Taxis Get CCTV Cameras

TAXI drivers have welcomed proposals to improve passenger and driver safety, including tougher driver testing and compulsory installation of CCTV.

Changes to the licensing of cabs operating in Gravesham were recommended for approval at a Gravesham Borough Council Cabinet meeting on Monday with a final decision expected in January next year.

If the initiative is approved, Gravesham will be the first borough in the country to introduce compulsory CCTV into its taxis.

The idea was first discussed after 71-year-old taxi driver Gian Chand Bajar, of Darnley Road, Gravesend, was murdered by passenger Luke Aujila, of no fixed abode, in May 2007, by running him over in his own cab. He was sentenced to life in prison in May this year.

Rick Davis, 54, the current joint secretary of the United Taxi Group which represents all taxi drivers in Gravesham, said: “I think as a whole, taxi drivers in the borough will welcome the changes that could be made.

“There will obviously be some who have problems with certain aspects, but I think if it improves the safety of both the drivers and the passengers, then you have to support it.”

Other changes could include the introduction of a penalty points system for drivers breaking the rules, a revision of driver application procedures, enhanced testing which will question candidates on the knowledge of the area and specific landmarks, and drivers will also have to have knowledge of Hackney Carriage and Private Hire law.

Mr Davis had his CCTV fitted last Thursday, at a discounted cost. Currently all drivers will have the opportunity to have CCTV fitted for £97, with funding being provided by Gravesham Borough Council and an EU grant.

The full cost of the installation could be as high as £700.

Mr Davis added: “Having this CCTV fitted will make it far safer for me to be a taxi driver in Gravesend.

“But the high price tag could mean people are put off becoming taxi drivers in the first place, which could mean a shortage of drivers.

“On the other hand, it will weed those people out that don’t want to be proper cabbies

“Overall, safety is the most important issue, and improvements in things like driver testing and the penalty points will help us make travelling in taxis in Gravesham far safer.”

John Cubitt, cabinet member for community safety, said: “The introduction of CCTV in taxis across the borough will improve both public and driver safety immensely.”

A consultation period with drivers, Kent County Council, Kent Police and parish councils will be held until November 28.