THERE are calls for a clampdown on taxi drivers taking drugs while working in our region, after an 80th arrest for the offence in less than 18 months.

It was revealed on Thursday that more and more private hire and taxi drivers are taking drugs after falling into 'hard times, having to work a lot of extra hours.'

Since the Liverpool City Region’s road safety strategy was launched in summer 2017, it was revealed that 80 taxi drivers have been arrested for drug driving.

The information was revealed at a meeting of the combined authority’s transport committee – which covers Liverpool, Knowsley, Wirral, St Helen’s, Sefton and Halton – on Thursday.

At the meeting, a Merseytravel official said some of the hours worked by drivers were 'incredible', and that many took drugs as they saw it the only way to extend working time 'effectively.'

He added: “It’s an outlying cause of casualties, and seems to be a problem specific to the city region.”

Cllr Liam Robinson, chair of the committee, called for tougher measures to be introduced to clampdown on the problem – to make the roads safer for everyone.

He said: “We have got the best taxi drivers anywhere in the country, but there is a small minority doing things that are illegal. It really concerns me how acute and problematic that is.

“If you’re driving a train or a bus, you’re subject to a random testing regime so rigorous that the number of instances and offences is virtually nil. It’s so strong, and that’s for good safety reasons.

“Should we think about having proper random testing regimes, so we can get this stuff out of the profession?

“80 arrests is huge. The danger it presents for other drivers and pedestrians is too high.”

He was told by the Merseytravel officer that steps were being explored alongside the different authorities’ individual licensing authorities.

It follows November, when it was revealed more than 40 taxi and private hire drivers had been arrested for drug driving on Merseyside since the start of the year.

At the time, Merseyside Police issued a stark warning to drivers that taking drugs and driving could result in losing their job, being imprisoned and even them or someone else dying.

Inspector Keith Kellett called it a 'disappointing' trend.