Ambulance chiefs in plea to cabbies

AMBULANCE chiefs today urged cabbies not to gridlock Ipswich town centre by staging a mass fuel protest because they fear lives could be put at risk.Their plea comes after taxi drivers threatened to bring the town to a complete standstill in a demonstration over spiralling petrol prices.

AMBULANCE chiefs today urged cabbies not to gridlock Ipswich town centre by staging a mass fuel protest because they fear lives could be put at risk.

Their plea comes after taxi drivers threatened to bring the town to a complete standstill in a demonstration over spiralling petrol prices.

Drivers are lobbying Ipswich Borough Council to increase fares to accommodate the rising cost of oil - but have threatened action if their demands go unheard.

However, the East of England Ambulance Service claimed blocking traffic could have dire consequences for seriously ill patients.

A spokesman for the service said similar protests in Norwich had caused paramedics difficulties in getting the sick to hospital.

The spokesman said: “It really does endanger lives. If they block the town centre and we have to cross town from the hospital to get to a patient suffering from a cardiac arrest, then there's a real danger we won't get there in time.

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“We understand their frustration and sympathise with the taxi drivers, but there must be other ways they can protest which do not threaten the lives of the people of Ipswich.”

The spokesman highlighted the recent case of an ambulance taking a patient to hospital which became caught up in a fuel blockade on the A47 near Norwich.

He added: “Fortunately the patient's condition was not immediately life-threatening, but it could so easily have been.”

Eric Pearl, from Bee Line Taxis and a former spokesman for the Ipswich Taxi Drivers Association, promised to avoid any disruption to emergency vehicles.

He said: “Within any protest like this, there will be a contingency plan for emergency vehicles.

“The ambulance service can be reassured that all the drivers will be armed to the hilt with that information.”

He said the crux of the protest would be in opposition to government taxes levied on fuel.

“You can't do much about the worldwide price of oil, but the government can cut taxes,” he added.

Do you sympathise with cabbies' plight? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk