Sunday, 29 July 2012

The Anderson Shelter

So sorry to see that The Anderson Shelter has been taken down!

There was speculation that it had been attacked by hackers, but this is not the case. The site was taken down by Jim Thomas, the blogs owner, for personal reasons. Even so, it is a sad day for London taxi drivers as The Anderson Shelter was a hard hitting site that challenged many of the threats that have befallen the trade over recent years.

Jim, himself a very "in your face" activist, never gave up his fight to expose some of the more blatant wrongs that the London taxi trade has had to endure. The implementation of satellite minicab offices was one of the main issues, and it was only when a document called the Safer Travel at Night (STaN) was discovered on the internet, two years after it had been drafted, that the realisation finally dawned on the trade that the licensing authorities had some very disturbing plans up its sleeve.

I won't go into detail about this issue here because it is only one of many, and the purpose of this post is to express my regret at the passing of The Anderson Shelter. Suffice to say, I do hope that Jim can find the strength and determination to come back with something similar. It is hard to expect someone to put so much effort into such an undertaking, but Jim just seems to be better at this than most of us.

Good luck for the future, Jim, and enjoy your "new found freedom".

Wednesday, 13 June 2012


Heathrow Byelaws?

We still don't seem to have been able to get to grips with the number of drivers who don't go through the Taxi Feeder Park at Heathrow Airport. It is a legal requirement that ALL taxi drivers pass through the TFP before proceeding to the terminals' ranks.
 The taxi ranks at Heathrow are like any other taxi ranks in the GLA Area, or the Met Police Area, as it used to be known. The only difference is that at Heathrow there are byelaws that have to be observed. These byelaws state:

9(10) Taxi feeder park;

No person shall drive a Taxi on to an Authorised Standing without having first driven through a Taxi Feeder Park unless at the direction or with the consent of a Constable, a traffic warden in uniform, an Airport Official or the Airport Company.

 Now this is where BAA/HAL seems to think that it's okay to allow a select band of drivers of their choosing the right to by-pass the TFP on a permanent basis. The wording of the byelaw is being misinterpreted for the convenience of BAA, rather than for the real reason why "a Constable, a traffic warden in uniform, an Airport Official or the Airport Company" may direct or allow a driver to proceed to an "Authorised Standing" without first going through the TFP. Isn't it clear that this byelaw was put there to enable authorised persons to direct taxis directly to the ranks on the rare occasions when there may be unusual or extraordinary reasons for doing so? This could be in times of emergency, high levels of traffic around the airport, or a number of other unusual circumstances. I firmly believe that this confusion could be cleared up in a Court of law, but more on that later.
So who are these drivers who are a select band that have been allowed to by-pass the Taxi Feeder Park? Well, they are made up of three separate groups and they are:
  1.  Taxi trade officials from Unite (the union) and the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA).
  2. Taxi marshals
  3. Certain members and so called "officials" of the private company, Heathrow Airport Licensed Taxis Society, or HALTS.
 All of these are working taxi drivers that possess no skills or authority over and above those of any other working taxi driver, except that they are all part of this select band of privileged drivers. So why are they allowed such status over their other colleagues? The reason is simple! It is because it suits BAA/HAL to have drivers of "importance" on their side. The last thing BAA/HAL wants is for taxi drivers at Heathrow to assert their rights in a proper and forthright way. This would undermine the possible intention of the airport operator to "deregulate" the taxi operation at Heathrow in a similar way that it did when it was the Airport Operator at Gatwick some years ago. There, drivers have to work under the terms and conditions set by the taxi operator that has won the contract to offer its services at Gatwick. No such thing exists at Heathrow, because there, any taxi driver who holds an All London Taxi License can work at Heathrow Airport without the need to do so through a third party company. BAA doesn't seem to like this one bit, and it would appear that the best way to deal with this situation is to undermine it. And this is where the role of the "Privileged" driver comes in.

