power to the cabbies….

rubbish map of battlefield

rubbish map of battlefield

….power to the cabbies, right on.  I think John Lennon would have been a good cabbie, having a sharp tongue and being a bit bolshie are essential cabbie traits in my book.  I’m not going to bore you with the ins & outs of what it was all about but do want to have a bit of a say on the matter.  Black cab drivers need to do the job they are trained to do, to the best of their ability and stop being picky about where they go.  Mini cabs need to do their job as well and stop filling up taxi ranks and generally breaking the law by touting for business.  And the PCO need to be in the middle to ensure that there is a clear definition between the 2 sides.  It’s simple really, and if all sides co-operate demos like yesterday won’t be needed.

demo-iiSo, onto the demo.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and yes, I am aware that it inconvenienced a lot of people for a few hours.  But we could have picked a worse time to do it.  As London seems to have taken 4 days to recover from that snow stuff, Central London has been relatively quiet anyway.  And from what I saw, cab drivers did their best to allow trapped vehicles out of the middle so that they could continue their journeys.  Reports during the morning had been saying that 10,000 cabs were due to converge on Trafalgar Square, but it was never going to be that many.  In reality, after I had driven around the Square about 4 times from 12:30pm with no sign of anything happening, it only took about 20 cabs to park by the King Charles I island to bring the traffic to a grinding halt.  I wasn’t one of the 20 but was close behind and managed to double park next to another Dial-A-Cab driver right by King Charles.  At that time cabs were arriving from all directions and Whitehall seemed to be full of them.  The police moved us on from the middle of the square only for all of us to double back up Whitehall and completely block the road both ways.  They seemed a bit slow on the uptake did our plod friends, but good natured with it.  Eventually they worked out that they should put some cones down the middle of Whitehall and surrounding roads to stop the u-turns.  But when they sent us down Cockspur St towards Pall Mall they had forgotten that you can double back around the Texas Embassy to get back on the Square.  Only a few of us managed to do that and ended up on our own and unmolested for the rest of the demo.  Parked right outside Canada House with no traffic coming through the square was a strange experience, I’ll expect my parking fine in the post.

my cab looking a bit lonley in Trafalgar Sq

my cab looking a bit lonely in Trafalgar Sq

And so we sat and chatted while LBC had blanket coverage of the demo and tried working themselves up into a frenzy.  They even had people giving out car stickers and generally trying to persuade us that it isn’t a bit rubbish normally.  We passed the time of day with bemused tourists and a few narked commuters, although most Londoners we spoke to had a bit of sympathy for us.  And then coming from a westerly direction came Dougie Donnelley.  Good naturedly he asked where he could find a cab and we had a bit of laugh and joke about not being able to see one anywhere.  Trust me, it was hilarious.  And then he was gone, off towards Northumberland Ave in the hope of finding a cab.  No chance.

And finally at about 3:30pm the LTDA said we were done and off we went into the sunset.  As you will from my Flickr feed to the right, I have posted a few more photos up there, none of which are any good.

And so, after going off piste this week, this blog will finally return to it’s more familiar territory of least used roads, useless bits of London and, of course, lampposts.  Thank you for your patience.


6 thoughts on “power to the cabbies….

  1. I see the knives are out again.
    BTW we are not dearer than PHV mini cabs, we are actually cheaper.
    Try getting a minicab from West One in Whitcomb Street to Bayswater,
    Mini Cab £20, Taxi Cab £12. or Heddon Street to Hendon Central, Mini cab clipboard man £35 , Taxi Cab £25.
    On most journeys with 4 or 5 passengers we are actually cheaper than the underground as five can ride for the price of one
    We are safer it’s a fact, according to the Mayor office and figures published by TFL, there are over 8 serious sexual assaults in Licensed Private hire mini cabs every month including rape.
    We do go south of the river, the myth that we don’t is put about by devious mini cab drivers. Just look at the new work in south London, Clapham Junction and High street are seething with work.

    Oscar If I took you to a destination in the city from the west end using a GPS it would double the fare and you would be screaming blue murder.
    Plus the Taxi trade does not have a monopoly, fact, anyone with intelligence can do the knowledge and become a London Taxi driver there is no bar. Those without intelligence can become mini cab drivers.

    Oscar, I think you are an angry mini cab driver and therefore bias.

  2. I have to say – I’m a big fan of black cabs and would always choose them over a minicab had I the choice. From past experience I’ve consistently found black cabs cheaper (having, for example, been quoted £50 from a minicab driver for Old Street – Bank, or £40 for Vauxhall – Balham).

