ANGRY cabbies hope to hold talks with train operator First Great Western over controversial taxi permits being introduced at Bristol Temple Meads railway station.
The permits will cost the cabbies £375 a year for using the rank on the station’s concourse.
Morad Tighilt, centre, with fellow taxi drivers who are angry with First Great Western
But the cabbies claim the permits have been illegally brought in because the rank is part of the public highway and not private property.
Morad Tighilt, correct secretary of the Bristol Taxi Drivers’ Association, said they feared the permit would soon go up nearly seven fold.
This was because he claimed First Great Western used a formula to calculate permit costs which depended on the annual number of passengers at each station. He said the footfall was about nine million, equating to an annual permit charge of £2,500.
Mr Tighilt said: “Cabbies take about three or four months to earn that kind of money and they need it to pay for running their vehicles and all their overheads as well as looking after their families.
“This year it is £375, but next year they will double it and it will keep going up and up.”
He also criticised First Great Western for introducing the permit which was introduced at midnight on Wednesday without consultation.
A First Great Western spokesperson said: “There are 7.8 million people who go through Temple Meads every year, and the permit scheme will allow us to improve the overall station experience for all of our customers.”
AN emergency bid is being launched at the City Chambers to halt plans to ban taxis and private cars from Waverley Station.
Labour’s transport spokeswoman on the city council Lesley Hinds lodged a motion at today’s transport committee calling for urgent talks with Network Rail to prevent the closure.
The Evening News revealed last week how the station would be closed to cars and taxis permanently by July in response to terror threats ahead of the London Olympics.
Network Rail says Waverley is the only major station left where private vehicles are allowed to drive under the roof.
But critics complain the action is out of proportion and that passengers will be left to haul their luggage up a steep ramp on to Waverley Bridge.
Taxi drivers say they will be left to circle and create traffic chaos.
Councillor Hinds said: “We need to balance the issue of security with accessibility.
“I don’t think any other railway station requires users to take such a steep hill, and for many this will pose an issue.
“This was a decision made without due diligence and care for people with mobility problems, and even people who have to carry large cases.
“There may be new escalators and lifts but there is an issue if you can’t stop on Princes Street to pick up or drop off people.
“The council should be saying to [Network Rail] officials that this is not acceptable.”
She added: “We’re supposed to be encouraging Edinburgh travel by rail and I do not see how this decision helps.
“I would hope the motion will get a lot of support. We do not yet know what the details are, we need to know what alternative they’ve come up with for locals and visitors alike. This whole plan does not give the city a good image.”
Les McVay, City Cabs company secretary, said he would welcome any intervention.
He said: “Edinburgh at peak times has become a theme park. There are tourists who want to get around and locals who want to get around, meaning there will be far too many people in such a small space.
“We are hoping for support that will provide the accessibility we need. At the moment, Waverley Station provides around 24 spaces for taxis, so to make this work the council will have to consider taxi ranks.”
A spokesman for Network Rail previously told the Evening News the ban was necessary and alternative arrangements were being explored.
He said: “Network Rail is required to comply with legislation to remove vehicles prior to the London Olympic Games.”
TAXI drivers could be forced out of Newcastle’s Central Station after police were called in to investigate a £126,000 missing cash riddle.
Officers were brought in after Newcastle Taxi Drivers’ Association fell behind on the money paid to rail operator East Coast in order to have exclusive rights to the city’s most profitable taxi rank.
Police have arrested the association’s former business manager Anil Murwaha.
But as their investigation continues, hundreds of drivers face being barred from the rank if they don’t meet a timetable set by the Government-owned East Coast.
Some 220 drivers have received letters from the nationalised firm telling them that their association has failed to pay the two instalments of £68,000 and as a result, unless the association pays up, those drivers will have days to find more than £700 each in order to continue to use the station rank.
Drivers have hit out, saying they have receipts proving they paid the association and arguing it would be wrong to make them pay twice.
But East Coast bosses said the publicly owned train firm has a duty to protect taxpayers’ investments.
Pervez Khan, on behalf of the association, said it simply did not have the money to pay.
He said: “We have told East Coast that we fear we are the victims of a crime but they do not want to listen.
