Epsom Taxi Drivers want Rank back outside Train Station

Epsom TrainTaxi drivers across the UK know the importance of where taxi ranks are based when it comes to the amount of fares they are likely to achieve each day. If a taxi rank is in a busy area drivers are more likely to gain business, which is why many become so frustrated when they are moved by councils to areas where it is more difficult to find customers.

Train stations are one of the best places for taxi drivers to pick up customers, as when many people get off trains they get straight into taxis in order to get to their final destinations. However, taxi drivers in Epsom have recently been told that they will not be allowed outside the station even though they are currently losing a large amount of business. Two years ago development work started at the station which meant that the taxi drivers had to move away from the station approach, however now the work is completed Surrey County Council have decided that taxi drivers will no longer be allowed back.

Drivers in the area have petitioned against the Council’ decision, especially as many have said that their income is no longer enough to pay for their petrol, taxi insurance and the cost of living. One driver, Sheila Siggers said: “Just before Christmas I earned £33 in one day, and £20 of that was spent on petrol. People are thinking ‘we’re not going to walk up there’ and walk home instead. Why can’t Epsom be like all other stations and have a black cab rank right outside?”

“People want to come out of the station and walk straight into their cab. I’ve lost my house in the last two years. I just couldn’t afford it anymore so I moved in with my mum. Drivers are having to work longer hours now because they have less jobs. I know the economic situation isn’t great and we expected trade to drop in a bit, but we’re not really making anything.”

Surrey County Council have responded to the petition by saying that they would consult the public on the decision, with a spokeswoman saying: “This was raised as a concern at a meeting of our committee for Epsom and Ewell, and a working group was formed of a number of interested parties including affected taxi drivers.”

“The group suggested a solution that would include 16 or 17 taxi spaces in Station Approach – a rank on the north side and a feeder on the south side. The proposal also includes space for buses, loading and kiss ‘n’ ride. Realising that many people, including local residents and commuters, will have interest in this, the committee has decided to undertake public consultation.”

Fare war between Taxi Drivers in Stoke-on-Trent

taxi meterPassengers may complain about the amount of their taxi fare, however many do not take into consideration the amount that it costs for taxi drivers to pay for their taxi insurance, licence, and maintenance of their vehicles. Taxi drivers are also trying to make a living from their fares, which means that passengers that complain that the price is too high often don’t understand that taxi drivers don’t have much option when it comes to lowering it.

This is why there has been an on-going argument between private hire taxi companies in Stoke-on-Trent, as one company has now lowered its minimum fare meaning that taxi drivers from other companies are now struggling to make a living. Ace Private Hire lowered its minimum fare to just £1.50 last year, which has led to their rivals Lucky 7 and Autocab also having to reduce their minimum fare just so that they can still get business.

Discussing the situation, director of Autocab, Asmann Ul-haq said: “We’ve had to change our minimum fare to £1.50, the same as Ace, but our drivers aren’t very happy. They can’t make enough money. But the real problem is the city council issuing too many licences. I’ve heard that they’re getting 100 applications a month, and there isn’t enough work to go round. I’ve worked in the taxi trade since I was a teenager, I was brought up in this city. There aren’t as many pubs and clubs anymore.”

The regional secretary of the National Private Hire Association, Dave Currie has also said that price wars between taxi companies don’t actually help customers due to the fact that they are unsustainable. He said: “We get these price wars from time to time. Their controller tells them they’re reducing their rate, which means the driver is earning less. But it’s only just a matter of time before things return to the status quo. The real problem is that it’s far too easy for people to get a base operator licence. There are no CRB checks, they don’t have to show they have the finance to sustain the base.”

However, Mohammed Amin, the co-founder of Ace Private Hire said that he does not regret his decision. “I don’t think things are unsustainable,” he said, “The other firms have dropped their prices to these levels years ago. We didn’t set up Ace to make money for the owners, but to secure jobs for drivers. It’s better for our customers as well. Our drivers are happy with the way we’re doing things. They may make less money on each job, but whereas before they got 20 jobs a day, now they’re getting 30.”

Taxi Company loses School Contract

school signTaxi drivers usually trust that the companies they work for are well managed and that all legal matters are taken care of so that their jobs are secure along with their contracts. Generally, taxi insurance policies only cover the taxi driver and their vehicle, but if the company they work for is not being run correctly then sometimes there is little insurers can do to help.

In the case of Pete’s Taxis of Millom, business was lost for the company after a driver was involved in an accident and taken to court, where it was then revealed that the registration of the company was not under the right name. In 2007 the company was taken over from Pete Dickenson Senior by Pete Dickenson Junior, however the son failed to register the company in his name meaning that he had not adhered to legal regulations. The accident also led to a public enquiry into the firm by the Traffic Commissioner who then decided to revoke the firm’s licence for operating vehicles with more than nine seats.

This then led to Cumbria City Council deciding to strip the firm of its contract with the Sandside Lodge School in Ulverston, with a spokesman saying: “Pete’s taxis licence to operate vehicles of nine seats or more was permanently revoked by the Traffic Commissioners at the public inquiry. Our contract was suspended whilst we investigated this and whether Pete’s Taxis could contractually continue with the route. We have now taken the decision to terminate their contract for this route. We will be advertising the tender for this route in the near future. Once the new contract is awarded, we will advise parents accordingly.”

