Mystery passengers could be used to snare illegal street pick up private hire drivers

MYSTERY passengers could be used to nab private hire drivers who illegally pick up people who flag them down in the street.

City council bosses believe the move could save passengers being put at risk by rogue drivers.

The city has almost 3000 private hire cars which can only pick up people who have pre-booked and are not allowed to trawl the streets for trade – known as pirating.

Licensing bosses say pirating is not only a breach of licence conditions but poses a serious threat to the safety of passengers.

They warn there will be no recorded details of the journey putting people in a potentially vulnerable situation and open to being exploited by inflated fares.

A report to councillors says: “If details of the journey are not known or recorded by the booking office, it can be much more difficult to trace the driver if unlawful or inappropriate behaviour occurs.

“The risk to the safety of passengers in these circumstances can be exacerbated as pirating tends to happen during peak periods late at night and in the early hours of the morning, often when passengers may be under the influence of alcohol.

“There are also potentially serious consequences for members of the public and other road users as the driver of the private hire car engaged in pirating is very unlikely to be covered by a valid policy of motor insurance in the event of an accident if he or she is operating contrary to the conditions of their licence.”

Officers from the council’s taxi and private hire car enforcement unit carry out regular action checks in known hot spots at peak periods.

That has resulted in a significant number of drivers facing having their license suspended.

But the report adds: “Pirating continues to be a serious and widespread issue and additional robust measures are required to tackle and deter drivers from continuing to engage in this illegal and irresponsible practice.”

It says introducing mystery passengers will allow the enforcement unit to identify and gather evidence against pirate drivers.

Taxi and private hire companies will be informed of the plan in advance.

The report says: “It is hoped this will act as a more effective deterrent to those drivers who might consider picking up passengers who have not made a booking if there is a risk the potential passenger is part of a mystery shopper operation.

“Another key component of launching a mystery shopper scheme is to raise awareness among members of the public of the dangers of getting into a private hire car that has not been pre-booked.”

Stephen Flynn, vice chairman of Glasgow Taxis, said he hoped the council plan would be introduced as soon as possible.

He added: “The existing regulations are in place to ensure the safety of residents and visitors alike and anyone caught in breach of them should be sanctioned accordingly.

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“We advise anyone hailing a cab on the street to look for the distinguishable yellow flag on each of our 800 vehicles.”