Kingston cabbies speak out after spate of abuse

Fed up: Mohammad Reza Raghami

Taxi drivers have lifted the lid on life as a cabbie, describing the drunken verbal abuse and violence they face almost every night.

Two drivers spoke out after they were attacked last Saturday – one had his minicab stolen and smashed up while the other had his window broken with a bottle of vodka.

The pair called for passengers to give more personal information when they book to dissuade yobbish behaviour and help protect drivers.

Father-of-three Mehmood Hussain, 41, from Hampton, was attacked by two men after he picked them up from a kiosk outside McCluskeys nightclub in Kingston and took them to Chessington Industrial Estate.

He described how his Honda Accord was stolen and later found smashed into a bollard at the junction of Sanger Avenue and Cox Lane.

He said: “I was scared something would happen. They were getting more and more angry. One guy grabbed me from the back with his arm around my neck.

“I pushed his arm up and my head went down and I managed to escaped but my car keys dropped.”

The same night Mohammad Reza Raghami, 47, from Twickenham, picked up three men from the same kiosk to take them to a nightclub at Tower Bridge.

But on the way they started attacking each other.

He stopped in Hanworth where one of them threw a bottle, which smashed the car’s rear window.

He said: “My job is at night opposite the club and 80 to 85 per cent of my customers are drunk.

“They shout at me and speak badly to me and sometimes punch me and are sick in the car.”

Frank Evans, of Kingston Town Cars, which operates the kiosk, said he was considering bringing in head cameras for kiosk operators.

He said: “Unfortunately when you are dealing with people with drink and drugs it is a well-known part of our trade that they think they can beat people up and not pay their fares.

“It is very difficult. You can’t ask for a passenger’s ID. These guys give false names anyway a lot of the time.”

* Kingston police said a 30-year-old from New Malden and a 31-year-old man from Chessington, had been arrested on suspicion of stealing a minicab and released on bail.


Second evidence session into issues relating to the licensing of taxis and private hire vehicles

The Commons Transport Committee takes further oral evidence on issues relating to the licensing of taxis and private hire vehicles

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Committee Room 6, House of Commons

At 10.15 am


At 10.50 am

  • National Taxi Users Association
  • TravelWatch NorthWest

At 11.30 am

  • Norman Baker MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport

These timings are approximate and the sessions may start slightly earlier or later than advertised.

London to Sydney taxi ride aims to break world record

Three friends are aiming to complete the longest ever journey in a taxi with a charity ride from London to Sydney.

It will take more than eight months to drive the 30,000-mile journey across 37 countries

The trio aim to break the world record by driving a black cab 30,000 miles (48,280 km) across 37 countries in support of the British Red Cross.

Paul Archer, 23, from Gloucestershire, will share the driving with friends Johno Ellison, 27, from Leeds, and Leigh Purnell, 23, from Staffordshire.

The current record was set in 1994 with a journey of 21,691 miles (34,908 km).

Mayor ‘delighted’

The men, who are due to set off on their journey on Thursday, have challenged themselves to raise £20,345, which they estimated would be the cost of a taxi fare from London to Sydney.

Mr Archer, who has quit his job as a recruitment consult in London, to undertake the challenge, said a costly taxi ride had left them wondering what the most expensive fare was.

“I recommend never to carry on ideas like this in the pub, because we’re now sat here on the brink of an eight-month expedition wondering what we have got ourselves into,” he said.

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, wished the team luck and said he was “delighted” to see the iconic symbol of London being used to raise money for charity.

The 20-year-old taxi was bought online for £1,500 and has already clocked over 100,000 miles.

It will carry the team across Europe, north Africa, the Middle East, China, south Asia and Australia, in which they will cross 36 borders and 10 time zones.


Editors note;

You can follow the journey via their website; 

The NTA send their best wishes to the guys on their epic journey and hope they enjoy the trip making lots of money for worthwhile causes.

