Taxi drivers meet with St Albans City Station bosses

TAXI drivers say they will strike if bosses at St Albans City Station do not take action on rising permit rates, and the poor location of their rank.

Members of the St Albans Taxi Association claim they are being driven away from trading at the station after “improvements”, by NCP and First Capital Connect, have not worked in their favour.

During a meeting between the rail company bosses and drivers, which was organised by St Albans MP Anne Main, tensions were running high.

The four association members present, who were representing all taxi drivers who trade from the station, said it was unacceptable for their permits to be increased by almost £600 a year.

Following the hike, which came into effect at the beginning of the year, emails have been sent to FCC, which drivers say have been ignored.

Zumfiquar Ahmed, who trades from the station, said: “We have tried on a number of occasions to contact FCC by email but we have heard nothing.

“It has been almost six months now.”

Mr Ahmed told FCC’s David Burns, who is customer services manager, that since their rank has been moved to the side of the station, they are picking up less trade because passengers do not know where they are.

However Mr Burns denied the drivers were tucked away, adding: “We made a major investment in the station, providing you with a new rank and to say it is not fit for purpose is not a valid argument.”

But Mr Ahmed hit back, highlighting that when private taxi firms drop off customers in the lay-by outside the station, they illegally tout trade.

Mrs Main said she wanted the issues to be addressed by the rail company and felt she had to step in to organise the meeting, when drivers were threatening to strike.

She said: “I think there is a problem here, and some sort of misunderstanding, because the taxi drivers are saying the majority are not happy, but David says there is only a small number.

“It is a difficult time for the taxi drivers and I just want this to move forward for them.”

The association agreed to re-send their email, which highlights their concerns, to FCC and Mrs Main said she will organise a questionnaire on permit prices, the rank, and the need for an out of hours shelter, for taxi drivers to answer – with the feedback going back to FCC and NCP.


Council backs hackney carriages at airport

Senior councillors have backed calls for a hackney carriage taxi rank at Leeds Bradford International Airport.

Executive board members said that provision should be made for a hackney carriage stand at Whitehouse Lane – despite objections by the airport.

Council leader Keith Wakefield heard that in 2008 the airport’s operators signed an exclusivity agreement with Arrow private hire car company and since then Hackney taxis – which in Leeds are the black and white cabs – have been unable to “rank up” at the airport.

Wakefield said that the public should be able to have a choice of a Hackney rank or private hire and said plans should be drawn up for a taxi rank at the site and added:

“Gentle but firm pressure should be applied [to the airport] for a negotiated agreement on this issue.”

The cost of the scheme is estimated to be around £80,000, and the Hackney Carriage Association has offered to contribute £20,000 to these costs.

Wakefield said the proposals for a rank should be brought to executive board alongside a revised airport access strategy by September. Wakefield received cross-party support.

A report to the board stated: “Whilst the proposed rank has some support from ward members and the taxi operators, the proposals are not supported by LBIA and the pedestrian routes are unsuitable.”

The report added: “It is the view of the Acting Director that it is clear from the consultation that there is no common opinion and opposing views are unlikely to be reconciled.”


LOUGHTON: Taxi drivers clash over station pick-ups

A ROW has erupted between two groups of taxi drivers over who can pick up fares outside a busy station.

The road outside Loughton Tube – Station Approach – is a public highway owned by Essex County Council so all licensed drivers can pick up fares there.

Sadlers Taxis has an office in the station, and independent drivers claim they are telling people they are the only firm allowed to operate outside the station.

Police Community Support Officers had to intervene when an argument between the two groups threatened to turn nasty on Monday night, but no-one was arrested.

Hackney cab driver Azid Sanu, 32, is chairman of the Epping Forest Taxi Association, which represents independent drivers.

He said: “Two Sadlers drivers were shouting and screaming at the independent drivers for being there.

“There were about nine independent drivers there. I did not manage to take any fares because Sadlers appointed a person with a clipboard to go out to where the drivers were.

“Customers were coming up to our taxis and they [Sadlers staff] were telling them not to get in.

“Until the council takes a firm position, it’s going to be like this.

“Sadlers drivers have the right to be there and so do we. We are not saying that they should not be there. We want to both be there so we can work together.”

Fellow independent driver Muddabar Hussian, 30, of High Road in North Weald, said: “We had the meeting last week with the council’s licensing department, a legal advisor, and the two owners of the firm.

“The council said they will have site visits to see what’s going on, but we don’t know if anything has actually been done about it yet.”

Paul Nelson, of Sadlers Taxis, said his firm had not discouraged customers from using independent drivers at Loughton station.

However, he refused to comment further and said the firm was taking legal advice.

A spokeswoman for Epping Forest District Council said: “Prior to its adoption as public highway in July 2010, Station Approach, Loughton had been private land and only Sadlers drivers were entitled to pick up passengers at the station.