 Unite and the LTDA
These two taxi trade organisations have had a presence at Heathrow airport for over 40 years, and have managed to establish themselves as the "official" voice of the London taxi trade. Time has seen a number of other trade organisations emerge at Heathrow over the years, but these two have managed to hold a dominant position despite this. In 1993 members of these two trade organisations were persuaded that it would be a good idea to set up a drivers' mutual society to promote the needs of all taxi drivers at Heathrow; this would enable all drivers at Heathrow to join an organisation that looked after their interests, even if they weren't members of another trade organisation, including Unite and the LTDA. This was the birth ofHeathrow Airport Licensed Taxis Limited, or "HALT" as it became known.
HALT suffered years of mismanagement, and was beset with problems because of a poorly written rule book. I won't go into the detail here because it is too long winded and would require a separate and lengthy article to cover its history! Suffice to say, the executive committee took advantage of the flaws in the society's rules and systematically went about transferring its business and assets to a private company that they have set up with a similar sounding name, all without the consent of the members. That company now operates at Heathrow with funding from non-consenting drivers who are forced to pay a levy to it every time they enter the TFP. This company is registered at Companies House under the name "Heathrow Airport Licensed Taxis Society", or "HALTS".This is the company that produces the infamous Blue Vouchers that have caused so much controversy at Heathrow; but more on that another time.
So, back to the privileged drivers: Unite and the LTDA have regular meetings with BAA/HAL on a random basis to discuss taxi trade issues; usually once every month or two. There are two other trade organisations that also have trade reps who attend these meetings, and they are the London Cab Drivers Club (LCDC) andHeathrow Airport Taxi Drivers United (HATDU). The trade reps that represent Unite and the LTDA do not pass through the TFP, but have been given the dubious authority to park close to it and receive a large reduction in the amount of time that other drivers have to wait before being sent from the TFP to the ranks. They also have office space provided for them in the TFP compound to conduct business. Reps from both the LCDC and HATDU do not receive this perk, not because BAA won't allow it, but because they choose not to accept it. These reps know that it is inherently wrong, and have stated as much on many occasions. This begs the question, why do they agree to sit down alongside other trade reps who do accept this perk when they know that it isn't right? Herein lies one of the problems we have as taxi drivers at Heathrow. Unless those taxi trade reps who know that this is wrong come out and state it as a condition for attending meetings with BAA, the stagnated situation drivers find themselves in won't change and the status quo at Heathrow won't ever change either. A line needs to be drawn between what is, and what is not acceptable behaviour before ordinary drivers receive proper representation at Heathrow.

 This one will seem very strange to anyone who doesn't know how the taxi trade at Heathrow has managed to get its own "private army" of tout-busters. The airport operator (HAL) has an obligation to provide security at Heathrow, and does so by allocating funds to the police and employing its own security staff. Security at Heathrow is a major concern for travellers because the reality of a terrorist attack is currently set at "substantial" according to the Home Office website. This means that an attack is a strong possibility, and security at all places where large numbers of the public gather should reflect that. Unfortunately, HAL and the police seem to think that the passenger terminals at Heathrow are worthy of untrained taxi drivers to report "taxi touting and any suspicious behaviour" that may occur. I'm not sure that I would feel too safe in a crowded airport terminal knowing that taxi drivers were sometimes the only visible means of security, but that is what happens at Heathrow airport.
There are around 40 taxi drivers who "volunteer" to act as taxi marshals at Heathrow, and these drivers do not receive any payment from either the police or BAA for their time spent patrolling the terminals. A shift usually means walking around the terminals for about an hour or so, and then these drivers are free to go back to work as taxi drivers. What they do receive, in the form of compensation, is a reduction in the time they would normally have to wait in the Taxi Feeder Park before being sent down to the pick up a fare from one of the terminals. Just like all the other "privileged" drivers, they receive a reduction of around 1/3 of the time that their ordinary colleagues have to wait. There are times when the wait can be anything from 4 to 5 hours. This means that taxi marshals can get to pick up a fare at least one hour ahead of those who are compelled to go through the TFP. Over any period of time this can be a very lucrative advantage over their colleagues who have to wait behind them.
Not only that, but if they do a late shift marshalling, they can take a fare the next day without any wait whatsoever. They then come back to the airport and do yet another ride without having to wait, in lieu of another stint of marshalling later on that day. This offers a huge financial advantage that many other drivers rightfully resent. This all adds to the divide and rule culture that HAL seems so keen to encourage within the London taxi trade. But is this a price worth paying when you consider the risk that it poses to airport security? It is for professional police officers who have the proper training and powers of arrest who should be doing this, not inadequately  trained taxi drivers.
The fact that the police can save some of its budget this way is not good enough, especially when London is about to host the Olympic Games. If security is breached at Heathrow because of a lack of policing when the Games come to town, there will be some very embarrassing questions that will have to be answered. In the meantime, Heathrow by-laws are being ignored by BAA/HAL on a daily basis, and this in itself is enough to bring the airport operator to book.