U-turn as FF pledges to put freeze on new taxis

PROTEST: Dublin taxi drivers are against deregulation

FIANNA Fail went after the votes of nearly 20,000 taxi drivers today by promising a moratorium on new licences.

The Herald can reveal that Transport Minister Pat Carey is set to announce a new policy that will freeze the deregulation of taxis.

The party is also prepared to overlook new rules which state that no taxi should be older than nine years.

“It is clear to me that while deregulation of the taxi industry has improved the availability of taxis for customers, it is important that we also have regard to the right of taxi drivers to make a decent living. It is important to strike a balance,” Mr Carey told the Herald.


More than 13,500 licensed taxis pile into Dublin city every day while there are also over 4,000 regional operators.

This is on a par with cities such as New York and London which have populations of 14m and 10m respectively.

Taxi unions have repeatedly protested against deregulation, which has seen taxi numbers soar in recent years.

And today Fianna Fail changed the stance of former Minister Noel Dempsey, who refused to curtail the growing numbers.

Mr Carey has discussed the issue with party leader Micheal Martin and new transport spokesman Billy Kelleher, who both agreed that taximen were being put under “intolerable pressure”.

In an election document to be revealed this evening, they say that the industry has become “oversubscribed” and “this situation has caused real difficulties for those working in the industry”.

The news is likely to be welcomed by existing taxi drivers, especially in the capital where there are nearly three times as many taxis as places on ranks.

Fianna Fail says that it wants to recreate a taxi regime which is “affordable, accessible and provides a quality service”.

“We accept that there have been significant increases in the number of taxis on our roads since deregulation in 2000,” the new policy says.

Mr Carey has written to the National Transport Authority, which manages the regulation of the Small Public Transport Vehicle Sector, to inform it of his party’s position.

In the letter he said that Fianna Fail believes “the introduction of a cap on numbers will make the taxi industry fairer, safer and better equipped to deal with the needs of taxi drivers and the general public alike”.

He also noted that the party will support the suspension of the introduction of the ‘Nine Year Rule’ on the replacement of taxis to July 31, 2012.

“Fianna Fail will implement new legislation to robustly enforce taxi regulation and to increase penalties for those operating illegal taxis,” the new policy document concludes.



SNP Transport Spokesperson, Angus MacNeil MP, today (Friday) warned that soaring fuel prices are hindering economic recovery. Mr MacNeil added that the SNP will make the record high price of fuel a central issue in the forthcoming Scottish election.
Mr MacNeil’s remarks come as the latest AA Fuel Price Report showed that Scotland’s drivers are paying the highest petrol prices in Europe while the cost is falling across the continent.


Last week, the SNP and Plaid Cymru group at Westminster called a vote demanding the immediate introduction of a fuel duty regulator and a rural fuel derogation to ease the pressure of motorists and hauliers. Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs voted against whilst most Labour Members abstained.

Commenting Mr MacNeil said:

“It’s a national scandal that, in an oil rich country like Scotland, we are paying the highest fuel prices in Europe.
“High prices are hindering economic recovery by driving up bills for hard-pressed households and businesses – particularly the haulage industry.
“The UK Government have the means to stop this highway robbery but Tory and Lib Dem MPs combined to vote against measures to bring down fuel costs whilst Labour abstained en masse.

“Both the Tories and Lib Dems promised to take action but so far noting has happened – and the silence from Labour north of the border shows they are out of touch on this issue.

“What Ministers in London are clearly forgetting is that for many people in Scotland, a car is a necessity and not a luxury. It’s time for real action not warm words.

“If Westminster won’t act then we need to equip the Scottish Parliament with the powers so that it can deliver instead. Fuel prices are a crucial issue for households and businesses, and the SNP will now make them a central issue for the Holyrood elections in May.”

Curfew on Duncombe Place taxi rank could be scrapped

Curfew on popular city centre taxi rank could be scrapped

ROUND-THE-CLOCK opening could return to a taxi rank in the heart of York after its operation was scaled back.