“Since the highway was adopted it is legally possible for all hackney carriage drivers to pick up fares from there.

“The area outside Loughton station is not very large when considering the numbers of taxis that now wish to use it. This can lead to drivers with passengers being obstructed by others.

“A dispute has arisen between the Sadlers and the independent taxi drivers and representatives from both parties attended a meeting at the council offices to discuss ways forward. However, no practical way of resolving the problem could be agreed at the meeting.

“The council is currently taking legal advice on ways to prevent obstruction of vehicles and whether the ways of advertising used by both parties to attract customers should be regulated. As the licensing authority, we look at each taxi licence application on its individual merits.

“We cannot be influenced by membership of one organisation or another. As individuals, each licensed taxi driver in the district is responsible for his or her own conduct.

“The danger for any driver of becoming embroiled in an altercation with another driver is that they put their own licence at risk. Co-operation on all sides is required.”

Cab drivers to pass on airport drop off levy to passengers

Edinburgh City Council have agreed to review the taxi fares, allowing drivers to pass on the £1 airport drop-off fee to passengers.

Queue: Cabs line up at the taxi rank at Edinburgh Airport

The controversial £1 drop off charge at Edinburgh Airport is one step closer to being passed on to taxi passengers.

At the moment, cab operators have to pay the charge themselves but they say they can’t afford to absorb the cost.

They asked the City of Edinburgh Council to perform an emergency fare review to allow them to include the drop-off charge in the journey price.

On Friday the Regulatory Committee of the council decided to allow the fare review and will now open up a consultation period to see if there are any objections. They will meet again in May to decide whether or not to allow the change.

If it is passed, then taxi passengers will see their fare to the airport rise on July 1.

Raymond Davidson, secretary of the Edinburgh Taxi Association, said: “A lot of cab drivers say this is a grossly unfair way to charge passengers.

“However, the airport are still insisting that all cabs pay £1 so unfortunately that has got to be passed on, to the regret if the taxi companies, I would add.”

Travellers to the airport have the option of being dropped off for no extra charge at the long-stay car park which has a free shuttle bus service to the terminal.

A spokesperson for airport operator BAA said: “The reason we changed the arrangements for the drop off was to cut congestion, provide a better experience for passengers and achieve environmental improvements and increased capacity. We are pleased with the way it has worked out.

“We understand the council is trying to come to some sort of arrangement with the taxi operators, but that is a matter for the council and taxi trade.”


Taxi permit plan for Bristol Temple Meads station

Taxis will have to pay to pick up passengers at Temple Meads

Taxi drivers who pick up passengers at Bristol Temple Meads railway station are to be asked to pay for a permit.

Drivers will have to pay an annual fee of about £300 a year so they can drive to the front of the station.

Pat Jones, from the Bristol Taxi Association, said drivers had not paid fees at the station since 1974.

Dan Panes from First Great Western said the plan for a fee, which is already in place at Bristol Parkway and Bath Spa, is at an early stage.

Mr Panes said the plan would help to cut down congestion on the station approach, which is owned by First, and make the relationship between the firm and the taxis formal.

“Throughout our network, all stations with taxi ranks outside generally have a system in place where we allow taxis to come in and pick up – and they pay for that privilege.

Waiting times

“What happens at the moment is station managers tend to negotiate these on a local basis and that means we get wildly different price ranges.

“And we’ve got no contractual obligations in there either on our part or the taxi drivers’ part.”

Ms Jones said many big stations, such as in London, do not employ a permit system and that introducing one would lead to problems for passengers waiting for taxis.

“If you limit the number of taxis picking up then you’re going to go back to a system where people wait and excessive amount of time for taxis.”

Councillor Gary Hopkins said he wanted to make sure the fee charged by First Great Western was not “over the top”

“At the moment there isn’t a good facility there and it does lead to congestion, so we’re trying to negotiate with the company to make certain that they get a smaller fee and a better facility.”


Vital maintenance for Edinburgh Waverley station’s south ramp

Vital maintenance for Waverley station’s south ramp

By A. Samuel · February 25, 2011 · Refurbishments, Stations

Waverley Station Edinburgh

Edinburgh Waverley station’s south ramp is to undergo a programme of essential refurbishment between March and May as part of the £130m project to renew the station’s roof and enhance its passenger facilities.

From Friday March 4 until the end of May no taxis or private vehicles will be able to access the station while the structure is excavated, waterproofed and resurfaced.

To help reduce disruption for passengers an additional taxi rank, accommodating up to 12 taxis, will be created on Market Street for the start of the works and the existing taxi rank on Waverley Bridge will also remain available.

For passengers with restricted mobility, step-free access will be available via New Street car park where free, time limited, pick-up and drop-off by taxis and private vehicles will be permitted.

In addition, a dedicated phone-line will be installed close to the existing taxi rank for passengers with restricted mobility to contact customer support at East Coast trains. They will provide assistance and arrange taxi pick-up from New Street car park.