Heathrow Airport Licensed Taxis Society (HALTS)
 This group really is the crème de la crème when it comes to perks and privileges. I mentioned the origins of HALTS earlier under the heading Unite and the LTDA, but it is only when you look at what this company does receive in the way of perks and privileges that it is possible to know how BAA/HAL seems to have orchestrated a "them and us" situation within the London taxi trade.
To say that BAA/HAL and HALTS are partners, as HAL officials often state, is to miss the point. The reality is that it is a one sided affair where one group - HAL - tolerates the other group - HALTS - for its own ends. To quote Franklin D. Roosevelt ‘Theymay be bastards, but they are our bastards.'
So what are these "perks and privileges"?
To start with, the directors of HALTS receive a payment of at least 78 pence every time a   driver enters the Taxi Feeder Park. This is compulsory as HAL collects this charge within the entry fee. This equates to around £700,000 per year! This money is subsidising a company that has managed to enter into an agreement with BAA/HAL which elevates it as the "preferred taxi provider" for Heathrow Airport. Part of this agreement means that the HALTS web-site is linked to the official Heathrow website. This is a major boost for any company that offers its services to travellers at the airport.
Without this money it is unlikely that HALTS would be able to survive in the real world, let alone compete with any opposition. So when our passengers approach the taxi desks in the terminals they are encouraged to pay by credit card and the passenger may then be taken out to the taxi rank as a fixed fare journey, but often these passengers never get to see the front of the taxi rank but are spirited away by a taxi that hasn't been through the TFP  - fixed fares into London are illegal if they are priced above the metered fare. All this is done by HALTS to "help" their colleagues in the London taxi trade at Heathrow; but the question has to be asked, who are these "colleagues"? It is now common knowledge that the price the passenger pays is between 17-25% more than the driver gets paid; so yet another little earner for HALTS at the drivers' expense, and let's not forget, the driver has already been forced to pay a levy to HALTS when passing through the Taxi Feeder Park!
The fact that HALTS has a website means that bookings from passengers can be taken. When the passenger arrives at Heathrow it is anybody's guess whether that job will go to the front of one of the taxi ranks or elsewhere. Many of these jobs are in fact being put in taxis that driven by HALTS' "colleagues". Colin Evans of HALTS has been spotted on many occasions waiting inside the terminals with a name-board! Could this be yet another little earner?

Until all drivers are forced to go through the Taxi Feeder Park, as the Heathrow byelaws state, there will never be fairness at this airport for ordinary taxi drivers. Until Unite the union takes some action against its members who are taking full advantage of exploiting this loop-hole in the system, there will never be fairness at this airport for ordinary taxi drivers, and until the marshals accept that they must receive a more equitable form of compensation for their labours, there will never be fairness or satisfaction for ordinary taxi drivers at this airport. But most importantly, until HALTS directors accept that drivers do not willingly pay a levy to their company, and start to develop their business without our help, there will never be fairness at this airport for ordinary taxi drivers.
Earlier on I stated that it might be possible to force BAA to accept that its interpretation of the byelaws is flawed, and that this could be cleared up in a Court of Law. It is not easy to do this because there are costs involved, and BAA is well known for fronting anyone who tries to force it to do anything. There was a case last year where BAA decided to evict two companies from the forecourts. These two companies had a legal right to be there, but nonetheless, BAA told them that they could no longer offer a meet and greet service on the forecourts. These two companies decided to take the matter to the High Court; a very bold and expensive thing to do, but they won the case after 10 days. The cost of this legal action was £1.5 million, and the two companies were awarded two thirds of their costs. This meant that even though they were right to challenge BAA, they still had to pay £250,000 in legal fees.
So what chance has the London taxi trade of getting BAA to accept that it is wrong to allow so many taxi drivers to by-pass the TFP on a permanent basis? I think that there could be a way, because as they say, there's more than one to skin a cat. 

Monday, 12 December 2011

More winter disruption at Heathrow?

Groupo Ferrovial is the Spanish company that owns BAA, the operator of London's Heathrow airport. Over the last couple of years Britain has suffered two harsh winters that have brought misery to many travellers, especially at Heathrow. Groupo Ferrovial has a blog site that informs visitors of its innovative plans for urban areas in the 21st century. It reads like a Huxleyan vision of the future, but it is hard to see how this visionary zeal is played out in reality. There seems to be an unrealistic belief that technology alone will be the liberating force to bring a new model of efficiency to cities' inhabitants.

In December 2009, Heathrow airport suffered harsh weather conditions that led to misery for many travellers passing through its various termini. This misery was compounded by frozen runways, delayed flights and a shortage of baggage handlers after 10pm. This is not to say that it is possible to avoid any disruption caused by adverse weather conditions, but things could have been a whole lot better for suffering travellers.

