Taxi to Azerbaijan for Manganese Bronze

Coventry automotive firm Manganese Bronze will soon be shipping London taxis to the Republic of Azerbaijan thanks to a £16 million deal.

The firm said it had won an order for 1,000 London taxis this year, the single largest contract of its kind for the group.

The taxis will be supplied by Shanghai LTI (SLTI), the group’s joint venture with Chinese car manufacturer Geely Automobile Holdings, and will be made in Shanghai.

The order is from the Baku Taxi Company which was set up to develop the Azerbaijani Transport Ministry’s programme to update the taxi fleet in the capital city Baku with the group’s TX4 London Taxis.

The first shipment of 100 vehicles is scheduled for the end of April and balance of the order is expected to be built and shipped by the end of November 2011.

Manganese Bronze chief executive John Russell said: “We are delighted to win this order which is the culmination of considerable effort by the teams in Manganese Bronze and SLTI.

“The order demonstrates the potential of our partnership with Geely and the appeal of the London Taxi worldwide.”

The firm has already received international orders for the TX4, from markets including France, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Italy.


Minicab nightstalker goes on trial

Court artist impression of former minicab driver Delroy Grant who is on trial at the Old Bailey

A minicab driver has gone on trial accused of being the so-called Night Stalker, a rapist who preyed on elderly victims during a 17-year campaign of attacks.

Delroy Grant, 53, is accused of burgling and sexually assaulting vulnerable women and men in their 80s for a gratification it was “impossible to understand”, a jury was told.

Opening the prosecution case at the start of a three-week trial at Woolwich Crown Court, Jonathan Laidlaw QC said: “The defendant was targeting the elderly and vulnerable in their homes and during the night.

“That is why he was to become known as the Night Stalker.”

Grant, who appeared in the dock with close-cropped hair, glasses and wearing a pinstriped blue suit, is charged with 29 offences committed between October 1992 and November 2009 on pensioners across south London.

Mr Laidlaw told the jury: “What it was that motivated him to carry out sexual offences on the very elderly and what sort of gratification he could possibly have achieved is obviously difficult, if not impossible, to understand.

“Neither was his sexual interest only confined to women, although it was single women living on their own which he was focused on.”

The 53-year-old denies the offences in Warlingham, Shirley, Beckenham, Bromley, Addiscombe, Orpington and West Dulwich, all in south London.

Grant, a former minicab driver of Brockley Mews, Honor Oak, south London, was arrested after his car was stopped by police in November 2009.

The trial continues


East Lancashire taxi drivers to support Rossendale strike

TAXI drivers across East Lancashire say they will support two strikes which have been called by fed-up cabbies in Rossendale this weekend.

Private hire and hackney carriage drivers’ representatives in Burnley and Hyndburn have backed walkouts and will not send taxis into the valley this weekend.

Anger at new licensing and enforcement policies, drawn up by Rossendale Borough Council, has built up over the past 18 months and prompted the industrial action.

The introduction of a new penalty points scheme is a central issue, with drivers fearing their liveliihoods will be placed under threat over ‘minor’ dismeanours.

Now after the codes were rubberstamped by councillors, private hire and hackney carriage drivers are preparing to stage strikes.

Two taxi blackouts have been called – from 7pm on Friday to 7am Saturday and from 7pm on Saturday to 7am on Sunday.

Dave Lawrie, of the Public Protection Association, which speaks on behalf of valley taxi drivers, said 150 of the borough’s 268 drivers had voted for strike action.

Mr Lawrie added: “All private hire and hackney carriage drivers will be out and we will be asking drivers in Burnley and Accrington to support us in this dispute, as we have done with other disagreements there.”

Mohammed Arif, of Hyndburn Taxi Association, added: “It might depend on individual drivers but we would support their action. It is a very harsh regime in Rossendale.”

Burnley Private Hire Association’s spokesman, also called Mohammed Arif, said: “We should be supporting our colleagues and we will attempt to co-operate with them.

“There is so much red tape and it is putting people’s livelihoods at risk.”

Tomorrow Rossendale cabbies will protest outside the borough council’s one stop shop, off James Street, Rawtenstall.

Council leader Coun Tony Swain said: “The drivers have the right to strike – that is their prerogative. But we have introduced this policy for the safety of passengers and drivers, first and foremost.”

