Taxi Wars

Friday night, 1st May, while working at the rank outside the Oxo Tower, I was lucky to find a space among the dozen or so minicabs that were parked up outside. Every time the punters got into one the marshals would call for more to fill the gaps, while I was at the head of our rank which happened to be in the middle of the road, you would see the clipboard johnny walk out with the customers  they had just touted from outside the restaurant main entrance. Then they would point them to the waiting car. At one point I was speaking to a driver on Dial- a- Cab and he told me that the manager of the Oxo Restaurant came outside to see what all the fuss was about, he said he overheard the manager asking what these cars are doing here? then he mentioned taxis – the managers said they (black cabs) abandoned us for years so what are they doing here now? As he was talking, a group of passing Americans overheard his conversion and said that they don’t want to get involved in any disputes between us black cabs  and them and therefore they would hail a taxi from the street.

Over the past couple of weeks my earnings have gone up, this is following a steep fall in the recession and it has gone up mainly through ranking up outside these restaurants and clubs, it goes to show the vast amount of work the minicabs have been taking away from us over the years. I can’t afford not to defend my right as a black cab and do work that is available and rightfully ours!

Bob Sherwood a correspondent for the Financial Times mentioned about the current situation – ‘ taxi drivers who face dwindling trade in the recession are mounting nightly co-ordinated operations against rogue minicab touts working outside West End nightclubs.’ He continues saying that  ‘the black cab drivers are using radio networks such as Dial-a-Cab to target illegal touts, often summoning 30 cabs or more to converge on a club or restaurant and to form an impromptu taxi rank to take business away from the minicabs’.

The tactic, operating up to six times a night for the past couple of weeks, has resulted in violent confrontations with touts and nightclub door staff.

It’s taxi wars,” said Steve McNamara of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association. “It’s almost been a throwback to the clashes of the 1960s.”

Bob goes on to say that cabbies’ anger at illegal touts, who operate outside nightspots clad in high-visibility vests and brandishing clipboards, has intensified as trade has declined in the recession and London’s authorities have failed to get a grip on the problem.

Steve McNamara said: “It has been very successful for drivers. They have been finding it quite lucrative.” He said the black cabs were cheaper than the minicabs, which can have a £25 minimum fare.

The minicab industry has also criticised the touts, but it pointed out some of the operations linked to nightclubs were operating legally.

Steve Wright, chairman of the Licensed Private Hire Car Association, said the issue had come to a head as many cabbies had moved into the West End after corporate work dried up, while the downturn had increased the numbers of unlicensed minicabs on the streets.

Mr Wright, a Transport for London board member who yesterday attended a Scotland Yard meeting about the problem, warned against confrontations. “It solves nothing to be a vigilante and to take matters into your own hands .  It needs a broad church of people to resolve this issue.”

My personal opinion and advice is: keep out of trouble and do not give them a chance to have something to react to! let us do our work which is ours by right and unify to gain back the trade. Also, get the authorities to do something about it and protect us.  You may find those that will try to cause trouble but just try and ignore it. By the way,  we are taking matters into our own hands by doing our work, which again I state, by right peacefully and the authorities are the ones that should have stoped this illegal trading from the start. We are just doing our job!

Thats all for now. Be lucky,  Steve.

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