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Taxi operator investing more in new drivers to help solve Aberdeen’s night transport problem

Image: Jim Irvine.
Image: Jim Irvine.

An Aberdeen taxi operator is trying to reduce Saturday night waiting times in the city by accelerating driver training.

With more people heading out for a night out in the city, queues at the ranks appear to be increasing.

Many have said this results in increased waiting times as taxi operators grapple to get people home safely amidst driver shortages.

It is causing concern about increased antisocial behaviour as well as safety worries, with some people in a vulnerable state walking home alone.

Waiting times have increased at Aberdeen taxi ranks since Covid. Image: Michael Traill.

With night buses no longer running in the city since Covid, Scott Douglas, general manager of ComCab, said this narrowing of options has caused waiting times at the weekend to increase.

Training school and incentivisation to work weekends

He said: “The main reason is that many drivers left the taxi trade during the pandemic as lockdowns and working from home drastically reduced the number of customers.

“Additionally, we have also seen other transport options such as night buses disappear, which has left the public relying on the taxi industry as an essential mode of transport to get home safely after 11pm.”

In order to help relieve pressure, ComCab started their own training school in March this year to enable drivers to pass their test quicker.

Looking for a change of career? One with flexible hours, and uncapped earning potential? Put yourself in the driving seat, join the #ComCab taxi training school #taxi #taxitraining #taxi school #aberdeentaxi #WorkLifeWeek

Posted by ComCab Aberdeen on Monday, 10 October 2022

Mr Douglas described the project as a “real success” with eight students having passed their Hackney Knowledge test since its launch and more passing every month.

The company has also invested £300,000 in providing wheelchair accessible vehicles to encourage more drivers to join.

Mr Douglas added: “In the short term ComCab have also been incentivising our drivers to work on the weekend when we know the demand is higher than the supply, and we have worked with the taxi trade and the council on ways of making it easier to get drivers to pass their Hackney test whilst maintaining the same high standard of drivers.

“We will continue to work with and support Aberdeen City Council to improve taxi services at weekends.”

Another scheme which should help with the issue will be introduced this weekend.

Today, Stagecoach Bluebird announced they would be running free night buses for the festive season to help people get home safely and ease congestion at taxi ranks.

Could changing plate licencing laws be a solution?

Taxis carrying yellow plates can be hailed on the street or at taxi ranks. Image: Kath Flannery/ DC Thomson.

A private hire taxi driver suggested there was more the council could be doing to help solve the issue. It all revolves around coloured plates.

Taxi plates in Aberdeen are given different colours: green, yellow and red.

Green plate drivers are airport zoned taxis and have access to the airport taxi ranks.

Yellow plate vehicles are city zoned taxis. These taxis can be hailed on the street or at taxi ranks and can also be pre-booked.

Red plate drivers or private hire cars cannot use taxi ranks or pick people up from the streets and must be pre-booked.

Aberdeen by-laws are ‘antiquated’ and ‘very frustrating’

One red plate driver, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the licencing laws were “antiquated”.

The man, who has been a taxi driver for 15 years, said: “On a weekend, if I drive into the city, there could be 30 to 40 people standing there and I can’t stop.

“I was out a couple of Saturdays ago and couldn’t get a taxi myself.

“It’s very frustrating. As a trade, we’re getting bad press but if the council allowed private hires to pick up from taxi ranks, it would solve their problem.

“Even it was one night a week, it might be a solution.

“It’s not the drivers’ problem, it’s the council’s.”

However, an Aberdeen City Council spokesman said they had no control over red plate legislation: “We do currently have different plates.

“Yellow and green are both taxi plates – yellow for the city zone and green for the airport. Those zones were reviewed last year when taxi policies were looked at.

“Red plates are private hire vehicles. The legislation states that private hire vehicles must be pre-booked and accordingly prohibits private hire vehicles from operating at taxi ranks, and so we have no authority to facilitate the suggestion.”