Taxi, Take me to the future!

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A look at what lies ahead for Liverpool’s taxi trade in 2020

Kevin Johnson, Liverpool Council’s City Manager

If 20 years ago you’d have said to your cabbie, soon you’ll be driving around in electric cars, you’d have probably have been met with a healthy degree of scepticism.

You might have got the old suspicious glance through the rearview mirror and hushed tones of, ‘I’ve got a right one here’, from the driver as his fingers spidered across the dashboard to make sure all the door locks were engaged.

How things have changed…

Admittedly we don’t have an army of lightning-powered cabs silently zipping around the place like supersized Scaletrix just yet, but the numbers are growing.

Last summer we held a Taxi Licensing Awareness Day in Liverpool. It was a chance for drivers and operators to meet our team and to get to know each other. The event drew in close to 1,000 people from all over the North West and beyond.

As part of the day, we had some electric and hybrid cabs on display and the response from the trade was staggering.

One supplier we worked with reported that they had received more than 600 orders for electric vehicles in the days after our event. Coincidence? I think not.

Speak with a cabbie or taxi driver who has taken the plunge and ‘gone electric’ and you’d be forgiven for thinking that they’d just achieved nirvana.

These guys are doing ‘London and back on one charge’ while most people are still filling their tanks with liquified dinosaur.

But it’s not just about fuel economy and the novelty of plugging your car into the mains because clearing the air is big on the agenda in our city.

Liverpool City Council has declared a climate change emergency and has vowed to make our city net-zero carbon by 2030.

From what we have seen so far, taxi and private hire drivers in our city will continue to spearhead this green revolution during the year ahead.

We will see more electric cabs, more hybrid vehicles and hopefully, we can all start to breathe a little more easily.

You can see that Liverpool’s taxi trade really believes in moving with the times, which is why we are working to make it easy as we can for the travelling public to catch a cab in Liverpool.

Improving the ‘customer experience’ is a priority for us. Deregulation and the fact that Liverpool has a lot going on means the city is often inundated with drivers from outside the area looking for fares. Competition can be fierce but we believe that Liverpool drivers can offer added-value to any journey by simply being better than the rest.

We recently introduced a new rule that means all of our Hackney carriages must now take debit and credit card contactless payments. We asked the trade about the move beforehand and they were overwhelmingly in favour of it. In an increasingly cashless society, it’s keeping our drivers moving with the times.

We want to build on this during 2020 by creating a ‘gold standard’ for the city’s drivers. This means we’ll be inviting drivers licensing their vehicles into the city to have extra training in areas like first-aid, customer safety and local knowledge.

We even want to link up with the city’s tourist trade so our drivers can point out sites of special interest and information about the city’s history, such as: ‘how old the Anglican Cathedral is’ or ‘what the Liver Birds names are’ (Bella and Bertie by the way).

Why are we doing this? Simple, because it matters.

In 2008 Liverpool was crowned European Capital of Culture. The accolade was worth hundreds of millions of pounds to the city and helped to cement our status as a global destination. It’s impact is still being felt today in the city’s economy and tourism. In the run-up to the decision being made, the judges toured the city extensively, often by cab. Legend has it that they were so impressed with the passion and enthusiasm of our taxi drivers it may have helped along the way to the city’s victory. That’s why it matters.

In terms of passenger safety, we have just introduced a new policy that means our drivers will have to take part in mandatory random drugs tests. We know the vast majority of our drivers act responsibly but we’re ready to take action against those who don’t.

We are also looking into ways that we can fit as many of our Hackney cabs as possible with life-saving defibrillators.

In Liverpool, we are lucky to have a vibrant and dynamic taxi and private hire trade that plays a really important role in the life of our city.

Our drivers are not just for the end of a night out, they provide a real community service. They do the school run for vulnerable families, shopping trips for older people and those with mobility issues, they also help drive the city’s economy by getting people to their business meetings on time and most importantly, safely getting people to where they need to be.

So if you find yourself in a Liverpool cab in 2020, you can expect a pleasant journey through our wonderful city, with a friendly driver, who might just tell you a few interesting things along the way… just don’t get them started on the football!

Kevin Johnson is Liverpool Council’s City Manager and responsible for taxi licensing.

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