Cabbies gear up for fight over Newcastle’s taxi limit

CABBIES are urging a council to maintain its limit on the number of taxis allowed in a town centre after claims any increase will further damage trade.

Newcastle Borough Council is carrying out a consultation ahead of proposals to scrap its current cap on the Hackney carriages.

The authority is considering the changes after a survey revealed ‘significant unmet demand’ for taxis between 2am and 3am.

But drivers say daytime trade has slumped and no more licenses should be handed out.

Chairman of Newcastle Hackney Carriage Association Carl Phillips said: “There may be a shortfall of cars between 2am and 3am but every other town and city has the same problem. We are in a recession and Newcastle town centre is no exception.

“With a lot of empty shops we have taxis sitting around most of the day and most of the drivers are relying on repeat business from regulars.”

The borough council currently caps the number of Hackney carriages allowed to operate in the area at 51.

It also has a waiting list of 41 people who have asked to be issued with a Hackney license.

Nearby authorities including Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Staffordshire Moorlands District Council do not have any limit.

The nearest area to maintain a cap on Hackney carriage drivers is Congleton.

Mr Phillips, aged 57, of Lightwood, who has been a taxi driver in the borough for the past nine years, added: “This is a small market town.

“We don’t have an airport or a railway station and to consider putting more cars on is wrong.

“Every three years we have to fight off these plans.

“There is no need to take away the limit, you only have to walk around the town to see taxis sitting waiting.”

Any authority which has a limit must justify the cap to the Government.

In December 2009, the borough council carried out a survey costing £20,779 to investigate whether a limit was needed.

The conclusions of the report revealed there was no significant unmet demand within the area.

The recent community safety team survey, which was carried out over a month, claims during peak times more than 40 people were spotted waiting for a taxi.

Andrew Davies, aged 54, of Wolstanton, who has been a taxi driver in the borough for the past 12 years, said: “I don’t see why a town like Newcastle needs anymore taxis.

“There has been a decline in business over the last few years as people are cutting back on what they spend their money on.

“At times you can be waiting around for 30 minutes for a job. If you have a busy hour you can make about £18 and if it’s quiet, very little.

“On a Friday and Saturday it might go really busy for about an hour but the rest of the time you just have cars waiting around.”

To relieve congestion around the town, the bus station is used as a taxi rank during weekend nights as private hire cabs are allowed to pick up punters while a team of marshalls radio through the bookings.

Mr Phillips added: “The system at the bus station works great and there are 300 cars helping clear the town.”

Kelly Royals, aged 26, a learning support assistant from Newcastle, said: “I don’t think there is any need for anymore taxis.

“The system at the bus station works just fine at night.”


Aberdeen Council to re-regulate numbers and go 100% WAV?

The licensing committee of Aberdeen council is to meet on Tuesday 17th April to discuss and resolve taxi numbers and taxi licensing policy within the area.

At its November 2011 meeting the Licensing Committee considered a presentation and a Taxi Demand Survey  by the Transport Research Institute, Taxi Studies Group, Edinburgh Napier University.

The committee during November accepted the report pending clarification of certain details, these include a review of taxi ranks within the area and the consequences of changing the policy towards 100% wheelchair accessible vehicles.

The 100% WAV policy is being recommended as fairer the best option to comply with the Council’s public sector equality duty.

Councillors are being reminded that the case Wilson v Aberdeen City Council, recommended that the Council would best meet the equality aim of its wheelchair accessible vehicle policy by setting a date by which all vehicles required to be accessible. Some have cited the unfairness of only some drivers being required to provide a wheelchair accessible vehicle, which can be more expensive to purchase. It is also suggested the policy will eliminate the unofficial market in the hiring of saloon taxis.

In a recent survey 50% of members of the public advised that having a wheelchair accessible fleet would positively encourage them to use taxis more often (whether or not they themselves had a disability).

Councillors are being asked to cap taxi numbers and set a date of April 2017 for all licensed taxis within the area to be wheelchair accessible.

Ottawa: Tradeable licenses for accessible taxis gets thumbs up, Committee endorses changes to bylaw

A city committee endorsed a plan that could see about 100 holders of accessible taxi plates garner a six-figure selling price for their cab licences.

