Star date: 18th November 2010


BBC staff relocating from London, and Salford people lucky enough to get work, will be staggered to hear that they won’t be able to hail a black cab at MediaCityUK.

Despite millions of pounds worth of public money being sunk into infrastructure at Salford Quays, the whole MediaCityUK site is owned by private company, Peel Holdings, which has confirmed “there will be no taxi ranks within the MediaCityUK development”.

Local cabbies aren’t happy, to say the least.

It wasn’t too long ago that Salford City Council Leader, John Merry, went on local radio and justified relaxing the rules on the number of taxis in Salford by arguing that when MediaCityUK opened it would need more cabs to cope with demand.

Now it is clear that when MediaCityUK opens next year there will be no black cab ranks at all on the site, even though Salford Cabinet’s Work Plan for 2010-11 states that to “ensure safety and fair trading” it will “Work with hackney carriage trade and MediaCityUK to ensure enough taxis”.

While Salford’s black cabs will be able to drop off at MediaCityUK they will not be allowed to pick up passengers as the site is privately owned by Peel Holdings which, according to a Salford Council Regeneration Report, is “looking into contract with taxi firms to allow access to areas”.

You can assume that private hire firms will pay Peel Holdings for the privilege of working at MediaCityUK while the local hackney carriages, driven almost exclusively by Salford workers, will be left out on the sidelines.

Anecdotal evidence from hackney carriage drivers suggests that black cabs are already being turned away from waiting for passengers outside Peel Holdings’ Holiday Inn Hotel on the MediaCityUK site.

Meanwhile the BBC, which already has private hire contracts in place at its Oxford Road base in Manchester, told us that it will be entering into agreements with private hire companies at MediaCityUK but no agreements are yet in place.

“The hackney carriage drivers had a meeting with the Council three years ago and said that we wanted a rank at MediaCityUK” says Salford hackney carriage driver, Simon Whittaker

“They could have sorted this out at the planning stages of MediaCityUK but they didn’t” he adds “This is the same process that’s happened ever since I’ve been on the cabs, over 22 years. This council just does things without proper regard for our livelihoods, our families and the knock on effects to the wider economy.”

Up until late this year, there were exactly two spaces for black cabs near The Lowry. And, as a sop to the hackney carriage drivers, the Council has put a rank with space for three or four cabs around the corner, near the car park entrance. There are also two spaces for cabs, well out of sight, on Merchants Quay. Which leaves maybe eight spaces for black cabs on the whole of the Quays, well away from the main hub of MediaCityUK.

“First of all the hackney carriage drivers had to fight to get those two spaces near The Lowry, now they’ve given us a site for four cabs at the side of the car park where no-one can see them” says Simon Whittaker “They are nowhere near MediaCityUK and no-one will know that they are there.”

Hackney carriage cab ranks being off-site of MediaCityUK will also have implications for wheelchair users who rely on the space in black cabs.

Salford Council’s Lead Member for Environment, Councillor Joe Murphy told us that “The Council are working with hackney carriage drivers to identify suitable locations for taxi ranks across Salford, including the area of MediaCityUK, to ensure that ranks meet the needs of the travelling public.”

This is totally disputed by Simon Whittaker… “If the Council is working closely with hackney carriage drivers identifying demand at MediaCityUK then why the hell haven’t we got a rank there?”

The answer is obvious. That despite the millions of pounds of public money that have gone into enhancing the Quays, the whole of MediaCityUK is in the private hands of Peel Holdings who control its private streets and the vehicles that are allowed access.

“There will be no taxi ranks within the MediaCityUK development but hackney carriages will be able to drop off” says Paul Newman of Peel Media “We are working with our public sector partners to ensure the best solution for Quays-wide taxi rank provision.”

Cabbies are not allowed to queue up if ranks are full, and with so few spaces on ranks at the Quays, they will be obliged to drive to the next nearest rank which is, amazingly, Salford Precinct.

“What the Council is suggesting is that we wait on the Precinct and hope that someone shouts loud enough from The Lowry or MediaCityUK that there’s a cab needed” laughs Simon Whittaker “It’s just a joke.”

Just hope those BBC people carry around their directors’ megaphones. They’re going to be needing them…

Source of info the Salford Star

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