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.”