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A TRADE UNDER ATTACK?

28/09/2010

Opinion By Peter J Rose.

It would seem from recent events that the London taxi trade is being pushed to the limits.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that the Park Lane taxi rank serving the Ballroom entrance of the Dorchester Hotel was suspended so that a minicab firm could set up a clipboard operation at the venue. Despite apologies from LTPH, (the new name for the PCO) it would seem that nothing has been learned from that fiasco and on the nights of 26 & 27th September we again had the situation of minicabs utilising the taxi rank at another Hotel in Park Lane, this time it was the Grosvenor House.

This latest incident comes after an intense period of Badge and Bill checks going out as far as the two cab rank in Hornchurch. Even the normally docile City of London Police are getting in on the act. UNITE Members are reporting intense badge & billing by City of London police, stopping fare carrying taxis and causing unnecessary delay to passengers. This action to many is verging on the point of harassment, but at the same time as this is taking place the City of London are choosing to ignore illegally ranking minicabs parked outside many City venues. We should not forget that the trade has recently lost many taxi ranks in the city, some to Boris’s bike scheme, plus Cornhill and Gresham Street, the latter now being used by minicabs to rank outside a new bar. Yet the taxi trade can’t get a rank at Abacus, Cornhill for love nor money! The trade is also has the added worry of an unworkable taxi age limits being imposed by this administration, something which Ken Livingstone blocked the PCO from doing during his two terms in office. Also let’s not forget the disproportionate way taxis are subjected to ‘On Street Compliance checks compared to private hire. 7% of the taxi fleet but only 2% of the minicab fleet.

But what are the priorities of LTPH? A dress code for taxi drivers with the possibility of drivers having ‘stop notes’ or suspensions placed on them if they don’t comply. Remember this is from an administration that has ‘no money’ for better enforcement of minicabs. A base colour for taxis, with an exemption for advertising. What’s the point of that? Apart from wasting a little time while the trade debates it. How about additional training for taxi drivers? After all it’s only taking three to four years to get a new driver on the road, so a few months more won’t hurt, will it? Better still let’s put a restriction on taxi driver numbers altogether and stop new drivers coming into the trade full stop. Don’t worry about any short fall in taxi numbers they can be easily made up with private hire. They are already getting used to working taxi ranks now!

Last but not least, Taxi driver identifiers. Let’s let LTPH and a few in our own trade separate the London taxi trade by splitting us into two or even  more! Green vs Yellow. Yellow vs Yellow. But let taxi drivers on the street enforce it, after all LTPH have no money – well only the cost of producing them and that they can pass onto the taxi trade through our licence fees. That is if we can afford a licence after LTPH has placed all these restrictions on the trade. Yes let LTPH spilt the trade, see driver harassing driver and let the taxi trade suffer the PR disaster that follows… But at the same we’ll allow exemptions for private hire drivers that don’t want wear a badge or have minicab identifiers on their cars.

FALL alone or STAND together – join UNITE!

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