A decision by Bath and North East Somerset Council to ban the use of satnav devices by taxi drivers within the area has been branded ‘bizarre’ and ‘unenforceable’ by Conservative councillors.
At a meeting of the Council’s Liberal Democrat Cabinet last Wednesday, 13th November, new licencing conditions for taxis were agreed which prohibit the use of GPS navigation systems by Hackney cabs and private hire vehicles operating within the B&NES area.
Conservative councillors have said that whilst passengers have a right to expect that taxi drivers have a good knowledge of the local area, an outright ban of the use of satnavs is a step too far. Conservatives have pointed to the fact that taxi drivers may be asked to take passengers to a more remote part of the authority which they are less familiar with, and have said the Council should rethink imposing an arbitrary ban on GPS devices.
Conservative shadow transport spokesman, Cllr Anthony Clarke, said:
“Satnavs will never be able to trump local knowledge, and of course taxi drivers should have a good knowledge of the area in which they operate. But B&NES covers a large area, and there may be instances when a taxi needs to take a passenger to a part of the authority with which they are less familiar.
“So to put in place an outright ban on the use of satnavs in taxis quite frankly seems bizarre. Of course taxi drivers shouldn’t need to rely upon satnavs, but at the end of the day their use is now commonplace and when used appropriately they can have a role to play in ensuring passengers get to their destination by the cheapest, most direct route.”
Councillor Clarke added:
“The Council has a responsibility to ensure that taxis operate safely, and if satnavs are positioned so that they are blocking the view through the windscreen then this has to be dealt with, though of course many new cars come with a satnav already installed. However, there is a difference between ensuring safety and telling taxi companies how to operate their business. There is also clearly a question over how an outright ban would be enforced, as taxis would be allowed to switch their satnavs back on if taking a passenger out of the B&NES area, to say Wiltshire, Bristol or Somerset. It seems nonsensical that taxis will apparently be allowed to have a satnav, but not use it whilst in B&NES.
“The Council needs to look at this arbitrary ban again, as it clearly hasn’t been thought through.”