“There are drivers here now who are worried for their job. They don’t have this money, they have been paying their money and they are being forced to pay again.” Mr Khan said the drivers were worried about what has happened to their money.
He added: “Now hard working taxi drivers who are struggling to get by suddenly have this extra bill forced onto them. East Coast need to step back and see they are being unreasonable.”
East Coast said the association has another week to pay.
If this does not happen, the train company said, the contract would be terminated and drivers will have to pay for a new permit for which they must pay by February 21.
An East Coast spokesman said: “Our issue is not with the individual drivers, who continue to do an excellent job for our customers, but with their association.
“The association has failed to pay East Coast more than £126,000 owed to it, failed to honour its contract with us and really let down the drivers who it charges to use the rank.
“We empathise with the drivers and, should the association fail to meet a further deadline for payment next week, we’ll support the drivers by giving them the opportunity to continue to use the rank for the remainder of the association’s contract, up until April 30. This would be through purchasing a permit directly from East Coast, which works out at less than £8 per day.
“But we cannot allow the drivers to continue to use the rank without any payment at all.
“There can be no free rides. Like any commercially-run organisation, we need to continue to deliver an excellent service for our customers and ensure we get value for money, which in our case, as a publicly-owned company, means for the taxpayer.”
Northumbria Police today said a 40-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of theft and bailed pending further inquiries.
Taxi drivers will be able to drive in certain bus lanes around Watford after councillors voted through proposals to grant them privilege.
Hackney carriages, taxis with the Watford Borough Council crest on the side, will be allowed to drive in bus-only areas in the High Street, Station Road and St Albans Road, in the coming months.
Taxi drivers welcomed the move saying it will save money for customers by avoiding traffic queues and also free up drivers to do more jobs.
The borough’s cross-party Highways Joint Members Panel okayed the move on Thursday.
Shafiq Ahmed, the chairman of the Watford Hackney Carriage Drivers Association said cabbies had been pushing for the move for two years and thanked councillors for their support on the issue.
He said Hackney Carriages could drive in bus lanes in London and so it made sense to expand it to Watford.
Mr Ahmed said: “It is logical as it will make our service more efficient for the passengers and then drivers will be able to go on to their next job.”
At the meeting the proposals received wide-ranging support from councillors.
The new rules, which will come into effect in around six months, will allow hackney carriage drivers to use the High Street from Lower High Street that is currently bus only.
They will also be able to use the bus lane on Station Road between Watford Junction and St Albans Road and on St Albans Road between Bedford Street and Station Road. Liberal Democrat Jan Brown said hackney carriages needed to be able to use the bus lane in Station Road by Watford Junction Station as passengers end-up seeing their fares sky-rocket after getting caught in gridlock.
“I have been stuck there for 20 minutes before with a hackney carriage behind and seen people get out saying there’s been £6 on the clock while sat there and walk off.
“It’s desperately needed.
Lib Dem Andy Wylie added: “There is a high demand for taxis in Watford and we should be accommodating them as public transport”.
STOCKTON cabbies have lost their battle to be allowed to use bus lanes on the town’s high street and across the borough.
The Stockton Hackney Carriage Driver Association (SHCDA) argued their taxis provide public transport and were being disadvantaged in not being allowed to use bus lanes.
The cabbies said in some cases they had to make longer journeys because they cannot use bus lanes and this could lead to issues with passengers.
The SHCDA also pointed to the fact a number of other local authorities allow taxis in bus lanes, as well as arguing they need to drop off disabled passengers in the central part of Stockton high street.
Javid Khazir, secretary of the SHCDA, told a meeting of Stockton Council’s cabinet: “We have been asking for the use of bus lanes since 2004. We can only provide a better service if we are allowed to use bus lanes. The fact is we just wouldn’t create a problem.”
But a report to cabinet raised a number of concerns from the council’s officers if cabs were given bus lane access.
The report, by Mike Chicken, built and natural environment manager, said there were concerns over road safety, “particularly in contra-flow bus lanes where manoeuvres and turning would be in conflict with the main flow of traffic”.
The move could also “impact on journey times for bus services”, the report went on, as well as it being difficult to enforce.
If Hackney carriages were given bus lane access, this would then be challenged by the private hire trade “leading to an increased number of vehicles in bus lanes”, the report said.