A review of York’s taxi arrangements by a City of York Council task group has recommended bringing the rank at Duncombe Place back into 24-hour use for a year-long trial following a campaign by drivers.

The rank is currently only allowed to open between 7.30am and 10pm. The curfew was introduced amid fears about anti-ocial behaviour in the area and noise from passenger queues disturbing guests at the nearby Dean Court Hotel.

The council’s taxi licensing policy group now says anti-crime measures, including better lighting, cutting back bushes and shrubbery in the neighbouring gardens and an alcohol ban, had dealt with many of those issues. Its members also said Duncombe Place was a “popular” rank for late-night revellers and theatre-goers, and taxis already regularly picked up customers from the street after being flagged down.

The group’s recommendations also include encouraging the inclusion of taxi ranks within major developments such as York’s community stadium, and producing a map of the current ranks’ opening times to boost awareness.

They will now go before the council’s community safety overview and scrutiny committee for further consideration.

Following the restriction on Duncombe Place’s opening times, 180 drivers signed a petition calling for it to be allowed to operate overnight, saying it was the safest rank in the city.

A report by officers which went before a meeting of the task group yesterday said: “The task group acknowledged the council’s efforts to improve the area adjacent to the rank location and the improvements to street lighting around the memorial gardens.

“They also noted there was little evidence to substantiate that the use of the rank gives rise to noise disturbance. They recognise that a hackney carriage can pick up passengers in any street and can be flagged down when not already booked, irrespective of the operation of the rank.”


Fine for taxi drivers who help the elderly

TAXI drivers have been fined for dropping elderly women off at the door to their local cafés for their daily cuppa.

Pearl Penhall gets a lift each day to Snax Cafe in Bedminster’s East Street which is now closed to through vehicles.

Cabbie John Shamis was given a ticket for using the street to drive the 73-year-old to the front of the cafV rather than making her walk round the corner from Warden Street with her zimmer frame.

Pensioner Mrs Penhall, who lives in a block of flats in Ashton, told the Evening Post she couldn’t walk from the end of the road and didn’t want to give up her daily routine.

The elderly lady uses the taxi company as a lifeline to get out of her flat and is well known by the drivers, who take time to help her and other elderly passengers out of their cars and escort them to the door of the café.

“We’ve been bringing elderly and disabled people down this stretch for years,” Mr Shamis told the Post. “I was taking this young lady Pearl down and the officer wasn’t interested and hit me with a £30 fine.”

Mr Shamis, from Bedminster, is not alone.

He told the Post three of his colleagues had also been fined in the past six weeks for the same thing – dropping elderly or disabled clients as close as they could to their destination.

The shopping street in Bedminster is now closed to cars, with only buses and cyclists allowed to use the road as a cut-through to avoid a detour around Malago Road.

“I said I’m not cutting through but he wasn’t interested,” Mr Shamis explained.

The 25-year-old cabbie for Club Cars said he paid the subsequent fine because “to appeal it would have cost more money”.

“That officer should have looked and seen I had a disabled passenger,” he added.

“It is restricted to service vehicles and buses, but as far as we’re concerned we are just servicing the community.”

A council spokesman confirmed to the Post there is a ‘prohibition of driving order’ in force in East Street between 7am and 7pm which only allows buses and pedal cycles to travel through, “so any taxis driving along to drop off passengers will be penalised”.

“There are various side roads which would mean that a driver could drop the passenger very close to where they needed to go without transgressing the order,” he said.

But he confirmed traffic enforcement officers have room for discretion.

“It would be down to individual circumstances,” he added.


Taxis banned from parking at Ucas during Cheltenham Festival

FEARS of traffic chaos during the Cheltenham Festival have been raised after it emerged taxi drivers will not be allowed to use a popular pick-up point.

Bosses at the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (Ucas) have withdrawn their site after a race-goer assaulted a security guard.