In December 2010, again Britain suffered an equally cruel winter, and again air travellers suffered the, by now, expected upheaval of the previous winter. But why were things not better handled than before?
BAA announced after the winter of 2009 that it had acquired hundreds of thousands of litres of runway and aircraft standing de-icer, and there were now snow-ploughs that could clear the worst snow in under 40 minutes. So why did things not improve in the winter of 2010?

A clue to all this can be found in the idea that companies, like Groupo Ferrovial, may have a visionary zeal for a technological future, but when it comes to putting its money where its mouth is there seems to be a reality check. It takes the will to deal with unexpected situations for a company to show that the profit motive is not the only thing that drives its ambitions. There has to be the will to put profit on the back-burner when Mother Nature strikes a blow if people are to be assured that they are not just witnessing a scramble for yet another opportunity for large corporations to seize the booty.

More overtime for baggage handlers would have dealt with the flight delays in 2009, and 2010, and paying someone to actually man the snow-ploughs and spread the de-icer would have saved a lot of travellers' misery.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Heathrow Taxis "Trade Show"?

This photograph was taken in front of the model of Concorde that has now been replaced by the Airbus A380 as you leave Heathrow Airport.

It is a group photo of nineteen Heathrow Airport Licensed Taxis (HALT) members and committee members taken in 1997, and uses the iconic image of Concorde to symbolise the desire to "reach for the stars". That was the original aim, but like Concorde, HALT has been "mothballed" before its time.

HALT was set up to promote the interests of taxi drivers at Heathrow, but after a chequered history, it has now been hijacked by a small handful of the original committee who have set up their own private company called Heathrow Airport Licensed Taxis Society (HALTS), and have tried to convince drivers that they have done this to save the "floundering" mutual society known as HALT. Surely it can't be a coincidence that this new company uses the similar acronym HALTS; could this be part of their intention to convince drivers they still have a say at Heathrow? Many drivers are already getting the feeling that they are being side lined by these changes, and are beginning to wonder where it all went wrong.

HALTS has now begun to establish itself at Heathrow, and it uses the trading name "Heathrow Taxis". After all, the name HALTS may well have served its purpose, and a more corporate image would benefit such a group of ambitious individuals who may have spotted a "golden opportunity" of their own making.

Heathrow Taxis is holding a "trade show" at their new premises close to Heathrow Airport on Tuesday 27th, and Wednesday 28th July 2010. How successful this so called trade show turns out to be depends on how good its directors are at keeping up the subterfuge.

Friday, 9 July 2010

If you want to book a taxi online via the BAA website you will be directed to the Heathrow Taxis website.

Heathrow Taxis claim that they are "The official Taxi Provider for Heathrow", but when you click on the link for "booking" you are asked to leave your details as this service is not yet available!!!
So what do you do? Well, most people will then go back to the BAA web page that directed them to Heathrow Taxis, and find that there is an alternative in the form of either Addison Lee, for a minicab, or Tristar Cars, for a limo.

"I think I'll go for the minicab, because I've heard of Addison Lee."

The Heathrow Taxis website went live in March 2010, but it is still not possible to book a taxi on this site four months later! If this is an example of how the "official taxi provider for Heathrow" operates, it's no wonder that taxi drivers are waiting longer than ever before they can get a job at Heathrow. Not only that, but one of the directors of Heathrow Taxis is also the only person that BAA talks to when it is time to discuss the issue of how much taxi drivers have to pay to ply for hire at Heathrow. At present the drivers pay a whopping £6.30 every time they pick up a job at Heathrow, thanks to Mr. Colin Evans of Heathrow Taxis, the official provider of taxis!!!

I can only hope that drivers are happy with the representation they receive at the hands of Mr. Evans.

Double "left click" on the Heathrow Taxis image above, and then "click" once again to enlarge the image.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

I have just come across this quote from the Licensed Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA) which states in "Private Hire News (Edition 49)";

"We will be seeking compliance across the board and expect prosecutions and action where compliance is not being met by Local Authorities everywhere. They have a duty of care to the public and a moral obligation to those who comply."

Are the LPHCA as keen to see an end to the illegal activities within their own industry as the Licensed Taxi Trade?

There is no doubt that satellite offices are seen as a good thing by the PHV industry, but to what extent does the "respectable" side of PHV want to see enforcement at these sites? Is the LPHCA as concerned about the lack of proper enforcement as we are?

