A taxi driver who was picking up passengers in Melton as part of the new bus replacement service for rural villagers was angry to be handed a parking ticket by a passing traffic warden.
Tracey Cheetham stopped at the Windsor Street bus stop to collect villagers from Gaddesby and says she was only there for a couple of minutes when she was given the ticket and told only buses could stop there.
Angry passengers who use the service, which was introduced last month after the 128 bus route was axed as part of a cost-cutting exercise, say they are worried taxi drivers will be put off operating the service if there is a continued threat of themn being penalised by parking wardens.
Leicestershire County Council says bus replacement taxi drivers are permitted to stop at bus stops for their passengers and that an appeal lodged against this particular parking ticket is being considered.
Ms Cheetham, a driver with Premier Taxis Leicester, told the Melton Times: “When I arrived to pick up my passengers in Windsor Street I got out and opened the boot to put their shopping bags in and a warden came up to me and handed me a ticket.
“I explained I was picking them up as a replacement for the bus service and that the county council had authorised it and she just said ‘tough’ and said she had issued the ticket now.
“It will cost me £35 if I pay it inside two weeks or £70 if not.
“I’ve written to the council to appeal but it could put off taxi drivers doing this service if we are going to get a ticket every time.”
Berryl Perriam, who was a passenger in the taxi, said: “I was concerned because Tracey was given this ticket and told she wasn’t supposed to park at a bus stop.
“It’s not right really because she was replacing the bus.”
Leicestershire County Council, which subsidises bus services where they are not viable to run solely as commercial enterprises, cut a number of services from December 21 as part of a need to find savings in its budget.
It revealed figures which showed that some services had barely anyone travelling on them.
Demand Response Transport (DRT) was introduced for some villages, including Gaddesby, whereby residents can pre-book taxis on a limited number of days of the week to replace the buses they lost.
The 128 service, which travelled between Melton and Leicester south of the A607, was axed because of poor usage and replaced with a DRT option, operated by Premier Taxis Leicester.
It carries passengers to Melton and Syston from Gaddesby, Ratcliffe on the Wreake, Thrussington, Hoby, Frisby and households north of the railway line at Kirby Bellars.
Leaflets given to villagers state that the DRT would drop off and collect passengers from the bus stop in Windsor Street.
Gaddesby villager Stella Goodacre, who has regularly used the DRT service since it was introduced said: “It is a good service but my worry is these drivers won’t want to do it if they are going to be given parking tickets.
“It’s not fair on them and it’s not fair on us if we lose this service as well as the buses.”
Another villager who uses the DRT - Wendy Hutchins - said residents have been assured it would give them access to health appointments but she said: “The last appointment at Syston doctors is 10.20am and the DRT arrives at 10.10am and the blood clinic also finishes at 10am so it’s no good for us at all.”
Another taxi firm, Elaine’s of Melton, contacted us to say one of their drivers had also been given a parking ticket while operating a DRT service in Windsor Street.
Mark Faulkner, one of the owners of the company which runs bus replacement services out to Ab Kettleby, Wartnaby, Knossington and Oakham, said: “We did appeal and it was overturned and we now carry the letter saying it is OK but the traffic wardens write the tickets before talking to you.
“They need retraining.”
A spokesperson from Leicestershire County Council said: “Our DRT taxi drivers are permitted to drop off and pick up in designated bus stops at the scheduled time of operation.
“We are aware that an appeal of this particular ticket has been received which we are currently considering.
“Our parking officers are trained to observe parking offences and establish whether there is a legitimate reason for issuing a parking penalty, and on this particular occasion it was not obvious to the parking officer that the vehicle was a taxi.”
The spokesperson added: “We have four regular passengers on the new DRT service and many residents who use it occasionally - this level was expected from the use of the previous bus service.
“We are pleased that we are receiving good feedback from our DRT users and will continue to work alongside the taxi companies to ensure these services continue.”