Bogus customers will be used to trap private hire drivers who are breaking the rules.

Bradford Council is planning to clamp down on the operators in the near future with an undercover entrapment operation.

The private hire drivers are only insured to carry passengers who pre-book their journeys.

But there have been widespread complaints that drivers are snatching fares which have not been booked when people leave the city's night clubs.

Now officers from Bradford Council and possibly neighbouring authorities will pose as customers.

They will ask the drivers to go to certain destinations where police officers and enforcement staff will be waiting.

The drivers can then be booked for driving with no insurance and face serious penalties.

The crackdown comes as one storm after another erupts in the district's troubled taxi trade.

The 1,500 private hire and hackney drivers are in tough competition to snap up fares when there is only a limited market.

The wars came to a head 18 months ago when violence flared in the streets. There have also been demonstrations with vehicles being driven in convoy round the city centre.

Now a fresh twist to the row has broken out with drivers complaining about tough new rules and protesting that they have no right of appeal when their vehicles fail Council tests at the Shearbridge depot.

Both private hire and hackney operators say they are generally unhappy with the service they receive at Shearbridge.

Today chairman of the Council's private hire and hackney carriage appeals sub-committee Councillor Tim Mahon said they were looking at a system where the AA carried out independent inspections of vehicles which had failed at Shearbridge - but the operators would have to pay for them.

On the separate issue of the entrapment operation, he said: "It will take place in the near future. There have been a lot of complaints and this is one way of dealing with them very firmly."

He said drivers faced stiff penalties for driving uninsured, either through the Council's own procedures for breach of regulations, or through the courts.

Each channel can mean drivers being taken off the roads.

But Linda Dixon, secretary of the National Private Hire Association, Bradford Chapel, said: "I think they should carry out enforcement procedures before they turn to entrapment."

She said there had been little enforcement in the outer districts, which were now being hit by drivers attempting to avoid the proper procedures in the inner city.

Chairman of Bradford Hackney Carriage Association Istikhar Bhatti said: "The job has to be done and it is up to the Council how they do it."

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.