Leeds private hire drivers could stage more city ‘slow drive’ protests in run up to Christmas

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LEEDS Private Hire Drivers Organisation say they will stage further ‘slow drive’ protests in the run up to Christmas unless council chiefs listen to their concerns.

Police and Leeds City Council have criticised an estimated 300 private hire drivers who took part in a four-hour ‘slow drive’ protest on Monday morning which brought parts of Leeds city centre to a halt and created significant disruption to bus services.

PIC: Simon Hulme

PIC: Simon Hulme

Leeds Private Hire Drivers Organisation chairman Asif Afzal, said: “We are going to see if the council want to have dialogue with us and are going to listen to our concerns.

“If they don’t, unfortunately we are going to have to take further action over the next few weeks in the run up to Christmas and during Christmas as well.”

Leeds Private Hire Drivers Organisation called for drivers to take part in the protest on a circular route in Leeds city centre from 6am to 10am today (Mon Dec 11) after claiming Leeds City Council has failed to act on a number of issues affecting drivers.

Mr Afzal said around 300 drivers took part in the protest.

The organisation said the council had not stopped issuing private hire drivers with fines for stopping at bus stops.

It also claims there are not enough pick up points in Leeds city centre and it is difficult to avoid stopping at bus stops.

The organisation is also calling on the council to allow private hire drivers to use bus lanes in a move they say would cut emissions, reduce journey times and reduce costs to customers

It also wants drivers to be allowed to remove stickers from the front and back of their vehicles.

Drivers claim the stickers attract the attention of vandals and stone-throwing yobs.

Chief Inspector Nick Ireland, of the city’s community safety partnership Safer Leeds, said: “This protest by private hire drivers in Leeds caused significant disruption to traffic, particularly on Kirkstall Road and around the city centre loop.

“The police will always facilitate peaceful and lawful demonstrations, and a policing operation, including the use of specialist police motorcyclists, was in place with the aim of allowing the protesters to make their point while keeping disruption to the public to a minimum.

“We previously held discussions with the drivers who stated it was their intention to drive slowly in traffic at 15mph. The situation was not helped by the number of protesters who had to be formally warned by officers for bringing their vehicles to a complete stop, obstructing the highway.

“We will be continuing to liaise with the group around any further demonstrations and will ensure that suitable measures are in place, although we recognise that protests of this type during peak traffic times will always cause disruption.”

A Leeds City Council spokeswoman said: “We are disappointed that the Leeds Private Hire Drivers Organisation decided to go ahead with this disruptive action, despite ongoing talks between ourselves and their representatives, which we feel have been productive.

“Senior council officers, in our parking, licensing and highways departments have met with a lead representative of the private hire trade to hear their concerns and have offered what we believe to be a sensible way forward.

“We have already agreed a number of concessions which address some of the concerns by the private hire trade without compromising public safety or impeding the safe and efficient movement of buses around the city.

“Senior councillors have also offered to meet with a lead representative of the private hire trade but have received no response to date.”