Only an 11-month hour postponement of the new codes, for fresh talks, averted similar strike action late last year. … le_strike/

Court: Guide dog fine hit for Peterborough Private Hire firm

ANOTHER city Private Hire firm has been punished after overcharging a blind woman for bringing her guide dog into the cab.

Private hire firm Towncars will have to fork out a total of £565 after charging grandmother Yvonne Saint-John an extra £1 for bringing her guide dog Quaid (2) into the private hire car.

This was on top of her £8 agreed fare from Peterborough city centre to her home in Glinton on September 23.

It came after Miss Saint-John had been overcharged by another private hire firm, Eagle Cars, on three separate occasions in August and September last year.

Miss Saint-John said she hopes the two cases will raise awareness in the city’s private hire industry about how they treat the disabled.

She said: “I just want the state of play to be the same for everybody.

“It’s not just these two firms, I have called several private hire firms in the city asking for a car, only to hear the price increases markedly when I tell them I will be bringing my guide dog.

“In some cases it’s small, but one firm quoted me £8 without the dog, and £12.80 with the dog.

“I won’t be using the firms that overcharged me again.

“However, with Towncars I have to say that the driver did not want to charge me the extra pound, that order came from the office.”

Towncars proprietor Shakeel Rehman did not attend Peterborough Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday but was found guilty in his absence for failing to comply with a duty to carry a guide dog and was fined £200.

He was also fined £100 for failing to keep records correctly as per the licence agreement with Peterborough City Council, after a council investigation found that comprehensive details of Miss Saint-John’s request were not taken down.

He was also ordered to pay £250 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

Cllr Peter Hiller, the city council’s cabinet member for housing, neighbourhoods and planning, said it is important the city’s licensed providers adhere to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, which protects disabled passengers from having to pay extra fees to bring guide dogs in taxis.

He said: “This is the second similar case in a week and again sends a strong message that the city council takes complaints made against private hire companies seriously.

“These equality acts are there to ensure that every single person is entitled to the same standard of service and, in this case, at the same price, regardless of their personal circumstances.

“It is also important that private hire companies keep appropriate records such as the name of the customer, quoted prices, pick up address and destination.”

Eagle Cars were brought before Peterborough Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, February 22, and fined £435 for unfairly overcharging Miss Saint-John and ordered to pay £450 costs and a £15 surcharge.

Caroline Weston, Guide Dogs’ senior public affairs officer, said: “Guide dogs provide freedom and independence to thousands of blind and partially sighted people every year.

“But that independence is taken away when they are denied access to public facilities like taxis.”

Towncars were not available to comment.


Neath Port Talbot Council cuts will plunge transport for disabled kids into ‘chaos’

“Instead they are creating a cutthroat situation because everybody will be fighting for their livelihoods. It’s going to create mayhem.”

A TAXI boss claims school transport for disabled children will be plunged into chaos because Neath Port Talbot Council is so determined to drive down costs.

Neath Port Talbot Taxi Proprietors Association secretary Bob Hoyles has accused the authority of spending £1 million on a new “cutthroat” tendering process he says will end up saving the authority £1 million.

Mr Hoyles said the council had brought in a specialist company to create a website for transport providers to bid for contracts for special needs children and adults with learning difficulties.

He said the new system had been explained during a meeting at the Towers Hotel, attended by 120 bus and taxi firms.

“As long as you are registered with the website you can apply,” said Mr Hoyles.

“They put the contracts on the website and you put in your bid. Once all the bids are in it goes to auction and you are given the chance to reduce your bid.

“I’ve got four contracts. I’ll have to bid for every contract, just to be certain of getting work for my employees. They may offer me 100 contracts but I couldn’t run them.

“It’s going to cause chaos but I’ve got to maximise my chances, and so have the other 120 operators.”

Mr Hoyles said existing contracts expired on May 27. There were about 350 runs a day, each with a driver and escort, so theoretically 700 people could lose their jobs as there was nothing to stop firms from outside the county bidding for work.


“How can the council justify spending £1 million to save £1 million? There is no gain. All it needs to do is get someone from the trade to come in, sit down and put school runs together.

“Instead they are creating a cutthroat situation because everybody will be fighting for their livelihoods. It’s going to create mayhem.”

A Neath Port Talbot spokeswoman said: “It has been a longstanding objective of the council to achieve substantial savings in the area of home to school transport while maintaining and improving services.

“The council is committed to providing equal opportunities and assistance to all transport providers wishing to bid.”


