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Article: London Suburban Review by Unite’s Peter Bond

21/02/2014

Before publishing its London Suburban Taxi Licensing Consultation TfL held ‘Suburban Review Workshops’ at Palestra, which formed the basis for the full consultation document.
Below is Peter Bond’s Cab Trade News article following his attendance at the first of those workshops.

 

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A brief history of the Suburban sectors, Island ranks and ‘extensions’ was given followed by an open forum where about 100 Suburban (Yellow Badge) drivers and a few All London (Green Badge) drivers were encouraged to give their views on the way forward.

I opened the debate, much to the annoyance of most in the room, by stating that, as far as Unite’s London Taxi Branch is concerned, there is currently no need for any more ‘Island ranks’ or ‘Extensions’ for any driver with a Suburban Licence – it was a deliberate ploy as it’s not hard to predict the sort of changes that were about to be suggested, why else have a ‘review’.

I added that although we at Unite had opposed the ‘Identifiers’ we have been proved to be wrong regarding the extent of the problem previous to their introduction – just look at the amount of Yellow Badges serving the Island ranks and extensions (Hackney and Clapham) since the introduction of the Identifiers, particularly at night – where were these cabs before?? Hopefully this, long term, will see punters returning to the Taxi trade in those areas, especially with the success of Hailo, other ‘Apps’ are available.

Some of those present condemned the Identifiers and requested their removal due to intimidation by Green on Yellow – anecdotally this seems to be a problem although I’m not sure that it’s as widespread as suggested. As promised at this forum I repeat that the advice from all at Unite, printed many times over the past year or so, is …… that anyone who sees a suburban driver they ‘think’ is plying for hire outside their sector, do not approach them, just take the details and report it to LTPH.

I’ve listed below most of the suggestions made by Suburban drivers during the course of the forum – I’ll leave it to the 22000 or so Green badge drivers to make up their own mind on what they view as viable or, indeed, fair, bearing in mind how long it took and how hard it was to get that All London ‘Green’ Badge…………

· After working as a Suburban driver for two years they should be able to start the ‘all London (Green) Knowledge’ on 21 days!!

· A new ‘going-home night rank’ at Charing Cross for suburban drivers, who’ve had a job into town, so they can take a job back to their own sector!!

· A ‘Doughnut’ licence to include all the current 9 Sectors in one Sector for all Suburban drivers.

· Some Sector 9 drivers (Brent, Harrow, Barnet) who can currently ply for hire in Kilburn High Rd as far south as Oxford Rd, just north of the Marriott Hotel, stated they should be entitled to rank at the hotel and use the rank in Elgin Ave, as well as Maida Vale itself!!

· Some Sector 2 drivers (Newham, Redbridge, etc…) expect the same for the whole of Tower Hamlets, which, of course, includes Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs!!

· Some in Sector 1 (Haringey, Waltham Forest, Enfield), who’ve also got the Hackney ‘extension’, want another ‘extension’ to include Shoreditch High St, Gt Eastern St and Old St up to the Old St Station!!

· Some in Sector 6 (Merton and Sutton) and Sector 7 (Kingston, Richmond and Hounslow) who’ve got the Clapham/Tooting ‘extension’ want, and expect, another ‘extension’ to include Clapham High St!!

Just think about all of the above, is there really a shortage of Taxis in any of the area’s mentioned …… absolutely not. How on earth would a Suburban rank at Charing Cross be enforced, 9 different coloured ‘Identifiers’? to be enforced by who? LTPH can’t even enforce their own ‘Satellite’ offices!!

Other suggestions from Suburban drivers made over the last few years at Unite Branch meetings, all were thrown out, include…..Hounslow Drivers to rank at Heathrow, Ealing drivers to rank at Shepherds Bush Green, Hammersmith and Westfield, and even Sectors 3- 6 (South and South-East) drivers to cover Waterloo and London Bridge Stations on the rare occasions no cabs are actually ranking all the way to Westminster Bridge Rd or to Borough High St!!

It has to be clearly stated that these suggestions come from a relatively small number of Suburban drivers and not even these drivers are in agreement on all the above …… why would those in Sector 3 (South-East) want the rest to encroach on the lucrative work coming out of the O2 Arena, if the ‘Doughnut’ idea were to be implemented.

Surely the 3000 or so Suburban drivers’ views on how to re-organise the licensing requirements for London Taxi Drivers are not going to overshadow the view of the 22000 or so All London (Green) drivers who have actually completed the Knowledge of all the area’s/sectors they work.

We, at Unite, totally support the first pledge made in the letter we’ve all received from Leon Daniels (Managing Director Surface Transport) on behalf of the Mayor, ‘Working on an action plan to help Suburban drivers’, but NOT to the detriment of green badge drivers.

The bottom line is the public trust the Licensed Taxi Trade over the rest for two main reasons;

1- Safety, for themselves, their family and loved ones.

2- Knowledge, mostly, within reason, we know (‘Knowledge’) where we’re going.

Under no circumstances should these fundamental principles be compromised.

There is one thing I have never understood about some, and I mean only some not most, Suburban drivers ……. why would you choose, and it is their choice, to do the Knowledge of one, two or more Sectors, as opposed to the All London Knowledge, and then argue for a short-cut, dare I mention ‘Quickie-Knowledge’, to a ‘Green Badge’.

Peter Bond is a member of Unite’s Cab Trade Advisory Committee

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