Residents say the Ucas decision will put a major strain on surrounding roads during the four-day event.

In recent years, pre-booked taxis have been allowed to wait for customers in the entrance to Ucas in New Barn Lane.

But Ucas spokesman Darren Barker said the arrangement resulted in a security guard being assaulted during a race meeting in late 2009.

He said: “There was an unfortunate incident when a member of our security staff was assaulted by a race-goer who was waiting for a taxi.

“It was too late to cancel the arrangement in time for last year’s Cheltenham Festival.

“However, this year taxis won’t be allowed to park in our main entrance.”

Prestbury parish councillor Richard Fuller said drivers would be forced to find other places to wait for punters.

“I foresee a major problem in residential areas,” he said. “Ucas acting as a pick-up point has been a big help in the past. Taxi drivers are now going to look for an alternative place to park.”

Yesterday, Cheltenham Borough Council was unable to comment on whether it would be conducting more parking patrols during race week. However, Mr Fuller said: “We have a good relationship with the borough council.

“They took action during the autumn meeting at the racecourse and we hope they will do the same in March so our streets are kept clear of cars.”

Prestbury Parish Council has preempted problems with race-goers spilling onto the streets carrying alcohol.

Racecourse bosses pledged to take preventative action.

Cheltenham Racecourse communications manager Andy Clifton said: “We have an excellent relationship with Prestbury Parish Council.

“Following a recent meeting we have agreed to remind customers not to take drinks off our property when they leave. We will include a message in the race card, signs on the exit routes and make an announcement at the course each day.”


Brighton Station taxi rank to close for three months

Taxi drivers are predicting a “spring time of chaos” after being told the rank at Brighton Station will be closed for up to three months.

Cabbies, who pay £410 a year to use the rank, said they were only given a week’s warning that it will close during improvement works.

Southern Rail, which manages the station, is repainting the canopy as part of a £140,000 programme.

However taxi drivers are furious only eight spaces will be provided for them at the back of the station and say the work will leave them out of pocket.

A Southern spokesman said: “We apologise for any inconvenience caused to passengers while the work takes place but we are sure that the end result will be well worth any inconvenience caused.

“The canopy stretches across the entire face of the station and covers the taxi rank.

“To ensure the safety of passengers, taxi drivers and workmen, the taxi drivers are required to vacate the rank from next Monday for the duration of the job. They have been offered an alternative site at the rear of the station where a number of parking bays have been allocated exclusively for their use.”


Montreal cabbie fined for decorating taxi with personal, religious items

Arieh Perecowicz

A Montreal cabbie learned on Thursday that his taxi isn’t a vehicle for freedom of expression and religion.

Arieh Perecowicz lost his court challenge against Montreal taxi authorities who fined him for filling his cab with an assortment of personal and religious objects.

Mr. Perecowicz, who’s driven a cab for over four decades, had decorated his dashboard and other parts of his taxi with family photos, a Canadian flag, and articles of his Jewish faith.

But a municipal court judge ruled that Mr. Perecowicz was guilty of violating city bylaws and fined him a total of about $1,000.

Mr. Perecowicz said he will appeal and is ready to take the case as far as the Supreme Court. He says it’s unfair that he cannot display his Jewish prayer scroll in his cab, while a crucifix hangs over the speaker’s chair in Quebec’s National Assembly.

The case is the latest flare-up in Quebec in the debate over the display of religion in public spaces.

Mr. Perecowicz decided to take on the Montreal taxi bureau on the basis of his charter rights. He received a series of tickets for a total of $1,400 from the Bureau du taxi.

The taxi agency countered that inspectors were merely applying municipal regulations, which stipulate that cabs in Montreal should carry no items unrelated to the operation of the taxis.

Mr. Perecowicz said Thursday he was disappointed with the ruling, and that in some 45 years driving the streets of Montreal, he never received any complaints from customers about his taxi’s interior décor.