Changing the taxi licensing system to allow just over 100 plate owners to sell, trade or lease their taxi plates for wheelchair-accessible cabs would boost the plates’ street value to between $100,000 and $330,000 – high prices that holders of the limited number of standard taxi licences recently fetched for their non-accessible cab plates.

Committee member Rainer Bloess, councillor for Innes Ward, compared the change to giving accessible cab license holders a lottery ticket with a guaranteed win.

The accessible taxi licences, which were issued by the city to provide transportation for people with mobility challenges such as wheelchairs, were originally not meant to be sold or traded.

But opening up the rules for accessible cab licences was part of a suite of changes the city’s community and protective service committee approved to the taxi bylaw, which the city uses to regulate the industry. The vote was 5-1, with only veteran Coun. Diane Holmes voting against the proposals. Council will have the final vote in April.

The city issues licences for a variety of businesses, including food carts, snow plow operators and more, but taxi licences are the only ones issued by the city that are transferable, meaning they can be resold.

There are a total of 1,001 standard plates and 173 accessible plates in service, which fits the ratio of one taxi for every 784 residents in the urban regulated area, as mandated by city council. No new plates will be issued until the need increases, and any new taxi licences would be for accessible cabs only.

Hanif Patni, president of the company that owns Blue Line, Capital and DJ’s cabs – Coventry Connections – was careful to remain neutral about the windfall he could see if the cheaper accessible licenses suddenly became saleable.

Patni and other industry stakeholders had been consulted on the changes, but Sue Jones, manager of the emergency services department that oversees taxi regulation, said the changes weren’t of enough interest to the general public to warrant public consultation.

The lack of consultation was just one of the issues Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans bemoaned during the March 22 meeting. Deans, former chairwoman of that committee, said the proposed changes would mark a step back from the taxi reforms she oversaw during the last form of council.

“We regulate this industry for consumer protection and health and safety of the public … and it seems the public hasn’t been consulted on this,” Deans said. “I can’t understand why these recommendations are coming forward and on what basis.”

Deans is no longer sitting on the committee and therefore doesn’t have a vote until it reaches council.

Bay Coun. Mark Taylor, chairman of the committee, said the committee only has a duty to look at the bylaw regulating the industry to ensure it’s serving the needs of people who want to use taxis.

Other proposed changes include encouraging taxis to serve rural areas of the city by instituting a minimum $30 fare. Trips would only be made between the rural area, which doesn’t have taxi regulations, and the regulated urban area.

Other changes include reductions in taxi inspections and refresher courses for taxis, a requirement to display the cab number larger and more clearly.


Drivers worried by surge in black cabs in Norwich

Cabbies in Norwich want a limit on the number of black cab licences which are handed out.

People in Norwich have been invited to help decide whether the number of black cabs operating in the city should be limited.

Taxi drivers have long been calling on Norwich City Council to limit the number of hackney carriages allowed to operate, saying the city is so flooded with them that they are struggling to make a living.

The Norwich Hackney Trade Association said people who lost their jobs in the recession had turned to cab driving, bringing the number of vehicles on the city’s streets up to saturation point, with more than 200.

A petition was presented to the city council’s licensing committee in November 2010, but the council has yet to figure out how to tackle the issue.

The council cannot legally refuse to licence a hackney carriage once licensing conditions have been met, unless it is satisfied there is no significant ‘unmet demand’ for taxi services within the city and no survey has been done to establish if that is the case.

But officers have been looking to see if they could control the numbers another way – by changing the existing hackney carriage licence conditions or vehicle specification – and have asked the public for views.

However, Ian Clodd, chairman of the Norwich Hackney Trade Association, said cab drivers were frustrated a problem raised 18 months ago has still not been tackled.

He said: “They have put it off and put it off and it is now past saturation point. What they need to do is cap the licences for a few years, because as it stands we are getting somebody new starting every week.

“We are finding it hard to make a living and some of the older drivers. who know the city like the back of their hand, are leaving the trade. We are at our wits’ end.”

The results of the consultation will go back before members of the licensing committee in June.

Fares for Hackney carriages, which are the taxis you can ‘flag down’ at a taxi rank or off the street, are set by the city council.

The city council also licences private hire vehicles, which have to be pre-booked.

Bert Bremner, cabinet member with responsibility for licensing at Norwich City Council, said: “We’d very much like the city’s residents to offer their views on the licensing of black cabs that operate in Norwich.”

