Cheaper alternative to respray, drivers told
By Fleet People | Thursday, August 12, 2010, 07:00
A CHEAPER alternative to respraying has been suggested as a way of solving the ongoing row over Bristol Blue taxis.
The idea of putting a new “skin” on the vehicle was suggested by Bristol City Council’s solicitor, ahead of a hearing at Bristol Magistrates’ Court to decide whether forcing hackney carriage drivers to change the colour of their vehicles is fair or not.
Three drivers appeared at court yesterday as part of the trade’s legal battle against the council.
Stephen Sully, Gulaid Nagan and John Newcombe are the first of the city’s 780 hackney carriage drivers who are challenging its insistence on a uniform livery.
The authority has said it will not accept one as a test case, so potentially every driver who believes the policy is unfair could lodge similar appeals.
The case was adjourned until October so the taxi drivers could provide a proper explanation of the legal grounds for their appeal.
Speaking after the hearing, the drivers’ solicitor, Antony Schiller, said: “We are appealing on the basis of fairness. The council should look at every individual case and not have a blanket rule.
“A driver in his 60s, for example, would still have to pay around £2,000, and it wouldn’t be worth it. That’s unfair.”
Two years ago the authority announced all of its hackney carriages had to be painted blue by next May, to provide a familiar city image like the famous yellow taxis in New York.
With less than nine months to go, only 140 of the fleet have been changed, and if the rest do not follow suit they could lose their licenses when they come up for renewal.
The drivers tried to overturn the policy in the High Court last year but failed.
The council is hoping to avoid fighting 780 appeals in the magistrates’ court, and has suggested a new service run by a private company that offers to put a Bristol Blue “skin” over the car instead of a respray.
Bristol Blue Customs was set up by Imran Ahmed, whose father is a taxi driver.
Depending on the type of vehicle, resprays have been estimated by drivers as costing anywhere from £1,500 to as much £4,000.
Mr Ahmed says his service, which was only set up a few weeks ago at the Bridge Road Industrial Estate in Kingswood, costs £695.
The cost to each driver of lodging a contested appeal against the council decision is £700.
Mr Ahmed said: “A car resprayed in Bristol Blue can’t be sold anywhere else, but the skin is removable so the vehicle keeps its resale value.”
This type of skin is only guaranteed to last five years, which the chairman of the National Taxi Association for Bristol and district, Shafiq Ahmed, sees as a problem.
After the hearing he said: “It has a limited lifespan so it’s not a one-off solution and may have to be replaced three or four times during the lifespan of the vehicle.”
Council spokeswoman Vicky O’Loughlin said: “We have chosen this blue as part of supporting the image of Bristol, which is also good for tourism and the taxi trade. Our research shows the cost of a respray is much cheaper than prices quoted publicly recently by certain taxi drivers.”