Sidmouth Toastrack trips 'all above board'

THE CO-owner of Sidmouth s famous Toastrack has insisted the vehicle s usage is above board , after it was revealed it is not licensed to carry passengers for cash.

THE CO-owner of Sidmouth's famous Toastrack has insisted the vehicle's usage is "above board", after it was revealed it is not licensed to carry passengers for cash.

A sea-front parking wrangle has seen East Devon District Council (EDDC) tell Tom Griffiths his restored 1927 Austin char-a-banc, named Betty, is not a Public Service Vehicle and not licensed to carry passengers "for hire or reward."

Mr Griffiths told the Herald this week he has never taken money from passengers he has driven around the town, and cash gained from wedding bookings, which "pay for the upkeep of the vehicle", is "perfectly legal".

The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), which regulates Public Service Vehicles (PSV's), demands that automobiles which take passengers for hire or reward are registered with it.

Vehicles that are not registered as a PSV are not subject to annual maintenance checks by the Department of Transport's Vehicle Inspectorate. Drivers must also have a PSV license to operate the vehicles. 'Reward' is not only defined as cash.

Operators caught taking payment from passengers without a valid license face prosecution.

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Mr Griffiths admits Betty is not registered as a PSV but likened the popular char-a-banc to a "people carrier", saying he has only ever given "lifts" to friends.

Betty was recently used to give broadcaster Judi Spiers a glamorous arrival at the opening of Sidmouth's Lifeboat boathouse extension and is advertised as being available for weddings and film work.

Mr Griffiths said: "I accept I'm not a PSV but I don't carry passengers. If you drive your car you can take friends in it. Occasionally I take people for a drive, but never charge them- it's perfectly legal.

"The weddings I do are above board. Any vintage car can do such a thing without being registered. You don't need to be a PSV.