Ron McAulay, Network Rail director Scotland, said: “This project is vital to the long-term future of one of Scotland’s busiest stations and disruption for motorists cannot be avoided.

“We have done everything possible to minimise the length of time the ramp will be unavailable and to put in place a range of measures to limit inconvenience for passengers.”

Network Rail’s £130m upgrade to Edinburgh Waverley will see the station’s 34,000m2 roof entirely replaced by 2014. Funded through Network Rail’s renewals budget, the project will see 28,000 clear glass panels installed over the next three years, flooding the station with natural light and improving the environment for passengers.

The improvements to Waverley will also result in new fully-accessible entrances from Market Street and from Princes Street. The concourse will be resurfaced, furniture will be cleaned or removed and building exteriors will get a makeover. Work will progress in phases with minimum disruption to train services and the operation of the station.

The project to enhance Waverley Steps began two weeks ago. The government-funded scheme will improve accessibility to Princes Street by creating a new covered step and escalator access between Princes Street and the north entrance to Waverley as well as lift access from the station to Princes Street via the roof of Princes Mall.

The first phase of the works will take around 10 months with the steps reopening in December 2011. The second phase of the works to install lifts will completed by July 2012.


Is Weston-super-Mare train station right to double licence fee for taxi drivers?

TAXI drivers operating at Weston-super-Mare train station say they may stop running taxis from the destination in the future after their licence fee was doubled.

First Great Western used to grant the permits to self-employed drivers wanting to pick up passengers from the town centre station at a cost of £300 a year.


However, from this month the licences will be granted by Cabfind, a supplier of taxi management services, which has stated the fee will rise to £600 a year.

Drivers at Weston station are outraged at the massive hike and are refusing to pay the amount saying it is far too expensive, particularly with the majority of passengers walking to town instead of using taxis.

They have held talks with Cabfind, who said it was prepared to drop the figure to £480 but said all drivers must may the amount in full by February 28.

Richard Hopkins, 40, a taxi driver of 12 years, who has operated from Weston railway station for the past three years, says it is unfair and the drivers are not prepared to pay the huge fee.

He said: “Up until now First Great Western have issued the licences but Cabfind take over at the end of the month.

“They are coming in and putting up the licence fee by 100 per cent, which is doubling it from £300 to £600.

“The firm says the reason for the hike is because they base the licence fee on footfall of passengers departing at Weston but they cannot go on that.

“Most people leave the station on foot as we are only five minutes’ walk to the town centre and the beach.

“I have spoken to all the other drivers and they are not willing to pay £600.

“Cabfind has since said it will give us a discount of 20 per cent bringing it down to £480 but this is on the basis of us renewing our licence by the end of the month but this is still too much.

“At the end of the day we are in a recession and we should be getting a discount if anything.

“If drivers are not prepared to pay it, passengers may find no taxis waiting at Weston station.

“One of the longest serving drivers at the station, of 25 years, says he will not bother at that sort of price.”

Mr Hopkins said drivers are also angered by the news Cabfind has awarded a contract to Apple Cars to transport passengers elsewhere in the event of trains stopping, which is a service they have always provided.

He added: “We were under the impression we would still get the work if a train stopped working or there were delays and passengers needed transporting to Bristol Temple Meads by taxi, but we have now heard that has been given to Apple.

“We may as well go and work from another rank for free.”

The Evening Post contacted Cabfind but they declined the opportunity to comment.


Passengers will pay for Brighton taxi rank closure, drivers claim

RENOVATION: Work starts at Brighton Station

Angry taxi drivers say passengers will be the ones to suffer after the Brighton Station cab rank was closed.

Southern, which manages the station, has started a £140,000 renovation project which includes repainting the canopy at the front of the building.

Cabbies, who pay £410 a year to use the rank, have been moved to a temporary spot at the back of the station.

However they have only been given eight spaces and say disabled and elderly passengers will find it difficult to walk to the new rank.

Yesterday cabbies angrily remonstrated with Southern officials after they were moved from the existing taxi waiting area, which was then coned off.

Taxis had started to queue at the marked bays near the drop-off point but were told to move to a reserved area further from the station.

A Southern spokesman said: “Although the bays are marked for taxis as well as for buses, the cones have been placed for the duration of the work to reserve space for rail replacement bus services only.

“This will ensure that taxis will be in the same place throughout the work and be less confusing for our passengers.”

Taxi drivers fear they will be left severely out of pocket by the time the work is due to finish in April.

One cab driver said he would normally have made £50 in fares by 1pm but had only picked up one person yesterday.

Passengers and drivers claim the new rank has not been signposted properly and they have to walk too far to pick up a cab.

The Southern spokesman added: “We are aware that passengers have further to walk to get a taxi, but passengers who have difficulty with walking or heavy luggage can ask a member of staff for assistance.”


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.


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.”