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Free and open access – the right to ply for hire

By Steve Fricker

At the Unite National Taxi Conference last March the delegates from the South East (SE) region of Unite put forward the idea that a clause should be inserted in rail franchise agreements preventing the train operating companies from charging taxi drivers to ply for hire at provincial railway stations.

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Subsequently there has been an article published in the summer edition of Cab Trade News which pointed out the extortionate level of charges at some stations in the SE including £735 at Guildford and £600 at Southampton Airport Parkway where this charge is being increased by seventeen percent . Taxi Drivers have effectively become a cash cow for these companies.

Many licensing areas now have stations were drivers are paying to pick up at railway stations, with no obvious benefit to the drivers other than keeping other drivers from plying from hire at the station. In London there is no charge at any station and all of the 24,000 licensed taxi drivers can ply for hire and pick up at any station.

At the Unite South East Passenger Conference a motion was passed supporting the idea of a clause being inserted into rail franchise agreements to prevent charging at railway stations and this was one of two motions put forward to the National Passenger Sector Conference

At the recent Passenger Sector Conference the motion was passed and is now Unite policy. The motion called on the Executive Council of Unite and the Unite Parliamentary Group of MP’s to take all necessary steps to achieve this end.

The aim of the motion is to get the support of the union to lobby the shadow transport team to try to achieve this. The Unite South East Region Cab Section believes that the best way to achieve free and open access to ply for hire at railway stations would be via re-nationalisation of the railways but that is at least five years away and in that time many rail franchises are coming up for renewal, so we believe that the time to act is now!

This could be a campaign that galvanises the cab section because these extortionate charges are increasing year on year taking no account of inflation etc. Vague references to “footfall” appear to be the main justification for these increases. These charges are very unpopular amongst Taxi Drivers but most feel forced to pay up because station work makes up a large part of their wages.

I think this is an achievable campaign because:

  •  It is a realistic position that the shadow transport team can take up
  • These charges are unpopular amongst Taxi Drivers
  • Taxi Drivers would be prepared to lobby their MP on this issue
  • Pressure could be built up on even Tory MP’s to back their local cabbies

It is completely unfair and unnecessary for taxi drivers to pay for the privilege of picking up at railway stations and airports. It needs to be stopped and Unite will be taking the fight to the railway companies to end this unwanted practise.

Steve Fricker is Branch Secretary, Unite South East Region Cab Section. #CTNSE

This article was first published in the Winter 2015/16 issue of Cab Trade News




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