By Denna Bowman
Taxi drivers are threatening to go on strike in Bedford if the local council pushes through new regulations, including tougher requirements for tyres.
Bedford Borough Council wants the minimum tread for tyres fitted on local cabs to be 2.5mm – that is 9mm above the national standard of 1.6mm.
However, the local drivers are threatening strike action in the new year unless the concerns about the regulations are listened to.
The row erupted following a meeting last Thursday, which eventually had to be moved to Bedford Borough council chamber because of the number of people who attended.
Bedford drivers stormed out after the 30-minute set time for questions came to an end with many more still wanting answers.
The General Licensing Committee at Borough Hall was looking at improved standards for licensed vehicles in the borough.
The Manual of Inspection listed a number of requirements, including a minimum tyre tread of 3mm – which was reduced to 2.5mm in the meeting (the national standard being 1.6mm).
Drivers also expressed their objections to other rules, such as making it compulsory to install CCTV in licensed vehicles and for some drivers to retake examinations.
Around 100 turned up at the meeting but the majority stormed out as tempers flared and police were called, although they were not required to attend.
The chairman of the licensing committee, Cllr Will Hunt, said he felt some members of the public tried to hijack the meeting.
He added: “I was insistent on the allowed 30 minutes for questions but at the end all of a sudden there were about ten people who wanted to ask more.
“We listened to their wishes and desires but we are responsible for public safety.”
Hundreds of drivers were due to stage a 12-hour strike from 11pm last night but called it off late yesterday afternoon following further talks with the council.
Eighteen owners of Bedford’s main cab firms signed an Oath of Unity in support of the action and secretary of the Bedford Hackney Service, Taj Rahman, also signed the document.
Drivers now say they want dialogue and a mutual agreement before the end of the year or they will consider strike action.
A spokesman for the council said: “We have advised drivers that we are happy to discuss this issue further before it is implemented next April.”