As with most District or Borough areas there is simply not enough town centre space available to provide a rank space for each licensed hackney carriage. However this is mitigated by the ability for hackney carriages to form their own ranks, ply for hire, wait for business or be pre-booked anywhere in the controlled zone for which they are licensed. This is subject to relevant traffic controls. Mobile technology has also increased the versatility of hackney carriage proprietors who may be contacted direct, provided hands-free / Bluetooth whilst driving, to immediately collect a customer from a given location.
All licensed hackney carriage proprietors are encouraged to operate sensibly and flexibly, to ensure that the town centre traffic flow is not compromised by excessive queuing, or unlawful parking/waiting, of hackney carriages to access full ranks. Business diversification is also encouraged so that greater taxi links may be established in areas of the district beyond Sudbury town centre. Licensed taxis and private hire vehicles provide a valuable contribution to a safer/vibrant night time economy, local business, school transport and event/tourist attraction support in the district.
The current formally designated ranks in the Babergh District are at East Street (Sudbury), Old Market Place (Sudbury) and the Sudbury Rail Station. The existing provision of rank space to licensed vehicles is approximately 1 space to every 3 hackney carriages which is higher provision than in many areas.
In 2009, in response to feedback from the taxi trade and their passengers, Babergh District Council removed the restrictive zoning system so that hackney carriages could use the whole district, without having to return to a particular ‘home’ zone before taking another booking. Entry criteria for a new hackney carriage plate is high and all new plates issued can only be for an approved type wheelchair accessible vehicle no older than 4 years at first licence, so there is now much greater provision for customers requiring an adapted vehicle - important in our area with an increasing number of elderly citizens or passengers with accessible transport needs.
If realistic opportunities arise at any point for providing further rank space in and around the town centre or other areas, Babergh District Council shall work with key partners and drivers, operators and service users to try to find workable and sustainable solutions. National law changes may progress during 2015-16 and may also influence this area.