Blind woman with guide dog sues taxi firm after being made to pay extra

A blind woman, Yvonne Saint-John, has won compensation after a taxi company charged her extra for travelling with her guide dog.

Yvonne was told her labrador Quaid might leave hairs on the cars’ seats, leading to a clean-up cost.

The grandmother was overcharged three times, including one journey when she was told to pay an extra £2.50 on top of a £7.50 fare.

Mrs Saint-John, who works as a volunteer helping other disabled people, said: ‘I rely on my guide dog to get from A to B and to have a social life. He is my lifeline and it’s not fair to be charged extra.

‘It had never happened before. My dog hardly moves once he is in the cab to drop any hairs, so it was ridiculous to charge me more.’

She reported the company, Eagle Cars in Peterborough, to council officers.

The cab firm was taken to court and told to pay £900 compensation and costs. Mrs Saint-John, of nearby Glinton, said: ‘I’m delighted with the outcome and hope other taxi firms will take this on board.

‘I thought twice about speaking out as I did not want to be further victimised but I feel this sends a strong message to other disabled people.’

Eagle Cars said its management had changed and it did not want to comment.

Disability discrimination laws ban extra fees for guide dogs.


Edinburgh’s ‘green’ taxi plan hailed by Kenny MacAskill

Edinburgh’s ‘green’ taxi plan hailed by Kenny MacAskill

Scottish justice minister supports local taxi firm’s carbon offsetting scheme, but opposes Leith biomass plans

Local MSP Kenny MacAskill has backed an Edinburgh taxi firm’s plans to offset the carbon from every booked journey it makes.

Central Taxis estimates it will save around 4,000 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere by signing up to a project capturing methane gas from China’s Tieling coal mines.

MacAskill, the Edinburgh East and Musselburgh MSP, said that while he backed the taxi initiative, he was against the carbon offsetting and other elements planned for a biomass plant at Leith docks.

To achieve carbon neutral certification, Central Taxis is working with the CarbonNeutral Company. It claims its carbon offset project in China is verified to standards that would allow all of Central Taxi’s contract customers to list greener travel in their corporate social responsibility activities.

Central Taxis’ chairman Bill Purnell was joined by the justice secretary to unveil a new ‘green’ taxi at Festival Square off Lothian Road. Purnell said:

“As a cooperative company, all of our drivers are behind this move and we are excited about the opportunity this offers our customers to engage in carbon neutral travel.

“We have always put innovation at the forefront of our customer service strategy and the decision to go CarbonNeutral for booked journeys is a major milestone for us.”

MacAskill said taxis were a ‘necessary’ part of his working life as an MSP:

“Clearly taking a taxi does have a carbon footprint, it does have emissions that come out. But we do have to take taxis, they’re a necessary part of city life everywhere in Scotland and therefore this opportunity to offset it, to see some good action take place elsewhere is all part of playing our part to meet the challenges of global warming.

“I do take a good few few taxis about so this is an innovative way that helps to offset the necessity. I and others do have to take taxis. Not every journey can be made on foot. We have to recognise that it does have a consequence and emissions.”

Asked what he thought of carbon offsetting in relation to the local biomass plant planning application, MacAskill said:

“The biomass plant application is one that I am totally opposed to, as indeed are the SNP group in the council, so I have made my views clear on that. I am a sceptic about certainly the site and indeed other aspects of it.”

His renewed opposition to the biomass plant is nothing new, but is likely to be welcomed by campaigners who last week lobbied the Scottish Parliament over the plans.


Council takes private hire driver off the road – because his car was the wrong shade of silver

A private hire driver has been put off the road – because his car is the wrong shade of silver.

Asif Khan has worked as a private hire driver in Manchester for seven years. But when he decided to swap his private-hire car from a silver Volkswagen Passat to a silver Honda Accord, he hit a snag.

The dad-of-two, from Cheetham Hill, was told by the town hall that his badge could not be renewed because the new car did not meet the council’s strict colour code.

Bosses have ruled that private hire cars must be white or silver – and have issued a colour ‘swatch’ showing the exact shades which qualify.

The rule was brought in by Manchester council as a safety measure to help crackdown on bogus taxi drivers.

But Mr Khan, 31, of Leicester Road, said there was virtually no difference between his new cab and the town hall’s chart of accepted colours.

Now he faces having to buy a new car – or pay a huge bill to get his cab re-sprayed.

