May 10 2012
Bicycle rickshaws and stretch limousines could be licensed under plans to improve safety on roads.
Clearer rules governing the licensing of taxis and mini-cabs would be brought in, with new national minimum safety standards, the Law Commission for England and Wales, which reviews and recommends reforms of the law, said.
Limousines, motorcycle taxis and bicycle rickshaws, often known as pedicabs, could be subjected to the same safety and driver training requirements as taxis, the commission said.
Under the proposals, a new "peak time" taxi licence could also be brought in and exemptions from licensing for wedding and funeral cars could be removed from legislation, with decisions over whether they would need licences passing to ministers.
Taxi numbers would no longer be restricted by local authorities and private hire operators would be able to take bookings outside their own local area. But the reforms would also ensure that volunteers who drive elderly people or childminders who collect children as part of their work would no longer risk being caught by licensing rules, the commission said.
Frances Patterson QC, the commissioner responsible for the review, said the proposals would "streamline and improve taxi and private-hire legislation".
With the introduction of national minimum standards, there would be no scope for additional local requirements such as local knowledge or specific vehicle standards for mini-cabs, but these would remain in place for taxis which can be hailed on the street.
The law on taxis and private-hire vehicles is "fragmented, complex, and out of touch with 21st century life", the consultation document said. It comes after peers called for the licensing of pedicabs last October, to prevent them from becoming a hazard for other road users.
Tory Baroness Gardner complained that the pedal-powered tricycles, which can take up to three passengers, sometimes "cut right across traffic" in London. She said they posed "quite a danger" which proper regulation could tackle. Labour's Lord Kennedy added that licensing could also exercise some control over issues like roadworthiness and insurance.
The commission reviewed the current law, some of which dates to 1831, and the consultation on its proposals will run to August.