TAXI RANKS – TOOLS OF OUR TRADE
The number of taxi cabs currently licensed is approximately 22,500, with ranking space for just 2,177 compared to 1970 when there were 8,181 cabs with 2,797 spaces across the capital.
Over the decades it is clear from the statistics that both taxi rank provision and review of location (be it on a full or part time basis) has seriously lagged behind, while the number of taxis and especially PHV,s have increased considerably. The ratio of taxis to rank space is now at approximately 10:1.
That means for every 10 cabs licensed there is just 1 space!
TAXI RANKS VERSES THE USE OF TECHNOLOGY
The lack of rank provision has lead more recently to an ever increasing use of technology by customers, more so at venues where private hire operating centres have been set up within them. This is because the policy regarding the provision of such satellite offices is not conditional on a taxi rank being appointed as part of the process.
A taxi in the street plying for hire in response to a hail or found standing on a rank is an immediate hiring. Why would you need to use technology in order to engage a taxi when leaving a venue if one is standing outside?
Indeed, research carried out by the PCO showed that people leaving a venue will use taxis on first sight, that’s assuming of course sight lines at such ranks permit this.
Therefore, the positioning of ranks is vital in maximising their use, particularly at night, where taxi marshalling combined with a police presence ensures both passenger and driver safety given that alcohol has often been consumed prior to traveling home.
Whilst a London taxi drive may carry out pre-booked work, his or her main reason for completing the KoL to an exacting standard is to gain the right to ply for hire and is revered throughout the world for this. Apart from the taxi itself, taxi ranks are the most important tool of our trade, for the benefit of both the passengers and the drivers alike. They allow the driver to ply for hire even when parking restrictions are in operation as well as providing a high profile ‘’street presence’’. This was identified in the Sinclair Knight Merz Report 2004, with particular emphasis in relation to the use of taxi ranks within the suburbs.
Obviously, we welcome access to the use of technology. However, we should not be forced increasingly to operate like private hire drivers due to a lack of investment in taxi rank provision. Remember technology is relied upon solely by the private hire trade as the method of engaging with customers. We believe where there is a will there is a way. If revenue from licence fees cannot be used for this purpose then the law must change, or sponsorship or other means be found. Let’s assume a taxi rank costs approximately £4,000 to appoint. Then 100 will cost £400,000, which is not a lot compared to money spent on many other projects by TFL, given the mutual benefits for the public and drivers alike. After all, shouldn’t the public have both availability and choice? Especially regarding safer travel at night!
Therefore, given the importance of taxi ranks, we strongly believe that in the interests of openness and transparency the minutes of all meetings concerning both the appointment of and alteration of taxi ranks should be made available for all to see.
HOW CAN WE FUTURE PROOF OUR TRADE?
Case law has established that it is the vehicle that plies for hire and thus we must remind ourselves that we exercise our right to ply for hire via the vehicle we drive. Taxi ranks allow us to park our vehicles unhindered exercising this right. They also provide additional benefits in allowing the driver to take physical and mental breaks from driving around, as well as reducing fuel consumption not to mention lessening the negative impact on the environment.
Therefore, it is imperative for our future to be assured that;
1. Plying for Hire must be defined in law.
2. A mechanism made available within law for licensing authorities such as TFL to manage the growth of their taxi and private hire fleets.
3. The provision of taxi rank space where there is demand sufficient enough to accommodate the number of drivers/vehicles licensed within all sectors of (and including central) London.