On a busy Saturday night in Scarborough, you wouldn’t expect too much trouble flagging down a taxi.
Hundreds of drivers are roaming the roads as they compete for fares, in a trade that many say is becoming harder and harder to make ends meet.
And it’s this ongoing struggle that has riled taxi firm bosses, after the council took the “truly stupid” step of hauling vehicles off the road during the heart of Saturday night.
In total, safety checks were carried out on 26 vehicles between 8pm and 10pm on Saturday February 15, with the councillor at the helm of the snap inspections branding the operation a success – and vowing to have more in future.
However, with thousands of revellers braving stormy conditions for a night on the tiles, as well as an influx of visitors for the annual Coastival festival, a taxi boss said they are “baffled” at the timing of the legal checks.
“Here is a Saturday, already the busiest night of the week, but with an extra 4,000 people in town for Coastival, and they decide to take my drivers off the road – I was lost for words,” said the business owner, who has asked not to be named.
“Saturday is really the only night of the week drivers have a chance of making decent money.
“There really is just no logic in it.”
But the council claims there is, and that it needs to ensure that vehicles are not only fit for the road, but that they are also following the law.
The authority points to the results of the inspections, which found a number of drivers to be in breach of their licenses by failing to display or wear any ID, with the council admitting it is looking at taking further action against the culprits.
“I am pleased with the way the operation has been conducted,” said Cllr Brian Watson, Scarborough Borough Council Licensing Committee Chairman.
“We take the safety of the travelling public very seriously and it is important that licensed drivers adhere to the law with regard to vehicle maintenance, tax and insurance to ensure the safety of all road users.”
And he added: “We shall be organising more snap inspections in the near future and we will be taking firm action where vehicles are found not to be fully roadworthy.”
Overall, the council says that approximately two thirds of the vehicles checked out at the Dean Road council depot were given a clean bill of health or a simple advisory notice.
But 11 drivers were told that their vehicle may fail its next MOT, mainly for dodgy lights – although two cars were found to have illegal tires.
Scarborough Council says the results of the Saturday night inspection compare “favourably” to previous spot checks.
And Una Faithfull, Scarborough Borough Council’s Licensing Manager, said weekend checks had been carried out before, adding: “The timing of inspections largely relates to the availability of all the different agencies that have to be involved and therefore the time slots we can work to are limited.
“The detailed inspections were carried out as quickly as possible to allow drivers to return to work and all cars were inspected well before 10pm, as we appreciate after that time is usually the busiest for drivers.”
The operation was carried out by the council, with involvement from other bodies such as North Yorkshire Police.
Sgt Peter Wood, North Yorkshire Police Roads Policing Group, added: “The results of the operation show the value of partnership working to increase the safety of road users, in this particular instance ensuring that the taxi and private hire vehicles operating in the Scarborough area are safe and compliant with regulations.
“This has the benefit of increasing the professional standing of the vehicles, operators and drivers, and making them as safe as possible for their customers.
“It is pleasing to see that only a small number of vehicles had any safety issues, however it is a reminder for all concerned that they should not become complacent with vehicle safety, and to ensure that regular safety checks are carried out and any defects remedied straight away.”