New rules set to allow hailing of all taxis in Belfast
New rules to allow people to hail all taxis in Belfast are set to come into place later this year.
Current laws only allow public hire taxis, commonly known as black taxis, to be hailed on streets in the city.
All other taxis must be booked.
But from 31 May, that will change between midnight on Friday and Saturday nights until 06:00 the next morning.
All taxis will be able to stop for passengers who have waved them down.
The rule will apply within a two-mile radius of the city centre.
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said he was "modernising and improving" taxi regulations by making the change.
"In effect, these changes will mean that people in the north will get a much better taxi service."
A spokesman for the Department of the Environment (DoE) said that the change was being made "because often demand outstrips supply".
But public hire taxi drivers are unhappy with the change.
Sean Beckett, of the Public Hire Coalition, said: "If this is just to clear the streets [of people], it's wrong.
"You must know that the clientele and the general public are getting into a legitimate taxi and not some renegade that doesn't have insurance, so on and so forth."
Alliance Party MLA Anna Lo said the move was long overdue, but added that the two-mile Belfast zone "could be confusing" for the public, and tourists in particular.
"In any big cities where taxis are an essential means of transport, people take it for granted they can hail them anywhere without having to book in advance or walk to a taxi rank," Ms Lo said.
"I hope this move will see such practice become the norm in Belfast."
The DoE is also introducing new roof signage that some taxis will be required to display, as well as a new test for taxi drivers.