TAXI drivers are breathing a collective sigh of relief after the council decided to restrict the number of cabs in the town.
In recent weeks drivers have told the News how they have been struggling to make ends meet due to the amount of competition for business.
At a Crawley Borough Council licensing committee meeting last Wednesday, it was agreed that no more Hackney Carriage licences would be handed out.
The number of taxis (those which operate from ranks) in the town has been continuously increasing since 2002, when previous restrictions were withdrawn.
Although councillors agreed to a limit, the council will not be able to refuse licence requests for wheelchair-accessible vehicles if the proportion of these does not meet Government guidelines.
The council agreed to review the situation after the taxi trade commissioned a survey which showed there was no unmet demand for taxis in the town.
Taxi driver Christopher Bradley, 61, from Three Bridges, was pleased with the decision.
But he pointed out: “It will improve things for drivers on the taxi ranks but there will still be large numbers of cars around because the restrictions don’t apply to private hire drivers.”
Mark Bonner, 50, from Broadfield, believes the current situation could have been avoided in the first place.
He said: “We said in 2002 that most towns which de-restricted taxis ended up going back to restricting them.
“It took a survey for them to see their mistake, and that had to be paid for out of our own pockets.”
Roy Bateman, 64, from Ifield, is equally disappointed that the change of policy has taken so long.
“There have been too many cabs for a while now,” he said. “I’m retiring because the job’s not what it used to be. I sit here reading papers all day and no one is getting a living unless they are working 12 to 14 hours a day.”
Colin Bonner, 51, from Gossops Green, believes it will be a couple of years before drivers see the benefits of the decision, but added: “It is the best thing the council could have done.”
The council was also considering making it a requirement for all taxis to be converted to be able to take wheelchairs. That proposal was rejected but the council is looking at how it can provide disability awareness training to drivers.
A review will be carried out in three years to assess whether there is any unmet demand for taxis as the town’s population increases.