How Wirral cabbies are looking to overturn the 'curfew' imposed on Birkenhead

Liverpool Echo - 09 Mar 2019

Cabbies are hoping to lift the "curfew" imposed on areas of Wirral - by planning a shared journey scheme that will mean trips across the borough for £3.50.

Local driver Dave Humphreys has an ambitious plan to help communities deprived by a lack of public transport - to launch a new, first-of-its-kind way for the area's Hackney Carriages to pick up multiple people on trips, making it cheaper for everyone.

The idea is still in its early stages, and has a number of legal obstacles to overcome, including safeguarding arrangements for passengers and having multiple pick up and drop-off points on routes.

But Mr Humphreys is optimistic it can be done, and has the support of Birkenhead MP Frank Field .

Mr Field said last month residents in his constituency felt isolated in their communities and have particular concerns over a shortage of evening and weekend transport services.

That came after he held two public meetings, where he discussed the "curfew" that had been imposed on areas like Noctorum and Beechwood in Birkenhead .

 

But with this idea, Mr Humphreys is looking to turn that situation around, and said he already has 40 Hackney Carriage drivers on board.

He first came up with it three years ago, but is now working hard to see it come to fruition, and hopes the project would mean a number of benefits both for the environment and people in Wirral.

It would work through an app, with customers requesting drop-off and pick-up points along a certain route - similar to how the Uber Pool service (not available on Merseyside), and the new Arriva Click bus service currently operates. To help afford costs, Mr Humphreys said he would like to find an investor.

"This scheme could make the world a better place and help save the environment," he said.

"And who knows, if it goes well here, maybe it could be taken up in other places. The proposal will not only increase employment in the area whilst contributing to the carbon footprint, it will generate the cash in the local economy which is also under fire from taxi drivers from outside the area."

The routes would take in the Birkenhead communities, but also areas such as Heswall, West Kirby, Pensby and New Brighton.

Mr Field said: "Every single option for improving Birkenhead’s transport links deserves to be considered carefully. I have written to the head of Arriva to relay the concerns that were raised at the two public meetings, as well as to ask for an urgent review of our bus services and, where possible, for certain routes to be extended so that every area has the service it needs.

"I also believe that the proposal for a shared taxi service should be looked at in more detail. It could potentially offer one way of reconnecting areas like the Beechwood and Noctorum housing estates with the rest of Birkenhead, so that people can get to and from work, the hospital, or the shops, when they need to travel.

"However, if this proposal is taken further, the authorities would of course need to make sure the necessary safeguards are in place around affordability as well as the safety of passengers and drivers.

"I have asked Mr Humphreys for more details so that this proposal can be looked at more thoroughly."

A Merseytravel spokeswoman said: "Whilst we are not aware of having been contacted by Mr Humphreys, and are not responsible for the operation of commercial bus services, we would advise him as to what is required when looking to set up a commercial bus service, as we would with any new operator.”

Tom Houghton, Liverpool Echo

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