A taxi cab boss has been seeking support for taxi drivers in Wokingham after the council closed taxi ranks and parking bays, following the announcement of shops reopening.

Muhammad Arshad, Chairman of the Wokingham Borough Hackney Drivers Association, has been speaking to the council for weeks, seeking support for the local taxi industry, which has been badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

In an email, Mr Arshad said to the Wokingham Borough Council: "As the shops are being opened and life is just about to be normalised, our only official taxi rank in Wokingham broad street has been closed, without us being notified and no alternative provided. This means we cannot resume work even if we want to.

"Please note that not all the taxi drivers are permitted to work at Wokingham Station, as it needs a separate permit from South West Trains."

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Peter Baveystock of the Wokingham Borough Council said in response: "The taxi ranks (and parking bays) in Broad Street are currently suspended under an emergency Section 14(2) Order to enable social distancing measures to be implemented.

"We have had to close these ranks (and other bays) under this Order to meet the Government requirement for implementing temporary footway extension measures in time for the relaxation on non-essential retail business operations.

"The short advance notice from Government meant we were unable to undertake normal consultation processes.

"However, unlike many authorities, we are using movable barriers to accommodate pedestrian footfall according to demand and are monitoring this carefully in the first week of reopening.

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"If pedestrian demand is low we can make adjustments and reinstate bays for parking and taxis.

"The ability for hail and ride by Hackney’s still exists and we are in the process of converting the shared goods loading/disabled bays in Market Place to evening taxi ranks.

"We expect footfall to increase over the coming fortnight and especially at the July 4 weekend when bars and restaurants will be opening but hope to be in a position to decide on re-opening taxi/parking bays towards the end of next week."

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