25/07/2011 13:55 BST | Updated 24/09/2011 06:12 BST

Change In Rules Regulating Taxi Drivers Is Putting Londoners' Safety At Risk, Says Transport For London

The safety of Londoners is being put at risk because of proposed changes to the rules regulating taxi drivers, industry bodies have said.

Transport for London and black cab drivers are outraged at government plans to relax criminal checks on minicab and taxi drivers in the capital.

A TfL spokesperson told the Huffington Post UK that the Home Office's decision could "compromise the safety" of Londoners.

"The safety of passengers remains our number one priority. Every applicant for a taxi or private hire driver license in London is subject to an enhanced CRB check, which is repeated every three years upon renewal. It is vital that when making a licensing decision we have access to all relevant information.

"We are greatly concerned that the restrictions proposed by the CRB and the Home Office will compromise the safety of the travelling public."

The government is proposing to stop enhanced criminal record (CRB) checks - meaning taxi and mini cab drivers will only be prevented from getting a licence if they have a relevant conviction. General information about their criminal records will not be provided.

The changes are likely to worry those who travel alone. A number of women told the Huffington Post UK that the new laws would not protect them.

Lorna, a 39-year-old from Highgate said it was "nonsense" and could lead to more "dodgy" taxi drivers.

"If you ask a taxi driver about their worst customers, they say it's the drunk girls. They have to follow specific rules. If you don't exercise the right caution about their background you're going to get more dodgy taxi drivers," she said.

She said one friend had been locked in a cab in Covent Garden after the taxi driver started arguing with her.

"This seems like a way to save money not make people safe," she said.

Samantha, 24, from Stockwell said the decision was a "disgrace". Her colleague Claudia, 44 from Acton agreed saying taxi drivers should be "fully vetted" to help protect the public.

The move has also provoked outrage from pressure group London TravelWatch who wrote to home office minister Lynne Featherstone over the decision.

Their chair Sharon Grant said enhanced CRB checks help ensure drivers are "suitable".

"It's unthinkable that important information held by the police should be denied to the licensing authorities during the vetting process."

Black cab driver Charlie, 30, said the decision could ruin the reputation of his trade.

"The London Black Cab trade in particular prides itself on the monitoring of its drivers, and the highly secure environments which we provide.

"We take pride in offering a safe, secure service.

"When a passenger hails a cab on the street, they are putting great trust in us; they are entering a vehicle with a complete stranger and putting themselves in that driver's control."

But a Home Office spokeswoman said taxi drivers did not always need to go through enhanced checks: "The law has not changed. All taxi drivers are still required to undergo a standard criminal record check which will reveal details of any convictions, cautions and warnings held by police."