There is no doubt that enforcement and compliance are major issues for the taxi trade, and the theft of legitimate work by uncontrolled touts and "clip-board Johnnies" is undermining the taxi trade's right to offer their services to the general public. So with all this in mind, how does this affect the respectable side of the PHV industry?

For instance, Addison Lee has sponsored ash trays outside many bars and clubs with a view to encourage people to phone them when they may want a ride home. So how much work is Addison Lee losing because many of these venues have "clip-board Johnnies" outside, so reducing the chances of anyone phoning Addi Lee?

Licensed taxi drivers see the blatant touting by minicab drivers and clip-board Johnnies as a major threat to their livelihood, and they are constantly lobbying the authorities to do something about the problem, without much success. But what effect does this all have on members of the LPHCA?

If the PHV industry is to be taken seriously, they must take full responsibility for the concessions and benefits that a licensing system gives them, and they have a duty to ensure that their industry is not undermined by the lack of control that has been allowed to flourish amongst their own fraternity.

If the PHV industry is to be accepted as a legitimate partner in the drive to attract customers, and gain respectability, they must accept that the licensed taxi trade's calls for enforcement are met, and that illegal touting damages them also.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Paddington taxi tout caught out

A man admitted illegal taxi touting in Paddington after he was caught out by two plain clothes police officers.

Ahmed Bakir, 48, of Wrottesley Road, Kensal Green, pleaded guilty to taxi-touting and driving without the necessary insurance in London Street on May 20. He appeared at West London Magistrates' Court yesterday.

At around 1.15am, two plain clothes police officers were approached by Bakir, who offered to take them to Southall for a fee of £20. Bakir then led the officers towards his Toyota car, and when they got in, they revealed their true identities. In police interview, he said he had financial difficulties and had been trying to make some money through taxi-touting.

Defending himself in court, Bakir admitted he had been given a fine for a similar offence in December and said he carried out this offence to pay for those costs. He added: "I don't have any money, but I'm looking for another job now."

Bakir was disqualified from driving for four months and ordered to pay a £250 fine, costs of £50 and a £15 victim surcharge.

Original article reproduced by kind permission of Juliet Eysenck.


Almost every city in the United Kingdom suffers from touting, or illegal taxi drivers, but it is not just the UK that suffers from this problem. Japan, the last place you would expect to find such activities, also has a massive problem with touts.
The difference in Japan, though, is that most legal taxi drivers are employed by companies, so are not self-employed free-lance drivers such as those in London. These drivers earn commission from the rides that they do in a shift. It is the taxi companies that earn the real money, to such an extent that many legal taxi drivers tout after their shift to supplement their income.
The only comparison I can make to this is: If a company such as Addison Lee had the sort of hold on the industry in London that these taxi company bosses have in Japan, a very similar scenario could be envisaged here, after all, touting is a massive problem. Thankfully, we are not there quite yet, but things are getting worse by the day! London can still boast the "Best taxi service in the World", but for how long?

"The dangers of the illegal taxi drivers"
Japanese taxi drivers have been receiving a lot of attention of late. Various policy changes such as an “inside the taxi smoking ban,” rising fuel prices and therefore rising taxi fares, and deregulation of the control of supply-demand balance, has meant that taxi companies are facing challenges to maintain profitability and as an effect, taxi drivers have suffered.

An investigative mini-documentary on channel 4 this morning exposed the side-affects of the recent taxi industry modifications. A rise in the number of illegal taxis in Japan has meant that there is not only danger to the public but legitimate taxi drivers are facing even further competition in the already harsh environment. These illegal drivers are called “shiro-taku,” Shiro for white and taku, a shortened work for takushii (taxi). The cars are generally white with white number plates (real taxi drivers have green number plates and queue in the taxi ranks) and these criminal taxi drivers poach customers by walking the streets, finding often drunk customers and offering cheaper fares and the option of smoking in the cars. Due to the illegality of this “business,” the cars and therefore the customers are uninsured should there be an accident which is likely as a majority of these drivers also have awful driving habits. Ironically, several of these drivers are legitimate taxi drivers during the day, trying to make money on the side to supplement their income.

(Note; this is where the Addison Lee scenario is most relevant. Ed, MickTheCabby)

This mini-documentary interviewed taxi drivers, illegal taxi drivers and customers. The illegal taxi drivers think they are offering a service that customers want and in a dog-eat-dog world, the effect on legitimate taxi drivers is kept out of mind. The risk-taking customers go for the cheaper option and the now-luxury of being able to smoke in the cars and the only ones that end up losing-out seem to be the real taxi-drivers. Will more and more legitimate taxi drivers turn to illegality to supplement their income, therefore creating a vicious circle of under-cutting, over-supplying and excessive competition? Should this problem persist and expand, the authorities are likely to step in and clamp-down, yet it should be considered that the base of the problem may not be the illegality of it but the difficulties taxi drivers face due to de-regulation and policy amendments.