Stockton has just over 300 licensed Hackney carriages and just under 300 private hire vehicles.
Cabinet, which voted to reject the SHCDA’s request, was told a permit system already exists to allow taxis to drop off disabled passengers in the central High Street. These permits will now be made free of charge instead of the £10 annual fee.
The meeting was also updated on the ongoing £20m regeneration of Stockton town centre.
Over the last few months the refurbishment of the historic Town Hall and the £1.9m investment in Stockton Central Library has been completed.
Improvements are being made to the town’s heritage buildings and construction has started on the multi-million-pound North Shore mixed–use regeneration scheme on the banks of the river Tees.
This year alone nearly 50 new businesses have set up, expanded or relocated to Stockton Town Centre.
The cabinet approved funding to progress the first stage of major works, including improvements at the northern and southern ends of the High Street and demolition of Lindsay House to open up access to the river and create a flexible events and parking area.
This stage will begin in the spring when construction starts at the southern end of the High Street. Meanwhile, work will begin at Maxwell’s Corner
early next year.
TAXI drivers will be staging a protest today against a new permit scheme that will charge them £375 a year to pick up from Bristol Temple Meads.
First Great Western will introduce the charge in January despite objections from the trade.
So to show their disgust at the scheme, taxi drivers will gather at Temple Meads today to set fire to the permits.
Hackney drivers believe the permit scheme is just a money making exercise that lead will to long queues for passengers waiting to catch a cab.
Tim Lloyd, chair of National Taxi Association, said: “First Great Western have sent letters with a bill to be charged. As far as they are concerned we will be ejected from Temple Meads – there will be a great deal of problems. They say it’s their land and for us to access it we need a permit.
“The city council legal team regard it as a highway so we cannot be charged for reasonable use. Access for a taxi is reasonable use, ingrained in law.
“We feel this letter is a way of intimidating drivers.”
But First Great Western told the Evening Post the company was satisfied the proposal was within the law. The rail operator also says the charge is considerably less than it should be.
Spokesman Dan Panes said: “We’ve been negotiating since January but negotiations are not ongoing.
“Taxi drivers have raised a number of legal issues, not least the suggestion that the land is public land – which it is not.
“We are satisfied there is no legal objection to going forward. So from January 1 we will be charging £375 for a permit to ply their trade.
“That compares with £600 at Bristol Parkway and £600 at Bath Spa. It includes a reduction of 50 per cent because we recognise this is the first time we’ve asked them to do this.
“As it is busier than those other stations the going rate should be more like £750. That will stay until the end of our franchise in 2013.”
First Great Western says the charge will help cut congestion.
The company is planning improvements to Station Approach Road, which it owns, and says part of the money raised from the permits would be used to improve the access and exit points onto the A4 main road.
Council spokeswoman Vicky O’Loughlin said the authority was aware of the plans and was exploring the legal issues.
TAXIS and buses could lose their sites at Brighton Station as part of a plan to improve the “welcome” to the city.
Brighton and Hove City Council has launched a public consultation on ways to regenerate the main entrance to the station.
The local authority and Southern Rail, which manages the station, want people to give their views on the proposals, which aim to “transform” the area around Queens Road to make it better for pedestrians and cyclists.
Plans mooted in the report include moving buses or taxis from outside the main entrance to Queens Road.
Other options include opening Surrey Street to two-way traffic so cars no longer have to drive past the station.
Trafalgar Street could be closed to traffic altogether and Terminus Road could become one-way southbound.
However, taxi drivers and bus bosses said they want to stay where they are.
Roger French, the managing director of Brighton and Hove Bus and Coach Company, welcomed the consultation but said he wanted the bus stops to remain outside the station to help passengers who use trains as well.
He said: “We need more space for buses because we want to improve connectivity between buses and trains.”
Andy Cheesman, the managing director of City Cabs and a member of the Brighton and Hove Taxi Forum, said: “We want to stay where we are and have better services within the front of the station.
“Really that is the only viable option. There are too many buses and too many cabs in that area. If you bring the taxis out of the station it will be chaos.”
Ian Davey, the council’s cabinet member for transport and the public realm, said: “Brighton Station and its surrounding streets have a huge impact on anyone living in the vicinity of the station, or visiting for work or pleasure.