However, there has been some anger from the firm, especially as they feel that it was unfair to have the route taken away from them following the accident. Owner Tina Swithenbank who runs the firm alongside her husband Mr Dickenson said: “We are in contention with the council. We are fighting the fact that is [the contract] has been terminated. We want clarification on what grounds it has been terminated.”

Council debates Advertising rules for York Taxi Cabs

taxi with a stickerThere are a number of rules and regulations that taxi drivers have to adhere to, and if they don’t they could find themselves receiving a fine, their taxi insurance policies becoming void, or in the worst cases even have their licences taken away. This is why the City of York Council have decided to discuss the advertising rules for taxi cabs in York, especially whether they could introduce television screens into their vehicles, and whether they are allowed stickers on their rear windscreens.

Many Hackney carriages in London already have screens fitted in them, which are generally situated behind the driver’s headrest and show adverts to the passenger during their journey. The council’s gambling, licencing and regulatory committee have begun discussing whether to introduce these screens due to a request from taxi drivers in the area. Discussing the screens, licencing manager Lesley Cooke wrote in a report: “This form of digital media technology allows for a number of advertisements to be recorded on to a USB [a data storage device], which is then put into the vehicle or updated via 3G internet. Advertisements have a soundtrack, and officers believe passengers as well as drivers should be able to adjust or mute the sound if required.”

If screens are introduced into York’s taxi cabs then they will have to comply with the council’s existing rules and regulations on taxi advertisements, such as making sure that the screens are not “visually intrusive or dazzling”, that they don’t block the passengers’ view of the meter, and that the only “live” footage they are allowed to show will be news and weather programmes. The council have also been discussing the rules concerning stickers being applied to the rear windscreen of taxi cabs, especially as they feel that some taxi drivers are confused by the current regulations.

One taxi driver reportedly asked if he could have a sticker that covered the entirety of his rear windscreen as a form of advertising, prompting the council to propose changing the rules so that they either state that window advertisements on taxis is completely banned, or that only one sticker can be applied with restrictions concerning its size and placement.

£1,500 needed to save Falmouth taxi rank Marshalls

taxi standLast week we reported on how taxi drivers in Brighton were voicing their fears for their safety due to new speed limits in the busy town centre, especially at night-time when they picked up drunken revellers. Safety is extremely important to taxi drivers, and whilst their taxi insurance policies can protect their vehicles against theft or damage, many drivers have called for other measures to be put in place in order to protect their personal safety. Taxi marshalls have therefore been implemented at taxi ranks in busy town centres across many cities in the UK in order to make sure that those waiting for taxis don’t exhibit any dangerous or violent behaviour.

This is why supporters of the taxi marshalls in the Falmouth town centre are trying their hardest to find funding so that they can keep the taxi marshalls at the taxi ranks. Originally, funding was offered by local businesses, however many have now pulled out meaning that supporters have to find £1,500 in order to keep the taxi marshalls. At a meeting with the Falmouth Town Council, Sergeant Gary Watts pleaded with the council not to scrap the taxi marshalls scheme, especially as crime in The Moor area went down by fifty per cent since their introduction.

He said: “It has worked really well, so much so that Truro have stolen the idea and are rolling it out. I started the project on the basis of promises I had, mainly from pubs and clubs in the town. I went ahead because I had enough money promised, but unfortunately we had tremendous difficulty pinning people down to pay and that has left us with a shortfall. So, despite this being a very good project, we are going to have to shut it off soon because we are not going to have the money to take it to the end of the (financial) year.”

Luckily, Councillors at the meeting agreed to put the matter before the next meeting of its finance and general purposes committee on the 4th of March, with Councillor Keven Ayres saying: “This is really important as it goes along with the street pastors and Safe Space. We should try to find the money from somewhere to support it until at least the end of the year.

Taxi drivers complain about bridge redevelopment plans in Inverness

taxi and bus laneIn some towns taxi drivers are allowed to use bus lanes during rush hours so that they don’t remain stuck in traffic and are able to get their fares to their destinations as quickly as possible. Many taxi drivers rely on this exemption as without it they would have to reduce the amount of fares they take each shift, meaning that they would gain less income and could potentially struggle to pay costs such as vehicle maintenance and taxi insurance.

However, taxi drivers in Inverness have now been banned from using the bus lane once the forthcoming resurfacing of the Kessock Bridge begins. As of Saturday night work will start on the bridge and finish in June, with a second stage of development being planned for 2014. Taxi drivers have pleaded with transport bosses to be allowed to use the bus lane, especially as many take young children with autism, Down’s syndrome, and additional special needs to school each day. Kevin Williamson from the Inverness Taxi Alliance has said that the young children would become “extremely upset” if they were late to school due to congestion, and therefore drivers should be allowed to use the bus lane.

The treasurer of the alliance, Helena MacLeod also pleaded taxi drivers’ case, and said: “There are significant Highland Council contracts with various taxi companies and most are children with special needs, either autism, Down’s syndrome, behavioural needs – children who have been expelled from school. They are talking about the public transport service, we are a public transport service, just like the bus and rail companies. We are just asking to be treated equally.”

Ms MacLeod also went on to say that drivers were not trained to deal with children if they become upset due to the congestion, and was angered by the council’s lack of communication with the association. However, Transport Scotland’s bridges asset manager, Cameron Gair said that he would not change the law for taxi drivers and said: “The [traffic] order is for buses and HGVs. I would suggest the simple answer is to put these children in a mini bus or alternatively use the road via Beauly.”