Greek Taxi unions call for temporary truce

THE IDEA that we will leave him in peace even for one second should not even cross (Transport Minister Yiannis) Ragousis’ mind. The strike will go on,” Attica taxi owners’ union (SATA) chairman Efthymios Lyberopoulos declared after a meeting of union representatives ended on August 3.

That was, at least, until the country’s 13 regional governors met with them. The regional officials made a promise to Lyberopoulos, also chairman of the national taxi owners’ federation, that they will not issue new taxi driver licences – as a new law obliges them to – until discussions between the government and union representatives are concluded. Furthermore, the governors pledged to support the unionists’ key demand for the application of population-based criteria to determine the number of licences issued in each city.

“We will probably end the strike,” Lyberopoulos said after the meeting with the governors, adding that the final decision will be taken in an emergency board meeting of the national union. The ministry of transport will present “its proposals for the liberalisation of the profession, with rules and specific criteria” by the end of October, government spokesman Elias Mossialos said on August 2. Until then, it seems that the blockade of roads, airports, ports and road tolls by taxis will halt.

The end of the strike will not bring about an end to the confrontation between taxi unionists and the government, which has vowed to fully liberalise the profession. Ragousis said on August 2 that the strike is “totally unjustifiable and extremely antisocial”, underlining that “we are not backing down; we won’t succumb to pressure and blackmail”.

Main opposition party New Democracy (ND) accused Prime Minister George Papandreou of “provocative inaction”. ND spokesman Yiannis Michelakis stated that the “incomprehensible” stance adopted by Ragousis apparently serves a central political plan of the government aimed at deflecting people’s attention from the urgent problems Greece is faced with.

Meanwhile, the cancellations of bookings at summer destinations due to the taxi strikes have provoked an outcry from the tourism industry. “The conditions affecting foreign and Greek visitors at several tourism destinations are scenes of shame and degradation – unacceptable for a country whose economy is supported in large part by tourism,” the Panhellenic Federation of Hoteliers said. “We appeal to taxi owners to show self-restraint at last,” the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies (HATTA) said in a statement on August 1.

Heating up the quarrel with taxi unions, the government called on law enforcement authorities to strictly implement laws and penalties for traffic and transportation obstruction. On August 3, police announced that a total of 7,568 taxi owners throughout Greece had been charged with obstructing traffic and with transport or related offences, and up to 100 cases had been filed in court nationwide since the taxi owner protests began on July 18. Thirty-six such cases involving charges against 5,574 individuals have already been submitted to the local prosecuting authorities, they said. In addition, police have forwarded 6,080 documents to regional general secretariats advising them to impose the appropriate administrative penalties.

The British model

TAXI law in England and Wales is mainly governed by two pieces of legislation, the 1847 Town Police Clauses Act and the 1976 Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act. These acts empower over 360 town councils to oversee taxis on a local basis. The law is the same across the country but local councils also regulate taxis based on differing local needs. The public in rural areas has needs that differ from those in large cities.

“There are two taxi licences issued by local authorities within the UK, the Hackney Carriage Drivers licence and the Hackney Carriage proprietors’ licence,” Wayne Casey, of the UK’s National Taxi Association (NTA), tells the Athens News.

The NTA represents local taxi associations across the UK on a national level. “The terms and conditions differ from area to area and general guidance is available from the national government through what is known as the imaginatively-titled ‘best practice guidance’,” Casey adds.

A taxi driver’s licence is dependent upon an applicant being “fit and proper”. An applicant may have to pass a “local knowledge test”, driving assessment, the obvious criminal records check as well as a medical check. In terms of limiting the number of taxis, some areas have a financial premium for available licences. Local councils who choose to regulate taxi numbers carry out or order taxi demand surveys every three years to determine the number of taxis required within the council area.

The US model

“WITH the exception of Washington DC, all major cities in the US limit the number of taxi cabs, or else they limit the number of taxi companies through franchises,” Charles Rathbone tells the Athens News. Rathbone, who began working as a taxi driver in San Francisco in 1975, is an assistant manager at a fleet with 200 cabs. He is the owner of taxi-library.org, a “non-commercial educational website serving the taxi cab industry worldwide”.

Rathbone has followed the events in Greece with great interest and agrees with the drivers who say that there should be a limit on the number of licences. “Some businesses, like taxis, really are different,” he explains. “It is poor policy to allow an unlimited number of taxis to roam the streets of a city, just as it is poor policy to allow an unlimited number of commercial fishing boats to roam the fisheries. If there are too many cabs, operators’ profits will become marginal, resulting in deferred maintenance and lower standards for drivers.”