“We want to transform the area to make it a more enjoyable space to spend time in, a fitting welcome to the city, and a more effective movement interchange.”
A Southern spokesman said: “Anything that can be done to make Brighton more welcoming with more to offer can only be a good thing.”
To view the consultation visit http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/station-gateway before December 9.
Taxi drivers are set to be charged for fobs to operate a new bollards system on a public road. Wellingborough Council plans to charge the borough’s 63 registered Hackney Carriage taxi drivers £25 each for a fob to operate the new system in Gloucester Place, which was installed during the Market Street improvement works.
The only traffic permitted to use the cut-through during peak day-time hours are Hackney taxis and buses, and drivers need the fobs to lower the bollards to allow them to pass. Wellingborough Hackney Carriage Association has campaigned against the £25 deposit fee.
Chairman Barry Liffen said drivers who opt out of the scheme will be forced to take longer routes, resulting in them breaking Hackney Carriage Association rules and charging larger fees. He said: “We feel the cost to members of the public and to us are either not understood, or simply being ignored.
“The council should remember that Gloucester Place is a public road and we feel that it’s unfair to charge. “Stagecoach made £191m in profits last year and their buses will get theirs for free, but our drivers are averaging three jobs every two hours at the minute and we are being asked to pay for the privilege of using a public road. The charge for the fob has been called a deposit but for us it is a charge that I feel we should not have to pay.”
At a meeting of the council’s resources committee on Wednesday councillors voted in favour of introducing the deposit charge. Cllr Graham Lawman said: “The buses will have their fobs physically attached to the vehicle. The taxi drivers will be given fobs and in order to protect the security of the system, we have introduced a deposit to ensure they are not passed on to the wrong person.”
But Cllr Andrew Scarborough said that the fobs should be free for the Hackeny Carriage drivers and they should face losing their license if they are misused. He said: “This has come about because the council chose to change the system.
“Hackney Carriage drivers have not done anything wrong because they have always been able to go through there, and yet the only people who end up paying more are the Hackney Carriage drivers.
“I can see no reason who this should not be free apart from the council wishes to get about £1,300.”
Black cab drivers are threatening legal action over what they claim are anti-competitive practices at Manchester Airport.
Manchester Cab Committee claims that Leeds-based private hire taxi company Arrow Cars has been given preferential treatment at the airport which restricts rival companies.
It has recruited taxi law specialist Peter Eatherall at Manchester-based Howards Solicitors as it battles to fully open up business to the trade at the airport.
The complaints focuses on Manchester Airport’s website booking facility for taxis, as well as its booking kiosks in the three main terminals, which it says favour Arrow Cars at the expense of rivals.
Committee chairman Sean Kenny said: “We have no problem with competition.
“We do take issue though when a private hire office opens next to the taxi rank and misleads customers by calling themselves ‘Taxi Private Hire’.
“In addition it has vehicles illegally ranking and what can be considered unbalanced promotion by Manchester Airport.”
Former taxi firm operator Mr Eatherall said that unless the Council was prepared to sit down with the Committee and address its concerns, he would apply for a judicial review of the operating licence which it has granted to Arrow Cars with the aim of forcing it to modify how Arrow operates.
He said: “The Committee will argue that the way that Arrow Cars are allowed to operate is outside the law.
“There is significant case law on the points that we are raising that we believe support our case.
“Manchester City Council has not said it is willing to sit down with us, and in the absence of any negotiations then we have no option but to proceed down the legal route.”
He added: “The Council does not believe that there are any issues that need to be radically addressed, but many, many voices within the trade in Manchester believe that there are.”
The Manchester Cab Committee is made up of the GMB Union, Taxi Owners and Drivers Association, Airport Taxi Association and taxi firms Mantax and Taxifone.
A spokesman for Manchester City Council said: “Our licensing officers regularly monitor the activities of private hire firms based at the airport and we have no evidence to suggest that licensing laws are being broken.
“We have provided a response to Howards Solicitors, and have asked them to clarify which parts of our response they are unhappy with. We are waiting a response.”
A Manchester Airport spokesman said: “All forms of public transport are available to our passengers including private hire taxis, black cabs, buses, trains and we await the addition of Metrolink. We would not favour one over another as choice is something that our passengers continually request of us.”