The above article by Anna Kitanaka was reproduced by kind permission of J@pan.Inc

See the original article here;

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Police Brutality At Taxi Drivers' Demo?

The unbelievable scenes that we witness in the video clip below were taken from a peaceful demonstration of London Taxi Drivers on Wednesday 26th of May 2010.
What security issue was this police officer addressing when he brutally arrested this taxi driver? Was he concerned that a member of the public was about to be attacked? Did he think that the taxi driver was carrying an explosive device? Did he think the taxi driver was about to drive his taxi at innocent by-standers and injure people?

No! This taxi driver's "crime" was to respond to a motorist who had just shouted out "London taxi drivers are wankers" with the response "Who are you calling a wanker?" This spurred the bully-boy cop to treat him as if he was about to blow up the Houses of Parliament. The taxi driver, John Melville, suffered a broken wrist at the hands of this vicious thug, and is unlikely to be able to work for sometime due to his injuries.

What made this lowly bobby react in such an aggressive manner to such a trivial comment? My guess is that police officers who attended this demo were briefed by their superiors to come down hard on any breaches of the law; that this is just a bunch of troublesome cabbies and you don't have to worry too much about them because they are not a politically sensitive group of people. In other words, they are just a bunch of cab drivers so don't worry about anyone jumping up and down in their defence.

Well this brutal incident should be pursued through the courts and no apologies from the police should be accepted, in my opinion, because this is far too serious.

Let me have a stab at what might be at stake here. First of all, this is an unlawful arrest. Secondly, it is GBH because the victim suffered a broken wrist, and last, but not least, the driver was unlawfully detained in a police vehicle.

All three of these offences carry very serious penalties, and this police thug should feel the full weight of the courts. He is a disgrace to the Metropolitan Police, and he is an affront to all decent citizens of our capital city.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Westminster City Council has been in the firing line for the mis-handling of its new £50 million parking and enforcement contract.

The contract came up for renewal over 6 months ago, and the FTSE support group company Mouchel won the four year contract. Mouchel then announced to its shareholders, “It has been confirmed that we have been appointed as preferred bidder in Westminster, the largest on-street parking enforcement and city management service contract in Europe. The commission is for a four-year period (extendable to six).”

Unfortunately for Mouchel there was a flaw in the tendering process, which was spotted by the Conservative run Westminster Council’s own legal team, and Mouchel was stripped of the contract. The whole tendering process had to begin again, costing Westminster tax payers over £1.1 million. Now Mouchel and APCOA, who had also bid for contract, are considering a legal challenge after Westminster City Council decided to award the contract to NSL, who had previously serviced the contract over the past seven years.

This whole process has sparked an out-cry from Labour leader Paul Dimoldenberg and Westminster tax payers alike, but Danny Chalkley, Westminster's cabinet member for city management, did not respond to calls.

Where are you Mr. Chalkley?

Interestingly, NSL is the contractor that runs the taxi feeder park at Heathrow, and parking enforcement for Hammersmith council. NSL is the parking and enforcement company that used to be known as NCP. It’s nice to be loved!

Saturday, 22 May 2010

It is not unusual to come across a newspaper head-line that declares something like "Taxi Wars" or "Taxis In Turf War" or something similar, but it would seem as though the real Taxi War in London is being fought on two fronts!!!

The first is a constant and ongoing battle in which Licensed London Taxi Drivers are being forced to contend with the increasing menace of illegal mini-cab touts, and the plethora of so called satellite offices that are opening in almost every second doorway in many parts of London.

The second front is a more sinister and difficult war that is only now being seen as the major battle that faces the Taxi Trade. This assault on the trade is not coming from our competitors, but rather from the very authorities that license us! This is the battle that must be won if the licensed taxi trade in London is to maintain the high standards that the residents and vistors to London have come to expect from the legendary and knowledgable "London Cabby".

Ever since the licensing of taxis in London was passed from the Metropolitan Police to the newly formed Transport for London, under the authority of the Mayor of London, there has been an unprecedented undermining of the regulations that govern the Hackney Carriage Laws that control the way taxis can legally ply for hire on the streets of London.