The closing date for the consultation is Monday, April 30. To submit your views, visit and click ‘Current consultations’ in the quick links box on the left-hand side of the home page.

Portsmouth USA: streets called ‘battlefield’ for competing cabbies

PORTSMOUTH — City cab drivers are accusing each other of lying, cheating and stealing.

In one recent instance, a cabbie called police to report a plot to plant illegal drugs in a cab to get the driver arrested. The city has also received complaints, many anonymous, about cab drivers overcharging customers, breaking traffic laws, parking in metered spaces and shutting off meters before the end of rides to get larger tips.

“There are so many cabs on the road and they need that fare to make a living,” said Peter Bresciano, chairman of the Taxi Commission. “A lot of them don’t use radios anymore, they use cell phones, because they don’t want anyone hearing where their next call is going to be. We’re talking about capitalism – businesses competing.”

Bresciano said that ten years ago “there were fights on the street” between cabbies. After a quiet spell, he said, things have heated up again during the past few months, sans the fisticuffs.

“Lack of business,” is one reason, he said. Another popular opinion is that the city has issued too many medallions to license too many cabs, he said.

In a Feb. 20 letter to the Taxi Commission, Melissa McGuire, owner of Annie’s Taxi, wrote that she was told a competing cab driver planned to plant drugs in her cab and call police to say she was asking customers where she could buy illicit drugs. McGuire wrote that after hearing of the alleged plot, she called the police station and asked for a drug-sniffing dog to “check my car more extensively than I had.”

“Unfortunately they did not have one at that time to conduct the search,” she wrote to the commission. “The fare stealing, lie spreading and out and out thievery in the taxi business in Portsmouth is unbelievably embarrassing. I have heard so many complaints about other taxi drivers directly from the patrons of Portsmouth that I have run out of excuses for them.”

McGuire did not return the Herald’s messages seeking further comment.

Bresciano said allegations of criminal activity by cabbies belong with the police department, not the Taxi Commission.

“We don’t have investigative powers,” he said. “We’re all volunteers.”

Police Lt. Mark Newport attends Taxi Commission meetings on behalf of the police department and reports complaints about city cabs at the monthly commission meetings. According to minutes from those meetings, in December of 2011, Newport reported that police received a complaint about an unlicensed Checker Cab at the Pease golf course.

In January he reported that police received a complaint about a cabbie “speeding down Woodbury Avenue” and another call about a cabbie without a medallion picking up fares at the C&J bus depot. A cab driver is quoted as admitting he made the second police complaint.

During the February Taxi Commission meeting, Newport reported receiving a complaint from a Portsmouth Taxi driver complaining about losing business to the Port Authority which was giving rides to workers unloading salt from a docked ship. Newport reported that he spoke with the Port Authority and was told a volunteer group provides rides for ship workers and “have been doing it for years.”

During the same meeting, McGuire is quoted as saying, “we have a battlefield going on in the city, where one company is against another.” She went on to ask about policy pertaining to bus passengers at the C&J depot where cabbies “will swoop in and cut the other drivers off and take the passengers.” McGuire was advised to contact the Pease Development Authority and inquire whether they have a policy.

By ordinance, the city currently allows a maximum of 25 cabs to operate in the city and according to Bresciano, there are now 19 on the road. Meanwhile, he said, the economy has caused cab ridership to drop.

Richard Ford of Blue Star Taxi told the Commission in January that there’s “enormous pressure to try to squeeze two nickels together to make a dime.” And when the Taxi Commission was asked to issue an additional medallion to NH Checker Cab in February, Chester Deorocki of Blue Star Taxi objected while noting “the companies presently in business are all losing money.”

The Commission voted to approve the medallion for NH Checker Cab.

“Lowering the number of medallions may help, but there are shenanigans going on with some of the cab companies that make it hard to operate because they don’t believe there is a level playing field,” Ford is quoted in commission minutes.

Bresciano said a discussion about whether to reduce the number of medallions from 25 will be had during the Commission’s next meeting.

Taxi Commissioner and Blue Star Taxi owner Paul Ford said he believes there are too many cabs licensed to operate in Portsmouth. For perspective, he said Manchester has 21 approved taxis in a city with a population of 125,000 and an airport. Portsmouth has 21,000 people and the same amount of taxis, he said.

