doors and have a taxi sign on the roof that is white at the front and red at the rear.

Private hire vehicles will have to be adorned with a green council plate and display the operator’s details on the back passenger doors.

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