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Hackney carriage - taxi licence

Please note, during the Covid-19 pandemic, our processes have substantially altered for many of our licensing functions – please email for details.

The Council’s Licensing Service regulates two types of transport. These are private hire vehicles and hackney carriages (taxis).

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The difference between taxis and private hire vehicles and how they can operate is:

Taxis can carry passengers who have hailed them in the street or from an authorised rank. Taxis can also be pre-booked. All taxis must be licensed by the Council. However, as a result of re-organisation, they can only operate in a particular zone. The zones within Cornwall reflect the boundaries of the previous district and borough councils within Cornwall. This will not change unless Cornwall Council decides to amalgamate the zones, this is subject to consultation. 

Due to zones being created each zone still has its own policies and procedures in place for taxis. For example, three of the zones limit numerically the number of taxi vehicles. However, licensed vehicles in each zone must adhere to the same vehicle specifications and conditions of licence. 

There are six hackney carriage zones in Cornwall. All of which have individual tariffs which set out the maximum fees which can be charged.

Private hire vehicles cannot be hailed in the street or sit on taxi ranks and must only be booked in advance. These vehicles also have to be licensed by the Council but, unlike taxis, they will not be restricted to operating in certain zones and will be free to operate across the whole county.

To licence a hackney carriage, two licences are required. Each vehicle must have a hackney carriage vehicle licence and every driver of those licensed vehicles must have a hackney carriage driver licence. In addition, all self employed and employer private hire businesses must hold a private hire operator licence.

Cornwall Council requires vehicles to meet certain specifications and conditions before they are licensed. There are separate conditions for hackney carriage vehicles and separate conditions for private hire vehicles. Vehicles are required to be tested at one of the Council's approved garages. If you are unsure whether your vehicle will meet will meet the specifications and conditions, please contact Licensing Services

Apply for a Hackney Carriage taxi licence

Before you apply, we recommend that you contact the licensing office in the area you plan to work, to ensure that you receive the correct advice.  

Three of the taxi zones in Cornwall have a limit on the number of hackney carriage vehicles that can operate within the zone. The Council assesses the limits on these zones and whether there is a need for more taxis. These assessments are called unmet demand surveys.  You can view the latest unmet demand surveys for the three restricted zones by following the links below.

The Licensing Service holds Taxi and Private Hire Forums across Cornwall (current scheduled dates of forums are shown below). Drivers, proprietors and operators are encouraged to attend the forums to ensure that they are kept up to date with any changes in taxi licensing as well as providing an opportunity for the trade to raise any issues.

DateTime VenueOfficer Contact


25th March 2020






Cancelled. New date to be confirmed.


Further forums will be held across Cornwall and these will be published once dates and venues are confirmed.

Please ensure you contact the relevant officer shown above to confirm a place at the forum and let us know if you have any items to be included on the agenda.

View the current hackney carriage vehicle register