Safe travel in Northampton

Published: Monday, 19 December 2016

Northampton Borough Council has joined forces with local cab drivers to help people understand the differences between a hackney or private hire cab, to help keep passengers safe.

Both private hire vehicles and hackney carriages (taxis) are licensed by Northampton Borough Council and offer safe, reliable services. The two services may seem interchangeable but in reality there is a key legal distinction between them that has a significant impact on passengers – you can stop or hail a taxi in the street or at a taxi rank but private hire vehicles have to be booked in advance. If a passenger has not pre-booked a private hire car, neither the driver nor the passenger is covered by insurance for that journey.

An uninsured journey is not only dangerous but illegal, so the Northampton Hackney Association and the Northampton Private Hire Association are both supporting a campaign to make sure that people are aware of the right way to plan their journeys.

Kevin Willsher, Chair of Northampton Private Hire Association, said: “Everyone who drives a private hire car knows the rules, so you should be suspicious of any vehicle that seems willing to pick you up without a booking. As a driver I don’t want to put myself at risk let alone anyone else, so please make sure you book in advance. You can do it well ahead of time or ring on the day - just make sure you book before you try to get in the car.”

Joe Matthew, Chair of the Northampton Hackney Association, said: “There are plenty of licensed hackney carriages in Northampton that you can hail in the street or pick up at a taxi rank without needing to ring ahead. Passenger safety is hugely important and a licensed driver will never be offended if you ask to check their license number or want to send the car details to a friend or family member. The main thing to remember is that if it doesn’t say taxi on the roof it isn’t a taxi.”

The two types of car are easily identified by their license plates. Private hire vehicles display a yellow license plate while taxis have a claret plate on the rear of the vehicle.

Councillor Anna King, cabinet member for community engagement and safety, said: “We have some fantastic taxi and private hire companies here in Northampton and the Borough Council is committed to enforcing incredibly high safety standards. But while using taxis or private hire cars in Northampton is generally a very safe thing to do, it is never the wrong time to remind people of the facts.

“The moment you get into a private hire vehicle that you haven’t booked then the car isn’t insured. That might just sound like a technicality but actually it’s a big problem if anything should happen on your journey home. Don’t risk it, make sure you know the difference between the two types of cabs and make a plan for how you are going to get to the taxi rank, or carry a number for a local private hire company just in case.”

For more information on how to identify a licensed private hire vehicle or a hackney carriage visit