Taxi Firm forced to axe 200 jobs after telephone wrangle
A 54-YEAR-OLD Tyneside taxi firm has had to quash its plans for expanding its operation with the loss of up to 200 jobs due to a row over a telephone number.
Family firm Blue Line Taxis has today had to close its Newcastle City Centre branch with the loss of 90 jobs due to a condition Newcastle City Council put on its licence which it deemed unworkable.
The firm, which provided employment for around 700 people, has been working from its offices in Wallsend for over half a century. Blue Line opened up a second office in Walker in 2010, but after a two-year legal battle brought about because of different licensing rules between Newcastle City and North Tyneside councils, it has been forced to shut down the flourishing Newcastle arm of its operation.
Owner Ian Shanks will today hand back his operator’s licence to Newcastle City Council and concentrate solely on the North Tyneside operation. Blue Line’s decision follows a court ruling which refused the taxi firm permission to use its well established telephone number for calls originating from Newcastle.
He explained: “I am absolutely devastated that due to council red tape I have had to shut down the expanding arm of a flourishing business and worst of all tell 90 people they no longer have a job. It is absolute madness and unnecessary.
“We have a half a million pound state-of-the-art driver training academy in the pipeline and are currently on a recruitment drive for another 110 drivers, all of which has had to be shelved because the council say we can’t use the phone number we have spent 50 odd years promoting, for our Tyneside business.”
Blue Line, which has spent over £5millon on sophisticated booking systems, software and the development of mobile phone apps, say the 1976 Act which governs the issuing of taxi licences, is out of date and does not relate to today’s modern systems.
Ian continued: “If someone phones our 262 6666 number they come through to Wallsend and we have to despatch a North Tyneside licensed car, no matter if the call comes from an address within Newcastle City Centre going to Gateshead, we must still send a car from North Tyneside.
“What other industry is expected to work so inefficiently?
“The condition on the operator’s licence refers to where the call is made to, not where the customer is calling from.
“To adhere to the council rules, they want us to start-up the business with a new Newcastle phone number after spending years on advertising and all of our customers know our number. We would be sat there taking no calls with a fleet of drivers with no work, while turning away jobs on our existing number.”
The addition of the Newcastle fleet came as Blue Line struggled to cope with demand in its busy Wallsend operation. In the early hours of Sunday morning between 1-2am, Blue Line took 1,996 calls, of which their 17 operators managed to answer 1,564 securing 483 bookings.
Ian added: “The fact is that if our customers call our Wallsend office we have to dispatch a North Tyneside car, regardless of the fact that a Newcastle City Council licensed car could be sitting 10 yards away. That means telling a lone female in the early hours of the morning that she is going to have to wait for a taxi despite the fact that she can see an empty Blueline car.”