There has been a problem with illegal touting from mini-cabs for decades, but the situation has become far worse since the Mayor of London has become the ultimate authority for licensing in London. Not only is there a lack of enforcement of regulations that apply to touting, but this situation actually seems to be encouraged by the Public Carriage Office ever since it took on the additional task of licensing private hire in London.

Paranoia? I don't think it is! From what I can see there is a real threat to the taxi trade from what I can only describe as the covert policy of the deregulation, or at the very least, the undermining of the Taxi Industry in London.

The word "Taxi" is enshrined in Hackney Carriage law as a protected description that is very specific in its interpretation. Only a "Taxi" may ply for hire on the streets of the metropolis, but the laws that apply to this description are being flouted by the establishment itself, and government agencies are helping to undermine the importance of this legislation by ignoring the principles that apply to it.

Below is a government intranet communication that is just one example of the type of subversion of the primary legislation that governs the taxi industry. I can only conclude that this is an intentional policy that seeks to change the perception of what defines a "taxi".

"Headline News: Contract for cabs Page 1 of 1
Headline News
Contract for cabs
From 4 May 2010, there will be a new contract for all taxi bookings within London. To support this, the Business Travel team has launched a brand new policy providing clear guidance on the use of Government Car and Despatch Agency (GC'DA) cars, as well as a clarified taxi policy for all staff.

The clarified taxi policy reiterates the circumstances in which taxis can be used and how they should be paid for.
The new policy restricts the use of GCDA vehicles to ministers and the Permanent Secretary only. Anyone else who has previously utilised this service should now use taxis instead, following the clarified policy.
The new contract must be used by all staff booking a taxi for business use in London. Our contractor, Addison Lee, covers all locations within the M25 as well as local airports. Addison Lee is well-known for the quality of their vehicles and service and already provides taxi services to other Government Departments.
The key advantages for staff in using this contract are: .
• Reduced response times - the maximum response time in central London is only 15 minutes
• 24-hour service
• Reduced costs and carbon footprint - the fleet consists of over 2,500 people carriers, meaninglarger groups of staff can be transported in fewer vehicles
• Fully licensed - all drivers and vehicles are licensed by the Public Carriage Office; the regulatorybody for taxis and private hire in London
• No need for cash - invoices are paid on a monthly basis by DWP
• Free waiting tune - up to 15 minutes' free waiting time (30 minutes for international flights)
• High-quality vehicles - regular checks are carried out to ensure vehicles are clean and wellpresented at all times.
For more information, visit the Clarified TaxLPolicy, Booking .Guidance, and GCDA Policy intranet
Date published: 28 April 2010"

Please support the Drive-In/Demo that is taking place on Wednesday 26th May 2010. This will be the first of many, and we will let the authorities know that we are not going to accept any undermining of our proud industry.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Taxis at Heathrow.

Heathrow airport is one place where there seems to be a type of "mystique" when it comes to taxis. Many town drivers who never "put on" at the Heathrow are convinced that all airport drivers are involved in some kind of taxi trade mafioso! But nothing could be further from the truth.

An act of parliament has given the London taxi trade a right to ply for hire at Heathrow Airport in the form of taxi ranks on all Heathrow's terminals. Taxi ranks were accepted as a necessity when the only forms of transport were buses, taxis and private motor-cars.

This situation has changed over the years as Heathrow has evolved into the modern airport that it has now become. In the early years there were no underground or mainline train links into Heathrow, and the only way travellers could get to the airport was by road.

There were two coach services to Heathrow from central London; Victoria air terminal and the West london Air Terminal. Victoria air terminal was in Buckingham Palace Road, and the West London air terminal was located on the site of the Sainsburys supermarket on Cromwell Road. The nearest underground station to Heathrow was Hounslow West, but this would involve either a bus or taxi ride to complete your journey to Heathrow airport. So taxis were, and still are, an essential part of the transport infrastructure of Heathrow airport.

Today passengers have many more choices when travelling to Heathrow in the form of buses, taxis, minicabs, private cars, London underground, coaches, and the Heathrow Express from Paddington Station in West London. But it is not just the choice of transport that has changed, the running of Heathrow airport has also changed in many ways too.

In the early days Heathrow airport was under the control of the British Airports Authority, which was set up by the government with the introduction of the Airport Authority Act 1966. In 1986 the Thatcher government passed the Airports Act and created BAA plc. This allowed stock market funds to be raised, however in 2006 BAA plc. was sold to a consortium headed by Grupo Ferrovial and became BAA Ltd. which in turn created the subsidiary known as Heathrow Airport Ltd.

