Demonstrations against the Taxi trade’s exclusion from the Olympic Games Lanes
The United Cabbies Group recently held a series of meetings with representatives from the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG), the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and Transport for London (TfL).
The purpose of these meetings was to discuss the concerns of our members and how exclusion from the Games Lanes will affect thousands of taxi passengers including those visiting the capital for the Olympics.
Some of these Lanes will be nearside (kerbside) and we were advised during the meetings that we will be unable to enter these lanes, to set-down or pick-up passengers. We have urged LOCOG, ODA and TfL to reconsider their position on this as it will have devastating consequences for both taxi passengers and drivers. It was further disclosed that the nearside lanes, which are converted bus lanes, will still allow access to all other bus lane users i.e. buses, motorbikes and cyclists, with taxis being the only exception to the normal bus lane policy.
When asked, LOCOG, ODA & TfL advised that we should simply “do our best” to set-down and pick up passengers at the nearest available place. This is a lack of understanding on the behalf of LOCOG, ODA and TfL in relation to how taxi journey’s work, particularly for those passengers with mobility impairments or other disabilities. London Taxis are the only 100% wheelchair accessible vehicles in the London Transport network and TfL frequently refer to this when questioned about accessible transport.
It should be noted that whilst all other sectors of the public transport system have demanded bonuses for doing their jobs during the games, the London Taxi trade has only ever demanded the right to go about its business without any increase in fares. In fact, two demonstrations were carried out last year by the United Cabbies Group, to quash any suggestion of a proposed 20% fare increase during both the Olympic & Paralympic Games.
Whilst agreeing with us in principle, LOCOG, ODA and TfL have refused our request for access to the games lanes and therefore we felt we had no option but to ballot our members. We received an overwhelming majority vote, giving us a mandate to take action. We have therefore planned a series of demonstrations on the following dates:
17th July 2012, at 2pm – Parliament Square, Whitehall and Trafalgar Square
23rd July 2012, time and venue to be announced
27th July 2012, time and venue to be announced
We wish the Olympic & Paralympic Games to be a complete success and fully back our Team GB athletes, however in order for us to successfully carry out our duties as Taxi drivers we demand full access to the Olympic Games Lanes.
NEWS FLASH: We are pleased to announce that John Mason Director of Licensed Taxis & Private Hire has advised us that Transport for London are now conducting a review of Nearside Games Lanes.
We believe that this is as a result of representations made by the United Cabbies Group and comes less than 24 hours after the announcement of our series of planned demonstrations.
We are pleased that TfL are taking on board our concerns, when we have been made aware of the outcome of this review we will consider our options.
On Twitter this evening a Tweet was posted by @GAOTG regarding wheelchair accessible transport in London during the Olympic Games, the Twitter account appears to be that of a website called www.getaheadofthegames.com
The Get Ahead of the Games website is backed by The Mayor of London, Department of Transport, Highways Agency and our very own Transport for London, the website goes to great lengths to explain the options for wheelchair users during the Olympics for getting around London, there are references to nearly every form of transport in London and explanations as to how accessible they are it also explains that at peak times certain Underground stations where lift capacity is limited there may well be delays.
Now we are all very aware that the Buses, Trains, Tubes and DLR are not 100% wheelchair accessible, we have seen reports on the TV where wheelchair users have tried in vain to use these so called methods of transport to get around London with varying degrees of success of which none were very satisfactory. The website also goes to great lengths to explain how to use the Dial a Ride service which we all know is not an “on demand” service for the user but where instead the user has to wait their turn and most of the time has to share the van with other users.
It is a well known fact that there is only one really 100% wheelchair accessible form of transport in London and that is of course the London Taxi, since the year 2000 all London Taxis have had to be wheelchair accessible, this was obviously forced upon our trade to compensate for the lack of wheelchair accessibility of all the Public Transport services which at the time were not accessible at all to wheelchair users. It is also the same London taxi that was used to promote our bid for the games, the same London Taxi that was used in the Bejing closing ceremony to promote the fact that London would be hosting the next Olympics.
London has a fully accessible “on demand” wheelchair accessible transport fleet of London Taxis and yet the authorities who license and regulate fail to recognise the important role that our trade could play during the Olympics, it also fails to recognise that the London Taxi could provide the answer to the foreseeable problems for wheelchair users during the games. How are our wheelchair athletes going to be transported to Stratford? We are sure that the Olympic BMWs are not wheelchair accessible?
The London Taxi trade are disgusted that our own Country fails to recognise that the London Taxi trade could play an important role during these games, a Taxi Trade that is voted the best in the World year on year and which is renowned for having the most qualified and knowledgeable drivers in the World who all drive an iconic vehicle which is recognised the World over.
Is there a need within our trade for a Taxi App that is owned, administered and led by the drivers that use and promote it or are we better off leaving it to the venture capitalists who are currently leading the market, a market that will probably see a lot more Taxi Apps launched?
There is of course a lot to be said for having a Taxi App that is funded by venture capitalists where there is no cost to the driver in set up costs whatsoever, obviously the driver does not have to put his hand in his pocket to fund the development or set up costs, there is also the operating costs of any App and also continual develop costs as Apps need to be developed to suit the market place. So why should we as drivers even bother with looking at running our own App, why don’t we just leave it to those who have the money to develop such an App and to market the App with the vast amounts of money available to them that they can throw at promotion and advertising?