In the US, the terms and conditions for taxi licences vary from city to city. As Rathbone points out, the number of taxi owner permits is limited in most places but the number of taxi driver permits is not. The owner permits (often called “medallions” in the US) have a scarcity value because the city issues a limited number of them.

The permit value is usually determined on the open market. Prices range from a few tens of thousands of dollars in some cities, to several hundred thousand dollars in New York and Boston.

source: Costas Papachlimintzos of Athens News

Turn-around on plans to make taxi drivers replace old vehicles


MIXED FEELINGS: Dave Atkin, chairman of the local Hackney Carriage Association.

PLANS to ban vehicles more than ten years old from being used as taxis “in the interests of public safety” have been thrown out by council leaders.

North East Lincolnshire Council’s community protection committee voted unanimously not to introduce an upper age limit for either hackney carriage or private hire vehicles.

It is an about-turn for the committee, which in May 2009 announced plans to force taxi vehicles aged more than ten years old off the road – although the clampdown was never implemented.

Licensing officer Adrian Moody told the meeting: “In 2009, the committee resolved not to grant new taxi licences on vehicles older than five years, and not to renew existing licences on vehicles older than ten years in the interests of public safety.

“It was felt that, by implementing age restrictions, the fleet would gain benefits from the continuous improvements in vehicle safety.

“However, the upper age limit was never introduced and the Department for Transport does not recommend specifying upper age limits for vehicles.”

There are currently 62 hackney carriages and 66 private hire vehicles in the borough that are more than a decade old.

And councillors expressed fears that introducing an upper age limit could put drivers who cannot afford to replace older vehicles out of work.

Dave Atkin, chairman of the North East Lincolnshire Hackney Carriage Association, said he had “mixed feelings” about the committee’s decision.

He said: “On the one hand, it is good news. In the current financial climate, not many drivers could afford to replace their vehicles once they reached ten years old.

“But on the other hand, replacing vehicles when they reached a certain age would mean customers would benefit from the safest and most environmentally-friendly vehicles.”

Drivers expressed concerns about current council policy, which states new hackney carriage licences can only be granted for vehicles which are adapted for wheelchair access – and therefore more expensive to buy.

Changes to the rules will be discussed at the next community protection committee.

source: http://www.thisisgrimsby.co.uk/news/

Fuel cost is ‘crippling’ Bristol taxi firms

Taxi drivers in Bristol claim the rising cost of fuel is “crippling” their business.

Shafiq Ahmed, the National Taxi Association spokesman for Bristol, said some of his members were not coping.

The price of unleaded petrol hit a new high at the start of March with an average price of 130p per litre.

Bristol City Council said a recent consultation over a 6% fare rise had not attracted any objections and would be implemented soon.

A spokesperson said it had “responded to requests” for fare rises from the business.

Oil prices have risen about 10% in the past month due to the unrest in the Middle East.

Mr Ahmed said because of rising prices it was becoming increasingly difficult to afford to run a taxi.

“Some of our members are going out of business. They just can’t afford to run their vehicles,” he said.

“We’ve done our best to absorb those costs as best we can because we understand that our customer base is going through hardship because of the recession.”

A consultation on the fare rise closed on Tuesday and the council said it had received no objections or comments.

Fury as Manchester Airport prayer room closes after fire

Taxi drivers have reacted with anger – claiming around 500 people use the site every week and that it forms a crucial part of their daily routine.
Taxi drivers have reacted with anger – claiming around 500 people use the site every week and that it forms a crucial part of their daily routine.

An islamic prayer room at Manchester Airport which was damaged in a suspected arson attack has been shut – for ‘health and safety’ reasons. The cabin was used by taxi drivers and airport staff for worship but was closed suddenly by airport bosses earlier this week.

Two ceremonial garments inside the room were deliberately set ablaze on September 11 last year – the ninth anniversary of the attacks on New York’s Twin Towers.

Now the centre, on the airport’s taxi feeder park in Ringway Road, has been axed permanently – because chiefs say the building is dangerous and would cost too much to repair. But taxi drivers have reacted with anger – claiming around 500 people use the site every week and that it forms a crucial part of their daily routine.

One driver, a member of the Manchester Airport Taxi Drivers’ Association who are National Taxi Association members, said: “Everyone is furious that we were not consulted. We went to use it as normal and found it was locked up with a sign on the door saying it had been closed.

“Many Muslims go there five times a day to pray – we’ve used it for about a decade and are disgusted that it has shut without warning. We were all very upset when it was set on fire on September 11 and this feels like another kick in the teeth.”

The site is separate from the five prayer rooms in the airport terminals, which are part of the airport’s multi-faith chaplaincy.

Airport bosses say the cabin is unsafe and have told the drivers that they can now use their other prayer rooms.

