Anyone getting a cab in Liverpool during the festive period is being urged to ask one key question before starting their journey.
Council licensing bosses are urging people to put their own safety first during the busy time.
At one of the busiest times of the year for taxi and private hire journeys across the city, the council is reminding people that they have the right to ask for a Liverpool driver when they book a journey.
Liverpool City Council says its licensing regulations are among the most rigorous in the country.
Prospective taxi and private hire drivers who apply for a licence are expected to undertake a high level of extra safety training as well as pass a local ‘knowledge test’ to ensure they know their way around the city.
With its busy night scene, premiership football and a packed calendar of cultural events, Liverpool attracts an army of taxi and private hire drivers from other areas of Merseyside, the North West and other parts of the country, all looking for fares.
The Licensing Team reports that drivers who are licensed with local authorities as far away as Wolverhampton regularly turn up in the city looking for work.
The authority says its team members regularly patrol the city centre to ensure all taxi and private hire drivers are playing by the rules.
They also take part in proactive undercover campaigns to crack down on offences such as plying for hire, where a private hire driver will accept a fare which has not been booked in advance.
There are more than 4,000 hackney and private hire drivers registered with Liverpool City Council.
At peak times, such as match days, thousands of drivers who are licensed with other local authorities descend on the city.
Customers are within their rights to request a driver who is licensed with Liverpool City Council when they make their booking.
By asking for a Liverpool driver, the passenger can be assured they will get someone who has passed a local knowledge test, completed safeguarding training, undergone a strict vetting process and drives a vehicle that has been checked by the city council’s mechanic.
Liverpool drivers will have also had extra training in how to carry wheelchair users and guide dogs.
To add to the list of safety measures, the city council has recently introduced a regime of mandatory drug tests for Liverpool drivers to ensure that all those who carry passengers are fit to be behind the wheel.
Chair of Liverpool City Council’s Licensing Committee, Cllr Christine Banks said: “Since the deregulation of the taxi and private hire industry, drivers have been able to get a licence in one area of the country but work in another. This can mean that the city council cannot fully hold these drivers to account.
“The public’s safety is at the heart of everything we do and we are confident that the city has some of the most comprehensive taxi and private hire regulations you can find anywhere. Residents who ask for a Liverpool-licensed driver can rest assured that they are among the best trained anywhere.
“So for safety’s sake this Christmas, ask for a Liverpool driver.”
Tommy McIntyre, from Unite the Union Taxi Education, added: “We have a large number of licensed drivers and vehicles in Liverpool. Any person travelling in a vehicle licensed by Liverpool City Council can be reassured that the licensed drivers have undertaken training of high standard. They are all fully DBS checked and all our vehicles have regular compliance checks to ensure the vehicles are safe.
“By asking for a Liverpool-licensed driver and vehicle you are asking for a quality, professional and fully trained driver. We work closely with Licensing to ensure the training is of a high standard and that drivers are carrying members of the public around safely and legal. This safety has now been increased with the introduction of the drugs policy that we and all our members fully support.”