Protectionism

First published in Leader

THE 50 or so taxi drivers who brought the city centre to a virtual halt for two hours on Wednesday will have endeared themselves to no-one. The protest over the proposals to deregulate taxi zones in the county and introduce an all-white colour scheme will have achieved little.

While most residents of the city and county will have no strong views about the colour of the taxis they use, they will have opinions on whether taxis should operate small-scale monopolies in designated areas.

That is, in effect, what happens now. Licensed taxis in Durham operate almost as a cartel where the requirements of the travelling public are not necessarily the priority. By opening up the city to taxi drivers from elsewhere in the county, the present cosy arrangements will be brought to an end.

There may well be more taxis plying their trade in the city as a result and that may mean greater competition and greater availability of taxis at times when there is currently a shortage. However, the suggestion made by the chairman of the Durham Independent Taxi Association that the city centre will be reduced to gridlock by every taxi in the county homing in on Durham to exclusion of other areas, is just fanciful, alarmist and motivated by protectionism. What the county proposes is that customers, or the market, should determine how many taxis work in the city. What’s wrong with that?

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