Newcastle Council approves black and white taxi revamp despite driver protests

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Plans to rebrand Newcastle’s taxis into the black-and-white colours of Newcastle United Football Club have been approved by the city council, despite opposition from local drivers

Newcastle’s fleet of almost 600 licensed hackney carriages will be required to be all black with distinctive white bonnets. The vehicles will also need to display red City 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.

The plans will also require private hire vehicles to display a green council number plate and the operator’s details on the rear passenger doors.

The new measures, part of the Council’s new Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy, were approved at a City Council meeting on September 6.

Earlier in the year, around 40 drivers unhappy about the revamp had protested outside Newcastle Civic Centre.

Mohammed Subhan, secretary of the Newcastle British-Bangladeshi Taxi Drivers’ Association, said: “It is a huge burden on the drivers and it does not make any sense. At night time you won’t be able to tell if a car has a black or white bonnet.”

However, drivers believe they will be forced to pay out regularly to have them replaced. Subhan said: “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.”

Subhan said a report to the council’s cabinet said 96% of drivers surveyed about the changes were against the proposal. He added that improved CCTV at taxi ranks would be a better use of money.

Cllr Paula Maines, Newcastle City Council Cabinet member for a Resilient City, said it was “crucial” to have a distinctive fleet of hackney carriage and private hire vehicles.

She said: “The unique branding will assure passengers that the driver, vehicle and operators have met our very high licensing standards and that they will be transported to their destination safely. It also supports the work we do with key partners to stop unlicensed drivers illegally plying for trade and preying on vulnerable people – particularly lone women – after a night out.”

To support hackney carriage drivers with the new requirements, the Council will provide a £100 grant so they can get the white vinyl wrap fitted to the bonnet of their vehicle – a total cost of £60,000.

To qualify for the payment, the car should have been licensed with the Council on or before Monday, June 19 this year. The new policy also includes a requirement for any new vehicles to be compliant with the environmental standards of Newcastle and Gateshead’s Clean Air Zone.