Published on 7th March 2024

Members of the private hire and taxi community with Jason Kirkwood, licensing team leader and Cllr Martin Horwood, cabinet member for customer and regulatory services

Cheltenham Festival goers asked to pre-book private hire vehicles and not take chances.

As Cheltenham’s four-day jump racing festival begins next week (Tuesday 12 March to Friday 15 March) the town will buzz with activity.

Thousands of racegoers will use public transport this festival and both Cheltenham Borough Council and Tewkesbury Borough Council licensing teams advise that they should pre-book private hire vehicles and not take unnecessary risks. 

Private hire drivers are also being warned by the council’s licensing team that they should only come to Cheltenham this week for the purposes of fulfilling legitimate pre-bookings. The council’s licensing teams will be undertaking test purchasing operations and drivers found guilty of illegally plying for hire face fines of £1000 and the prospect of losing their licence.

Cllr Martin Horwood, member for customer regulatory services said: ‘’We expect tens of thousands of visitors to Cheltenham for the races and there is a variety of travel options. Safety remains paramount and we want to make sure that racegoers know where the taxi ranks are and that private hire vehicles must be booked in advance and cannot be hailed in the street.

“The council continues to take a zero tolerance approach to unlawful taxi activity. Private hire vehicle drivers should not be tempted to try and ply for hire and take cash work on the side. Our enforcement officers will continue to carry out spot checks and monitor activity during major race meets. The council will again seek to prosecute any unsafe or unlicensed taxis chancing their luck during the 2024 Cheltenham Festival.’’

Racegoers are advised that if they do not book ahead, they should head to one of our authorised taxi ranks or they must only flag down Cheltenham Borough Council hackney carriages, as by law, all vehicles plying for hire at taxi ranks or on the streets in Cheltenham must be licensed by Cheltenham Borough Council.

Jason Kirkwood, licensing team leader at Cheltenham Borough Council, said: ‘’We see scenarios each year with members of the public who’ve had a great day and now just want to get home or back to the hotel. We see private-hire drivers trying their luck and our message is clear, book ahead – it’s your best bet. Without a booking for a private hire vehicle the insurance that protect passengers will often be invalid and the driver is acting illegally. We want people to get home safely – please use a taxi or a booked private hire vehicle.

‘’Our team will be actively checking licensed vehicles and drivers working during race week with the help from colleagues at Gloucestershire Constabulary, Avon and Somerset Constabulary, South Glos Council, Wolverhampton Council and Tewkesbury Borough Council.’’

Tewkesbury Borough Council’s lead member for clean and green environment, Cllr Sarah Hands, said “We're delighted to work together with Cheltenham Borough Council to ensure the safety of racegoers during the Cheltenham Festival. Pre-booking private hire vehicles is not just a convenience, it's a crucial safety measure. Racegoers are urged to plan ahead and book their rides to and from the event to avoid unnecessary risks. Let's make sure everyone enjoys the festival responsibly and gets home safely." 

Drivers licensed by councils are checked and considered ‘fit and proper’ to get people home safely and the vehicles have been checked and are MOT’d and insured. If anyone has a reason to complain about a taxi they are advised to take note of the licence plate number on the rear of the vehicle and if possible which council is stamped on the plate, and contact that council’s licensing team.  

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