“Overall, the recession has caused quite a reduction in business,” said Ford, who also owns the Regal Limousine company in North Hampton. “People compete for what little of the pie is left. There are more cabs now than ever and it’s a shrinking pie.”

Ford said he’s never experienced antagonism from other cabbies, but speculated, “Maybe I’m more likeable.”

Also on the agenda for the next Taxi Commission meeting is a proposal to recommend that the City Council change the taxi ordinance to require cab drivers to adhere to state and federal laws. This would enable the city to require cab companies, on demand, to turn over their records for review.

City Councilor Ken Smith said he proposed the ordinance change about a year ago when it came to his attention that some cab drivers were independent contractors who may not be properly insured. He said if true, that could make the city liable for a taxi-related injury.

Smith, also chairman of the Parking and Safety Committee, said he’s also recently scolded city cabbies about parking in metered spots while the city sacrifices $3,300 a year to use some parking spots as designated taxi stands.

“If I continue to see the behavior,” he said, “I’m going to start reducing the number of taxi stands.”



Council to limit number of taxi licences issued

Council votes to limit number of taxi licences issued

Taxi drivers have won their bid to have the number of licences issued by the Watford Borough Council capped.

At a meeting of the Licensing Committee last night, politicians decided to limit the number of plates to 304, which is the current number of hackney carriages on the road.

In June the council agreed to commission an unmet demand survey to get a better idea of how many taxis the town actually needs.

The council paid CTS, an independent industry expert, £12,500 to complete the research between August and November last year.

Joe MacLaren, project director at the company, gave a presentation of the findings at last night’s meeting.

He said that the findings showed no evidence of unmet demand of any significance, and that there appeared to be a large over-supply oh hackney carriage vehicles.

Councillors on the committee therefore decided to impose a limit, and no further licences will be issued unless one is handed back by an existing driver.

Councillor Jan Brown, who chaired last night’s meeting, said: “This is a very important decision.

“We don’t want to move anyone out but we need to make things better.”

The Hackney Carriage Association had previously asked the committee to apply a limit in 2009, following a large increase after the council’s decision to delimit the trade in November 2006.

At the time, representatives from the association claimed that 277 licences were issued in 2008 compared to 78 in 2005.

However politicians rejected the bid as they felt the fall in private taxi licences meant that the total number of cabs in the town had not changed.

Councillor George Derbyshire said: “The report shows that the demand for hackney carriages and the supply are no longer in balance.

“It is more than reasonable for us to reinstate a limit as a way of trying to deal with this situation.”

After a long battle with the council taxi drivers spoke of their relief that the limit had been put in a place at a time when many drivers are struggling to earn a living.

Shafiq Ahmed, chairman of the Watford Hackney Carriage Association, said: “Common sense prevailed and I am very grateful to the council for commissioning a survey to justify what we have been saying for the last four years.

“Things are very difficult for taxi drivers in Watford.

“There are too many taxis – there are cars on top of each other and the constant flow of taxis is driving everybody insane.

“It didn’t make sense to keep issuing more licences.”

Although the association predicts that it will take a few years for the limit to show any dramatic improvements, Mr Ahmed said that the council’s decision gave taxi drivers hope.

He added: “It gives them the hope that things will progress slowly.”


Taxi drivers protest in Maidenhead


Taxi drivers demonstrated in Maidenheadtoday over Royal Borough plans to change a licensing policy.

Hackney Carriage drivers were protesting because the council is considering de-restricting the number of hackney carriage licenses in the borough.

The drivers say this would mean more competition for space and custom.

Private hire drivers have submitted a petition to the council asking for the de-restriction as they feel anyone should be able to obtain a hackney plate.

The demonstration, which was heavily policed, started at 8am and caused some delays on the roads around the town centre.



Taxi strike: Demonstration ends outside Maidenhead Town Hall

A taxi demonstration in Maidenheadthis morning has ended.

Hackney Carriage drivers gathered outside the town hall in St Ives Road holding placards and chanting ‘we want justice’ and ‘no more taxis’.

They had driven around the town centre for about two hours in protest against council plans to change a licensing policy.

Waheed Azam, organiser and Royal Borough Taxi Association representative said he thought about 50 drivers had taken part, adding he felt the demonstration had gone very well.

He thanked Thames Valley Police for its assistance but warned that if the council did not listen to drivers’ point of view they would consider demonstrating at the Olympics.

