I make no apologies for repeating myself this month because I am somewhat
concerned about possible developments that may take place this year. By the time you read
this, Sir George Youngs second reading on the regulating of minicabs (23rd
Jan) will have passed through the House and be ever closer to the statute books.
I know that Brian Rice - through JRTA, the Taxi Board and privately, has
now had talks with Sir George, Glenda Jackson and Linda Perham and although I dont
know what was said at any of the meetings, I do know that Sir George hasnt had a
change of heart. So from this side of the desk, it looks a though sometime in late
98 or early 99, London will join the rest of the country in having a two
tiered cab service - ourselves and licensed private hire.
Of course, we all know that a two tier system will really be a three
tier system because the touts wont just pack their bags and go. So where will we be
when what currently seems inevitable, actually arrives?
Well, for the first few months, nothing will noticeably change. After
that, we (the licensed taxi trade) will be continually criticised by our London evening
paper for bad service while prospective passengers will be informed by the same source
that minicabs are really licensed private hire who now have the same degree of
respectability as taxis. But the ES will also add one more thing. Licensed private
hire wont refuse you because they are going home or because you are going somewhere
they dont fancy. Neither will the old chestnut - and our saviour for so long - that
they drive beaten up old rust heaps and have no insurance apply any more except to the
non-existent third tier.
Then, as we head into the new millennium, the shout will go out to
license the private hire sector to respond to street hails. And make no mistake about it.
London is one of the most important capital cities in the world and it is heading ever
more quickly towards becoming the centre of the Universe. And, if we cannot provide a taxi
service that the public need then they will go elsewhere - and can you blame them?
So what is to be done? Day men tell me that it is still relatively quiet
while night men cant believe how busy it is for this time of year. But I have been
out and about on Call Sign
business during day time hours and there are many times
when there are very few cabs available. To turn around, shrug your shoulders and say that
it is busy, just isnt good enough.
While passengers expect to wait slightly longer during busy periods -
just as you would expect to queue for longer in the bank at lunchtime - they still expect
to catch a cab within a reasonable time. We need, in my view, threefold action.
- More taxi drivers: Hopefully, the PCOs new speeded-up Knowledge
will help but we dont just need another fifty or so. Im afraid that the number
has to run into many thousands. This will cause some problems initially but none that
cannot be overcome with good organisation.
- A change in mentality: I know that many of you go anywhere and
everywhere and help to maintain the good name that we try to guard so jealously with
politeness - albeit sometimes under very trying conditions. Unfortunately, there are still
many who consider themselves to be small businessmen who work for themselves. Well, the
Inland Revenue may consider us to be just that, but unless we think and act as purveyors
of Public Transport, we will NEVER be accepted as such. To be accepted as purveyors of
Public Transport, we have to act like we belong. That means going anywhere and being
available for hire if you are not going home or on a radio job. And, to make myself even
more unpopular, I have to say that IF you are going home, then switch your light off
unless you are prepared to go in the opposite direction. If you dont get a radio
job, then unlucky. Every time you tell someone that you
We must all belong to a trade organisation: I remember Ken Burns
always saying that belonging to Dial a Cab and through it, JRTA, was enough. It may well
have been then but it certainly isnt now. We are now all represented by the Taxi
Board through our membership of JRTA but we need more. In my 27 years in the trade, I have
always belonged to one or other of the trade organisations. Not because I thought they
were wonderful - believe me, I was the first to offer criticism and still do - but because
I realised that without one, how would we ever get an increase in the clock or stop the
PCO and DOT walking over us? Now, I am afraid, belonging to an organisation is a
- cant take them because you are going home, that is just one more nail in the
coffin because nine times out of ten, they wont believe you - or forget! We really
need our own internal policing system away from the PCO.
I will not advise you as to which organisation that should be nor which one I belong
to, although one is perhaps pushing its luck by constantly criticising us. You must
make up your own mind as to who can help you and who cant, but lets not hear
that "they are all the same" or "they are only in it for themselves".
We need - desperately - to be organised just as much as we need to promote our image to
show that we are not only worthy of being recognised as Public Transport, but that our
service leaves other forms standing. Then, and only then, together with an accountable
Taxi Board holding the umbrella for all to gather under, will we will start to get
Sorry for the lecture, but it had
to be said so please dont just look the other way and think that nothing will really
change. Have a read of the centre pages before going back to the television. What happened
in Stockholm shows that so clearly. Remember, organisation