He said: “I have been to the council twice and they say it is grey.

“The only way I can get it passed is by buying a new car or re-spraying it.

“But it’s practically the same colour as my old car. It says silver in the log book and on the insurance documents.

“I can’t believe it. I have a family and I am out of work now until they change their mind.”

A town hall spokesman said: “The council has had a colour policy for private-hire vehicles for several years to improve passenger safety by making it easier for members of the public to recognise properly licensed cars.

“Manchester’s licensed private-hire vehicles can be either silver or white, but difficulties have arisen because the DVLA’s definition of silver includes shades ranging from grey to blue.

“A clearer definition of silver was introduced in 2008 to avoid confusion and make it easier for taxi operators when choosing new vehicles.

“We have worked with the licensed trade to make sure private-hire operators and drivers understand the requirements, and over the last 18 months there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of vehicles that fail to meet the standard.

“However, some people do make mistakes and in cases like this we provide advice and refund the application fee.”


Rossendale taxi drivers’ anger at new enforcement policy

TAXI drivers in Rossendale have quit a liaison group in protest at a controversial new licensing and enforcement policy which is being introduced across the valley.

Moves to introduce penalty points schemes for driving misdemeanours and stricter tests on taxis have taken the trade to the brink of strike action in the past.

Now 18 months after a new code of conduct and enforcement policy were first drawn up, it has been adopted by councillors.

Coun Alyson Barnes, Labour group leader, said: “There has been an apparent breakdown in communication between the trade and the council. This policy should be deferred for further discussions to take place.”

But Coun Jimmy Eaton, licensing committee chairman, said he had received no request to attend talks with cabbies over the issue.

Revisions were made to the policy after representations from the trade.

The number of points which drivers can accrue before being ordered to retake a Driving Standards Agency retest was raised from six to nine.

But if a cabbie racks up six or more point in one year they will have to give an explanation to the licensing committee.

In a joint statement David Pawlaszek and Glen Bulcock, chairmen of the Public Protection Association in Rossendale, which represents taxi drivers, said members were angered at claims they had refused to meet with councillors over the policies.

The statement said: “It has been decided that there is no further point in spending any more time to come to liaison meetings as they have been proven to be a waste of time, effort and money for all concerned,.

“Therefore they are disbanded forthwith and will no longer be attended by any representative of the trade.”

The new policy also says tests on cabs should be carried out by private garages as opposed to council licensing officials.


Traffic warden admits framing innocent motorist

A senior traffic warden walked free from court today after he admitted doctoring a map to frame an innocent motorist.

Geoffrey Urwin, 43, (pictured) altered the wording on a map to make it appear as though Peter Harry had parked in a ‘no parking’ bay.

Mr Harry, 67, successfully appealed the £60 parking ticket, before Urwin produced his doctored map, which was immediately spotted as bogus.

Urwin initially claimed a colleague had altered it, but yesterday admitted one charge of wilful misconduct at Exeter Crown Court.

But the judge stunned the court and gave Urwin a conditional discharge, branding the prosecution a ”nonsense”.

He said: ”I’m amazed this case has been brought before me.

”As you have seen this morning I deal with cases of immense seriousness , which is what Crown Court is all about.”

He added: ”I won’t say anything else in case I say something I regret.

“You receive absolute discharge. You may go.”

Urwin was parking support team leader with Exeter City Council when he ticketed Mr Harry’s white Nissan Almera in March 2009.

The retired builder, from Exeter, was legitimately parked in a bay and was stunned to return to his car to find he had been slapped with a ticket.

He immediately appealed, which was upheld, before Urwin altered the wording to read ‘Southenay’ – where parking is illegal – instead of ‘Southenay East’, where it is permitted.

Urwin admitted knowing about the falsification – which took place in June – but claimed his colleagues were to blame.

After yesterday’s hearing, Mr Harry slammed the sentence adding: ”After I received a ticket I went through the appeal process and it was overturned.

”But I then had an e-mail from a member of the council who knew that the map had been falsified. I was outraged and received legal advice telling me to take it to court.

”I’m furious at how the case has been handled. The man works in the public service and he has behaved dishonestly. How can the judge say that this does not belong in court?”

Devon County Councillor Percy Prowse, said after the hearing: ”It’s a disgrace.

”I do not understand why the judge did not comprehend the severity of the situation.

”The amount of money poured into our legal system and he did not even take the time to properly understand what had happened.”