A similar demonstration is expected to take place in Windsor on Thursday.


Richmond Association to take council to court over deregulation

ANGRY taxi drivers have launched a High Court legal challenge in a bid to prevent a town being “flooded” with cabs.

Court papers have been served on Richmondshire District Council in an attempt to stop the authority deregulating taxi services.

Cab drivers are seeking a judicial review over the authority’s plans to remove a cap on the number of taxi plates it issues.

They say the move would destroy their livelihoods and leave Richmond swamped with taxis at weekends.

George Pearson, chairman of Richmond Independent Drivers’ Association, said drivers were challenging the council’s consultation over the changes which they claim was flawed.

He said: “For the council to deregulate the taxi service they are supposed to go through a full consultation.

“We say that they didn’t do this – they just sprung it on us out of the blue. The court will look at the council’s review and decide whether we are right, or they are.”

It is thought the legal process could take a couple of months.

The deregulation was due to come into force on April 1, however Mr Pearson said the drivers’ solicitors had imposed an injunction preventing the change.

He added: “If the deregulation goes ahead the number of taxis could increase dramatically.

“We understand 50 private hire companies have already received letters asking if they want to become taxis.

“At the moment, there are maybe 30 cabs working in Richmond on a Saturday night – with deregulation, we could end up with 60 and the town would be flooded.”

Drivers raised £3,000 needed to pay for the review.

The number of Hackney cabs in Richmondshire is limited to 65, but the council’s licensing committee voted to deregulate to encourage a better service in rural areas.

Hackney cab drivers brought Richmond to a halt in November last year in protest at the decision to deregulate the industry.

A spokeswoman for Richmondshire council confirmed it had received the court papers, but declined to comment further.


Taxi drivers to strike over proposed licence change

Taxi drivers look set to strike over council plans to change a licensing policy.

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead is considering de-restricting the number of hackney carriage licenses it hands out and issuing five new licenses per month as of May 1.

But drivers who already hold that type of license fear they will face more competition for customers and say they are short on space for parking as it is.

They are expected to demonstrate in Maidenhead on Tuesday by meeting at Braywick Park and driving in convoy through the town.

There are 96 hackney carriages – taxis which can be hailed – across the borough compared to more than 900 private hire vehicles, which must be pre-booked.

While a survey conducted last year shows they are providing a ‘good or very good’ service with no significant unmet demand, it suggests an increase in licenses could be an improvement.

An increase in the taxi licensing fee has also been recommended.

Results of a further consultation will be reported to the borough’s licensing panel at a later date and any resolutions are expected to go before the council in April before they can be implemented.


St Albans taxi drivers facing stiff competition

St Albans cabbies want something done.

Taxi drivers in St Albans are once again urging politicians to put a limit on the number of licences issued as they claim nothing has been done to improve their situation.

Hackney carriage drivers across the district, who are members of the St Albans Taxi Association, asked the council’s licensing committee to consider introducing a regulation in July, as they say  there are too many taxis on the roads.

They argue that they find it hard to earn a decent wage because of the competition, and that existing taxi ranks ares full.

However their original calls were rejected and the district council said it was following guidance from the Office of Fair Trading and Department of Transport reports on best practice.

Mudassar Yasin, secretary of the taxi association, is now leading the campaign to get the proposal resubmitted.

He said: “Having lots of taxis doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get a better service. If the drivers aren’t earning enough the service will deteriorate.

“Ten years ago you would know your passengers by their first name – it is not personal any more.”

Mr Yasin says drivers now have to work longer hours because of the competition for passengers, and his average weekend shift is about 15 hours long.

He added: “Everyone is out all the time now trying to make money.

“It is causing a lot of problems – just the health issues of working so many hours and not sleeping properly.”

The association says there are about 260 Hackney carriages in the city, as well as approximately 180 private cars, which is far higher than the suggested figure of one and a half taxis for every  1,000 residents.

Mohammed Khan, chairman of the association, is worried about the congestion around the taxi ranks, especially during busy times.

After rejecting the original plans, the council agreed to build a new taxi rank to ease congestion.

But plans for a new rank in Harpenden were rejected by the town council, and the association claims no further locations have been proposed.

Mr Khan said: “Because there are so many cars they are parking all over the place.

“When the ranks are full where are we meant to go?”