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Brakes put on temporary taxi permits

A government plan to issue 20 temporary taxi permits to boost the number of cabs on the road has been put on hold.

The news came after Zane DeSilva, the transport minister, held a meeting with 300 members of the Bermuda Taxi Owners’ Association to discuss improvements to the service.

Taxi drivers said they were concerned about the $4,000 cost of a temporary permit compared with about $100,000 for a standard permit.

David Frost, the president of the BTOA, said: “There is a lot more to just putting an extra 20 cars on the road — you are talking about a $100,000 taxi permit being devalued because you are putting a $4,000 taxi on the road.

“We have 600 registered taxi permits in Bermuda and we have to make sure that we have 600 taxis on the road before we start moving to bring other taxis on the road.

“The minister knows why they are not on the road — you have taxis in probate, taxis that are not insured and taxis that are owned by drivers, including government workers, that are not on the road during the day.

“They should be, but it comes down to enforcement.”

Mr DeSilva said: “It is some people’s perception that this move would devalue their permits. I am a listening minister.

“If we don’t get to a stage where we can move people around without waiting hours on end for transportation then we are going to have to make some moves.

“I would prefer to do it with the taxi drivers than to make that decision.”

He added: “Maybe we need to change the law to say if you own a taxi we need to know who you are going to leave it with when you die.

“Or maybe if the taxi is not used, the permit gets returned to TCD and we give them a prorated refund.”

Mr DeSilva added that the law on taxis “needs to be blown up and rewritten, which I will do”.

The meeting was held at Warwick Workmen’s Club last Thursday.

Taxi drivers also discussed the need for better regulation of the industry by the Transport Control Department, night-time taxi availability, as well as abusive taxi drivers and badly behaved passengers.

Mr DeSilva said that after a Green Paper on transport was unveiled last month he would issue 20 special taxi permits for use during restricted hours to help boost taxi numbers because only 556 out of 600 taxi licences issued were being used.

Taxis owners are required have their vehicles on the road for 16 hours a day, but they are not monitored after a policy decision was made in 2010 by the TCD.

But Mr DeSilva said that a decision had now been made to collect information from dispatchers on the hours that individual taxis were on the road.

He added: “We are compiling the information. Once we start seeing the trends and seeing who is working and who isn’t then we are going to take action.”

Mr DeSilva said that he planned further meetings with the BTOA.