    BUT. You’re absolutely right that some cabbies need to up their game, and I’m so glad that there are voices within the industry who also feel the same way. There is an absolute dearth of cabs at 11/12/1/2/3 at night, and when you do find one, invariably the cabbie rejects any destination that it outside of Zone One. This is the sort of behaviour drives people to minicabs.

    I hope rather than just prompting frothing at the mouth, the minicab trade prompts a bit more of an introspective look within the black cab trade.

    I think there’s also a few lessons that could be learnt from other cities. For example, I’ve seen minicab firms in Manchester have “INSURANCE VOID IF NOT BOOKED VIA OPERATOR” in big letters on the side of the car – perhaps something that should be a condition of the minicab license in London?

    • Mark. Thanks for the comments. All very reasonable. I think the problem with black cabs at night is a complex one. When it’s really busy you just don’t end up empty in the middle of town. After going any distance out you, hopefully, get hailed again before you get anywhere near the centre. It’s only if you drop off in the centre that you are then it the right place to service those punters. It’s then that cab drivers are their own worst enemies by refusing to go to certain areas, something I’ve never understood. I would encourage anyone who gets refused to take the number of the cab & report them to the PCO. Black cab drivers, on the whole, don’t fear the repercussions of being reported because people just don’t bother. It’s also a product of being able to pick & choose for years, now cab drivers aren’t going to be able to be so selective. The next issue is to do with mini cabs themselves. Anytime I’m in the West End late at night (or anywhere with any night clubs or bars) they are everywhere (legal or not) often causing a physical obstruction in the street. Often buses, taxi and other vehicles can’t even get down Haymarket because there are so many mini cabs parked in the bus lanes!! Add to this the menace of “clipboard johnnies” (completely illegal despite what they try and tell you) and you might start to understand why black cabs just give some of these areas a wide berth. And finally, there is the issue of black cabs being taken off the road for account work. Again, in the current climate, less of an issue but 100’s of cabs are unavailable every night because they are doing account work for the radio circuits, I am on Dial-A-Cab myself. A lot of these cabs will now become available so I would imagine the late night problem of finding a black cab will not be so bad.

      Best solution I’ve heard was from an Aussie who told me that in Adelaide (or it might have been Melbourne) they have “off-peak” cabs which are a different colour (difficult I know with ads on cabs) that are only allowed to work between certain hours. In London the yellow badge black cab drivers (those that are only allowed to work the suburbs) could be allowed to take on this role but only if the difference between the 2 is clear and easily enforceable.

      Thanks again for stopping by.

  3. Oscar – I’m not sure where to start in reply! Let me start by saying that I fully understand that certain cabbies need to get their act together before starting to moan. They need to stop refusing people (assuming the request is within limits) for a start. The rest of your post, I’m afraid shows a complete lack of understanding of the cab trade. Allowing all & sundry to pick up off the street would be the worse thing we could do. Then all sorts of dodgy people would out there looking to rip people off and targeting the vulnerable. And without the knowledge all those untrained drivers would be fiddling around with their SatNavs as soon as people got in the car and clogging up the roads. Yes, black cab drivers use SatNavs (I do myself) but only for jobs that go a long way out of the centre. And as for price, I really don’t think you’ve got that right. For long journeys yes, black cabs will be more expensive but on the whole, for the majority of journeys black cabs can do the same distance for nearly the same price. (btw the increase in night rates was about 5 years ago, brought in by Ken Livingstone) The cab firm that pick up from the Whitcomb St “rank” have a minimum charge of £20, even on rate 3 you can get quite a long way in a black cab for £20. If we go ahead and have a free for all, who will control prices then? I don’t go out in the middle of town very often but when I do, I’ve never had a problem getting a black cab. There might be occasional problems right in the centre at peak times but you can’t have 1,000’s of cabs driving around empty the rest of the day, just to be there for the 1 or 2 hours when it’s really busy. No-one (not even the mini cabs) would make a living that way.

  4. The sooner black cab drivers lose their monopoly on picking up passengers in the street the better.

    Black cabs are way too expensive and it is still impossible to get one late at night despite them being allowed to increase their fares massively last year to try and encourage them to work late.

    The knowledge is pretty pointless these days given any cab can use a GPS. Indeed more and more black cabs seem to be using these devices themselves.

    I hope TFL goes further and allows any licenced minicab to pick up in the street. We londonders are fed up of not being able to get a taxi on the street late at night – no other major city in the world has this issue, and our black cabs must be one of the most expensive taxi services in the world. On Saturday night I finally found one who then just rudely drove off again after i’d told him where I was going (and it wasn’t even south of the river!)

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