THE system licensing taxis and private hire vehicles in Wales is to be reformed, it has been announced.
Control over the licensing of taxis and private hire vehicles will be devolved to the Welsh Government early next year.
And, yesterday, Wales’ economy and infrastructure secretary Ken Skates announced plans to revamp the system.
Speaking in the Senedd Mr Skates said the reform would form part of a wider revamp of public transport in Wales, including the South Wales Metro.
“When these planned improvements to rail and bus services are implemented, there will remain communities within our society for which public transport is simply not available or a viable alternative to use of a private motor vehicle,” he said.
“Taxi and private hire services are, therefore, an essential aspect of the transport network here in Wales.
“Taxis and private hire vehicles provide a vital public service, connecting people to places when alternative public transport services are not available or viable.
“The contribution that the sector makes to the night-time and tourism economy in many of our communities should not be underestimated.”
But he said the legal framework governing taxis has not been significantly reformed for more than 200 years, while the most recent legislation relating to private hire vehicles outside of London dates back to 1976 and this, along with more recent developments such as mobile phone-based booking apps such as Uber, had resulted in “a complex and fragmented licensing system”.
Mr Skates announced a consultation into the planned changes, due to begin shortly after next month’s General Election.
He said he hoped the new rules would protect licensed drivers from exploitation by rogue firms, as well as ensure customers had the best service possible. He added he also hoped he would be able to make it easier for drivers to work across local authority borders.
“Above all, we have a duty to ensure that the licensing arrangement in Wales safeguards the public and prevents the exploitation of the professional drivers that are delivering these very important services across our communities,” he said.
There are around 9,200 licensed taxi and private hire drivers in Wales.
Details of the reforms are yet to be confirmed.