A COUPLE with 77 years of experience as taxi drivers between them have said they would rather lose their livelihood than paint their car blue.
Michael and Pamela Maddock are furious with Bristol City Council’s decision to force all Hackney carriage drivers to paint their vehicles ‘Bristol Blue’.
If drivers don’t respray their cars by May 1 they could be fined or lose their licence.
Although both are of retirement age, the couple hoped to continue working to avoid relying on their pensions.
Mr Maddock, 67, said: “It’s a stupid decision, forcing people out of work. It’s time someone took a stand.
“We have never claimed any benefit from the state but now things are about to change thanks to some crackpot who decided it might be nice to paint all the taxis blue.
“For me this is the final straw. This is vandalism. To devalue our main asset for no good reason is just not good sense.”
The couple paid £18,000 for the black Toyota Previa and share it between them for jobs.
Mr Maddock argued that respraying a vehicle can reduce the resale value by up to £1,000.
He said: “With fuel at record prices and the cost of insurance up yet again things are pretty bad in the taxi trade already.
“A taxi driver is not allowed to increase what he charges, he just has to work longer hours from a decreasing amount of available work to cover the taxi expenses.
“This is not going to give Bristol a better quality service; all this is will do is change the colour of a sinking ship.
“We were made to buy these vehicles so they are wheelchair accessible.
“But disabled people want saloon cars so they use private hire.
“We are retirement age but we were hoping to carry on with it.
“There are lots of other guys that have still got plenty of years left to go that are being forced into this situation.”
Mrs Maddock, 70, has been a taxi driver for 37 years.
She said: “It’s absolutely ludicrous. It’s awful we’ve got to pack it in, but we’re not bowing to them any more.
“What they should be doing is inspecting the inside of vehicles, it’s not the colour.
“How many blue cars are there on the road? You see a taxi because of the taxi sign, it’s the same all over the world.”
As reported in the Evening Post last week, only 332 of the 799 licensed hackneys have been painted the right colour and the deadline is fast approaching. The council adopted the Bristol Blue policy in 2008, hoping it would give Bristol an iconic city image like New York and its yellow cabs.
It has also argued that having one colour for Hackney carriages is reassuring for the public who want to know they are using a licensed taxi.
But drivers have never been pleased with the approach, or the three-year deadline that was imposed upon them.
Council spokeswoman Vicky O’Loughlin said: “We work closely with the taxi trade and do all we can to support them.
“They are an integral and valued part of the city’s public transport system.
“While it is sad if long-term drivers leave the trade, our first priority must be to protect the safety of the public.
“Ensuring taxis are easily recognisable by adopting one colour is fully backed by the police as being far safer for passengers and has been adopted by many cities.
“By ensuring only Hackney carriages are blue, it incidentally helps to protect the taxi drivers’ trade by preventing private hire drivers or others from picking up passengers.
“The taxi trade were consulted on the blue policy. They were then given an extended period of three years (at their request) to arrange for their taxis to be blue.
“The cost of applying paint or a plastic film has been quoted as well under £1,000, which could well be allowed as tax deductable.
“This measure is one of many taken to protect the safety and rights of passengers.”