The main reason for a driver led Taxi App is so that we can in some way take control of our own trades destiny rather than relying on others who are basically only in the market to make a profit once they build the business to a certain level and then sell it off. A driver initiative should in my opinion be run as some sort of cooperative with each member having some sort of stake in the business and also a say in how the business is run much along the lines of the ideas of the original Radio Circuits, although some safe guards would need to be put in place so that history does not repeat itself, if such an initiative was to come to fruition then it could do so much good for the trade as a whole as every driver could get behind the App which could be developed into a full blown Taxi App and Taxi Booking service. Drivers could once again promote and serve something of which they could rightly feel a part of, something that is run by the trade, for the trade, an App that would obviously be cheaper in charges to the driver than any other as it could still be run on the original TLC ethos of “Not for Profit”
The recent announcement that TLC are to no longer manage the TLC Taxi App has come as a real blow to those who are passionate about our trade but before anyone else can step into the breach and make another attempt at launching a driver led Taxi App the question needs to be asked as to whether there is enough passion, enthusiasm and dedication within our trade to make a driver led Taxi App work or should we all just surrender to the money men and allow them to take a huge chunk of our trade?
So is there enough interest, enthusiasm, passion and dedication amongst our ranks? You tell me!
TLC last week announced that unfortunately they were no longer going to be managing the rebranded TLC Taxi App, personally I feel that this is a great shame as I feel that they were moving in the right direction. The new tlctaxis.co.uk website was well designed and very simple which made it very easy to understand for both passengers and drivers.
I understand from speaking to some of those involved that the App took an enormous amount of time to manage and was taking up far too much of their working time and encroaching into their family life and time causing a negative impact for both them and their families. Apparently every driver or passenger that registered to use the App needs to be manually activated and I was told that a lot of the registrations had some information missing which meant communicating with the user on at least one occasion which obviously takes up a lot of time. It is all very well trying to run something like this for free but once it starts having a negative impact on your life then something has to give and unfortunately this has resulted in TLC coming to this drastic decision.
All of those that were involved in TLC should be applauded for taking on what was the LDNTaxiApp and trying to take it forward as before they stepped in the App was just sitting there doing nothing with very few jobs coming through, since their intervention the number of jobs has increased as has the number of drivers.
Now obviously a driver run App is never going to be able to splash the amount of cash about that the likes of Hailo have at their disposal but does the App need that sort of investment for advertising or can it be done a lot cheaper? Some time ago I had an advertising executive in the taxi and I was explaining the difference between Hailo and the TLC App and that TLC do not have any money to spend with regards to advertising or giving away money for free or subsidised rides, we had quite a lengthy discussion on this subject and we came to the conclusion that, we, the drivers are our own best ambassadors and that if the drivers using the App could explain things to the passenger with regards to the App then we should, between us, be able to make a success of the App.
It really is a shame that unless someone steps in to take this App forward that it looks as though it could well die a death here in London which means that we will be left without a driver led App that we can use to benefit our own trade but instead be left to the money men to cream of the back of working taxi drivers again. I do hope that someone is able to breath new life into this App again and take it forward to benefit us all, maybe as a cooperative of some sort, onlyt time will tell.
There are many driver representative groups within our trade, some have been around for many years and others are quite new and young. All of these group boast varying numbers of members and all purport to being doing their bit for the trade in one way or another, some are more militant than others and some prefer to take the more passive approach of trying to engage in talks with the Authorities rather than taking direct action in the form of Demonstrations or drive Ins. Taxi drivers join these groups for a number of reasons of which the main one is legal representation of which all of the groups offer a very good service to their members. Over the past year certain nearly all groups have come in for criticism of one sort or another and all have engaged in some sort of back stabbing or infighting.
The thing with all of these driver groups is that those who make up their committee’s or who are officers of the group all seem to have the trades best interests at heart in their own way, they all seem to care and serve their members well and yet they cannot seem to agree with each other which is quite worrying.
Imagine the power that this trade could demand if all of our drivers groups could get together and agree on certain issues affecting our trade, even if they cant agree on everything surely they can agree on main points as the problems affecting us all as working Taxi drivers are the same. Every driver that I speak to seems to moan about the same things so one can assume that they also moan to their driver representative group about the same issues so it must follow that they all groups are basically fighting for the same things. Why then is it impossible to get all groups together around a table so that we as drivers can have true representation with the authorities.
The saying divide and rule is never more prevalent than it is in our trade at present and the sooner that all of our driver groups realise this the better it would be for our trade. Now I am not suggesting that our groups should merge or amalgamate but we really do need for them all to get around a table and come to an agreement on common issues that affect us all, these issues could then be presented to TfL from one voice for the trade.
There is nothing I find more annoying than seeing a Taxi stop on a crossing to pick up passengers and it seems to be happening all to often. The other night while working I was hailed by a young couple who were standing on a crossing, I indicated to them to walk forward so that I could stop where i would not be contravening the crossing, you young couple just looked at me as though I was from the planet Zong or something and then continued to try and hail a Taxi, to my surprise one of our colleagues pulled up right in the middle of the crossing and allowed the young couple to board the taxi!
This situation highlights a couple of points, the first being that as Taxi drivers we are supposed to be professional drivers and abide by the highway code and obviously these drivers who stop on crossings are not only breaking the law but also showing a total lack of respect for the fellow cabbies. The other point is that most people these days drive and own a car so one can assume that at least one of the couple held a driving license so they also should know better than to stand on a crossing trying to hail a cab, I am sure that they would be the first people to scream if they were trying to cross the road and a taxi stopped to pick someone else up.
So come on people, if you are trying to hail a Taxi please make sure that you are standing somewhere sensible where it is safe for the Taxi to stop and Taxi drivers show some respect for the law and your fellow cabbies and never stop on a crossing, the more drivers that continue to stop on crossings the harder it will be to educate customers that crossings are not the place to try and hail a Taxi.