Detectives said they were uncertain whether the blaze on September 11 last year was ‘religiously or racially motivated’.

An airport spokesman said: “Having had an independent health and safety assessment conducted, we were informed that the building had reached the end of its serviceable life and was beyond repair. We continue to provide other prayer rooms that are easily accessible.”

source: http://menmedia.co.uk/manchestereveningnews/

Taxi Drivers Protest Over Proposed Changes

Taxi drivers in Durham took to the streets in protest yesterday. 60 drivers attended the protest against plans for a shake up in their trade. The County Council is looking at plans to deregulate the service by removing zones and lifting limits on vehicle operation numbers.

Durham City drivers said they fear that there isn’t enough business or space in order to cope with extra vehivles operating and offering services. The council has said a decision on any changes won’t be made until next month, plans were made after a consultation on the future of trade.

Spark FM’s Sam Willey spoke with the chairman of the North East and Cumbria region of the National Taxi association Bob Sneddon, about the protest, this is what he had to say:

 Bob Smedon [0:24]

source: http://sparksunderland.com/2011/02/24/taxi-drivers-protest-over-proposed-changes/

Notice of Regional meeting regions 5 & 6 NTA (The North West inc Staffs)

All Regional Officers                                                                         

National Taxi Association                                                

22nd February 2011          

E-mail:   secretary@national-taxi-association.co.uk

Dear Sir/Madam

NOTICE OF REGIONAL MEETING

Arrangements have been made for a meeting of No’s 5 & 6 Region’s, and this will take place on Wednesday 2nd  March 2011. The venue for the meeting is;

CAB SOLUTIONS LTD, 27-29 MAINE ROAD M14 4FS MANCHESTER , LANCASHIRE

I’m sure you all have ‘google’ or ‘Sat Nav’s’ so I won’t trouble you with directions!

Parking is available at the premises.

Delegates are requested to assemble from 10.30 a.m. onwards, to enable the meeting to commence at 11.00 a.m. prompt. A buffet lunch has been organised by Cab Solutions and will be served at approximately 12.30 p.m.

Looking forward to a good attendance from your Association,

Yours sincerely,

Wayne Casey

NTA Administration Officer

NATIONAL TAXI ASSOCIATION

REGIONAL MEETING

NUMBER 5 & 6 REGION

(The North West)

 WEDNESDAY 2ND MARCH 2011

CAB SOLUTIONS LTD

27-29 MAINE ROAD

MANCHESTER  

M14 4FS

 

AGENDA 

  • Chairman’s Opening Remarks
  • Apologies for Absence
  • Minutes of the last Regional Meeting
  • Matters Arising from the Minutes
  • Regional Director’s Report
  • Local Licensing Issues
  • Transport Select Committee
  • NTA Conference
  • Correspondence
  • Financial Report
  • Special Items
  • Any Other Business
  • Date, Time & Venue of Next Meeting

NTA region 2 (North East & Cumbria)

Number Two Region

National Taxi Association

Dear Sir/Madam

NOTICE OF REGIONAL MEETING

Arrangements have been made for a meeting of the No. 2 Region, and this will take place on Tuesday 1st March 2011. The venue for the meeting is The Plough Inn, Mountsett, Dipton, Burnopfield, County Durham NE16 6BA.

The Plough Inn is situated beside the Mountsett Crematorium, which is on the A692 (Front Street) between Burnopfield and Dipton. Enclosed please find the relevant page from the Tyne & Wear A-Z book.

Ample free parking is available at the premises.

Delegates are requested to assemble from 10.30 a.m. onwards, to enable the meeting to commence at 11.00 a.m. prompt. A buffet lunch has been organised by Derwentside Taxi Association and will be served at approximately 12.30 p.m.

Looking forward to a good attendance from your Association at Derwentside,

Yours sincerely,

T.E. Hines.

Regional Secretary.

North East & Cumbria.

AGENDA

  • Chairman’s Opening Remarks
  • Apologies for Absence
  • Minutes of the last Regional Meeting
  • Matters Arising from the Minutes
  • Regional Director’s Report
  • Local Licensing Issues
  • Transport Select Committee
  • NTA Conference
  • Correspondence
  • Financial Report
  • Special Items
  • Any Other Business
  • Date, Time & Venue of Next Meeting

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

RMT

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.

NTA to give evidence

The National Taxi Association has been requested by the transport select committee to give evidence on 15th March 2011.

The NTA delegation to the select committee will be finalised at a meeting on 22nd February and announced to members in due course.

The select committee enquiry has caused perturbment amongst the Hackney Carriage trade across England and Wales during the past month, especially considering the performance of the first round of witnesses, whose performance was considered lackluster by some trade journalists.

This website will endeavour to keep you informed.