These changes completely altered the operating dynamic from a government owned agency to a commercial company with all the responsibilities to shareholders that such changes bring about. Since the privatisation of Heathrow Airport the various facilitities and services at Heathrow have been scutinised by Heathrow Airport Ltd. (HAL) with a view to maximising profits for the parent company.

The taxi operation at Heathrow was one of the services that came under the spotlight of BAA's accountants, but as previously mentioned, taxis have a legal presence at Heathrow under the terms of the Airports Act 1986, placing them in a unique position. This right to ply for hire, coupled with the commercial imperatives placed on BAA, has created certain tensions upon the taxi trade at Heathrow.

I shall explain how the taxi trade has attempted to respond to these changes in more detail in part II.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

John Mason! Good cop, bad cop?

John Mason, the Director of Taxi and Private Hire, has made a new post on the London Taxi Drivers Forum (LTDF) under the username of masojon. In his post he appears to be "offering the trade out" with a veiled threat!!!

In his most recent post he states; ".....if you want a split, then by all means, lobby and do what you want to get a split and seek to have a Director of Taxi and another for Private Hire.........With seperate Directorates you would have two different people with prehaps two different agendas, one who is totally focused on PH the other on Taxis. Like it or not, I'm responsibe for both and for me thats the best way forward. "(sic)

This is the first time I have witnessed the boss of the Carriage Office getting "shirty" with taxi drivers in a public place! Could this be the end of his Honeymoon period in his role as Director? Only time will tell!

John Mason, Director of Taxi and Private Hire.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Hey Ho, this trade is in a awful mess!

We really need to get to grips with some of the major issues that are affecting us.

  1. Touting, everywhere: The authorities don't seem that bothered!
  2. In-trade fighting: This is so unnecessary.
  3. Our image: How do we sort THAT out?
  4. Our relationship with the PCO hierarchy.
  5. Illegal Mini-Cab ranks.
  6. The PHV bus-lane campaign. John Griffin of Ad Lee is the main campaigner, and he has a very strong political lobby! Where are you Bob Oddy?
  7. United Trade Group: Only seem interested in preserving their own little empires to the detriment of the trade as a whole; very sad!
This is just a handful of the problems, anyone care to add to the list?
Nissen Hut, Any Good?

Who is behind The Nissen Hut blogsite?

Will we ever know? Maybe one day we will, but for now we have to accept that this site has an agenda all of its own.

They say that immitation is the most sincere form of flattery, and the Nissen Hut has plagerised the style of the most succesful London Taxi Trade blogsite, The Anderson Shelter. Their names are reminiscent of the old WWII air-raid shelters, although I believe the Nissen huts were not quite as bomb-proof as the Anderson Shelters of the same period.

The Anderson Shelter is a very forthright and pro-active forum for taxi drivers and is run by Jim Thomas, a licensed London taxi driver of many years experience. Jim has been at the forefront of the battle to stand up for the rights of taxi drivers at a time when lawlessness on the streets of London have become the norm over the last several years.

The unfortunate thing is, though, some within the London taxi trade do not appreciate Jim's hard and effective campaigning! Why? It would seem as though the largest of the trade organisations that purports to fight for the rights of London's taxi drivers is more interested in preserving the status and benefits that come from such a position. This organisation is the Licensed Taxi Driver' Association (LTDA), headed by Bob Oddy.

Mr. Oddy sits on the Board of Transport for London (TfL) and has earned himself the nick-name of "Silent Bob" because of his silence over many of the issues that affect the working taxi driver in London. His acquiesence on many of the trade's issues have made him very unpopular with many in the trade, but somehow, this silence seems to have preserved his status on the TfL Board. Very strange, indeed!

Anyway, back to the Nissen Hut blog: This blogsite was setup to discredit the good work of the Anderson Shelter, and there is a growing suspicion that the authors of this site are a number of people who support Bob Oddy's lack of action. Well, I think it is more accurate to say that they are part of his inner sanctom of beneficiaries, rather than supporters of his inaction; it would appear that Bob has but a few supporters, but their voices are spread far and wide within the London taxi trade fraternity, mainly through the official trade publication of the LTDA, Taxi Newspaper. Promotion of the Nissen Hut can be found in the bi-monthly editions of this organ with increasing regularity.

The Nissen Hut has not made any attempt to hide its plageristic style; why would it? Alas, though, it does not offer the reader the same opportunities to reply to its articles; it seems to run a very tight ship, unlike the Anderson Shelter, by discouraging comments from readers that do not agree with its content. I wonder why?