TAXIS in Winchester could look very different in the near future.

The city council is in the process of updating its licensing policy and the draft criteria has been approved.

Changes include updated vehicle liveries, stricter rules on wheelchair accessible cabs and the age of the cars allowed to be used.

By 2023, all cars will have to be a standard white paint colour, display permanently fixed signs on the front doors and the licence plate will be fixed to the rear of the vehicle.

Daily Echo:

John Boardman, who runs a fleet of taxis licensed by the council and has done for thirty years, said he 'fails to see why' this is necessary.

"Do we really need all taxis to match in colour?" he asked the committee on September 15. "I fail to see why we need to do this now."

Cllr David McLean said the colour scheme is for safety reasons – if all taxis look the same, residents know exactly which drivers to trust.

But Mr Boardman responded: "I've had my vehicle broken into several times. If people see the signs they will think there's more chance of making a profit they will target that vehicle.

"Also, the permanently fixed signs will damage the vehicles and that will cost money to fix when it is sold or no longer used as a taxi."

Another driver, named only as Mr Hussey, suggested taxis could use magnetic signs that can be removed from the car when it is not in use.

Licensing officer Claire Humphreys told the meeting: "Around 84 per cent of people who answered our consultation survey agreed that the door signs should be there, and 87 per cent said that taxis should have fixed rear plates.

"Our main reason and priority for these changes is for the safety of the public."

The city council also wants its taxis to be more accessible for disabled residents.

All wheelchair accessible vehicles will have to feature either rear loading or side loading doors.

New drivers will also receive Disability Awareness Training before starting and current drivers will be need to pass this before August 31 2021.

To help with its drive to become carbon neutral, the council will closely monitor the age of all taxis.

Petrol and diesel vehicles can be licensed as a hackney carriage up to five years old from the date of registration.

The current policy allows vehicles to up to three years old from the date of registration – this is to bring in line with new private hire vehicles and to encourage older, more polluting vehicles to be replaced sooner at a less cost to the driver.

It is also proposed that all licensed vehicles must carry a contactless payment device.

This is to ensure that vulnerable adults can still get home without the need for cash, which may otherwise encourage them to walk.

Cllr Derek Green questioned why taxi drivers were expected to pay for these changes in the middle of a pandemic.

David Ingram, service lead for public protection, said: "The policy needed changing and it is only because of lockdown that we are only just talking about it now.

"The plan is designed to help drivers. Vehicles licensed since 2015 will not need to be changed until 2023. We are just guiding drivers for when they buy new vehicles."

The draft policy was approved, with nine councillors voting for it and one abstaining (Cllr Green).

It is set to go before cabinet soon where it will be tweaked into a final draft and signed off.