Tag Archives: london taxis

Best Before Cabs

When John Major, that grey man of politics, brought in the Food Labelling Regulations 1996, which compelled manufacturers to place an ‘appropriate durability indication’ on items, he unleashed a tide of bureaucracy. How can Deep Heat embrocation, candles and salt, that great preserver need a use by date? Now we have just have the Copenhagen summit where Climate Change Junkies have said we have just 40 days to save the planet.

[D]id some cavers go into an unknown void and find the inscription: ‘Manufactured 4.54 billion years ago; Best before soon after the end of Pleistocene Period’?

Now Mayor Boris Johnston has waded (if that is the correct term with the melting icecaps) into the debate. In an ‘inverted pyramid of piffle’, he has commissioned a consultation document on how long should a London black cab remain licensed.

According to Boris, all cabs should have a finite life of 10 years. Never mind that some of the newer vehicles have very low CO2 emissions and that building a new cab produces far more damage to the environment than merely patching up the old droshky.

In a separate but not unrelated dictat those Bumbling Bureaucrats of Brussels intend to foist the working time directive on self employed cabbies.

The Directive provides a definition of the types of activities that should be included in the calculation of working time. These are: driving; loading and unloading; assisting passengers boarding and disembarking from the vehicle; cleaning and technical maintenance; and all other work intended to ensure the safety of the vehicle. It also covers the times during which a worker cannot dispose freely of their time and are required to be at their workstation. The Directive also regulates maximum weekly working time, breaks, rest periods and night work which at present amount to a total of 48 hours a week.

So there you have it, assuming I work 48 weeks a year the maximum life of my vehicle will be just 960 days, some of that time will be sitting on a rank, maintaining the vehicle and other sundry chores and the rest driving at the London average speed of 12mph.

Sorry can’t say that it must be expressed in kilometres, whatever that is.

The lunatics have taken over the asylum

It’s now been four weeks since London’s Black Cabbies protested about the Public Carriage Office (‘PCO’) allowing an unsuitable person to start the Knowledge.

The gentleman concerned has now been removed from the course but the public have a right to know if there are any other criminals driving London’s Black Cabs.

For their safety and our reputation relies on it.

[A]s reported extensively in London’s media the PCO allowed a paranoid schizophrenic with convictions for manslaughter and assault to study for the Knowledge. Even worst when a spokesman for the PCO was interviewed by James Whale on LBC he could not, or would not give assurances that other criminals with convictions for serious offences were not aspiring cabbies. He even went as far as to state that the whistleblower within the PCO, if discovered, would be subject to a ‘serious reprimand procedure’.

When I did the Knowledge part of the test was putting the student under pressure to see how they would react. For, how can I put this politely? Some of you can be awkward when you have had a drink, or when we have taken an incorrect route. Unlike other occupations these disputes have to be resolved between ourselves in isolation. If a person with mental health issues has to confront that situation there is nobody around to give them support.

By allowing rickshaws and the blatant touting in the West End every night I’m beginning to lose confidence that this regulatory body has the ability to protect the public. It shouldn’t be cabbies who have to draw the public’s attention these dangers and put pressure on the PCO to do its job.

Picture by Dominic Shannon.

Tweet for a Cab

It’s been three months since London cabbie Richard Cudlip set up the first virtual taxi rank on Twitter. It started when 30 London black cab drivers met on the social networking site and decided that instead of sharing information about traffic, busy areas or sending cabbie trivia to each other, it could be used to attract business.

Customers have to ‘follow’ the taxi service on Twitter and send a private message to make a booking, so avoiding revealing their location publicly on the internet. When they receive a reply, they can liaise directly with the driver, rather than through an office.

So the question has to be asked, with hundreds of followers, has the King of Twitter, Stephen Fry signed up to the Tweet a London Cab?

Preaching Heresy

As you read this they are already stacking the kindling wood for me in Smithfield, but I feel it has to be discussed. London is experiencing the worst decline in its core business for a generation and cabbies not renowned for being stoical never stop complaining about the loss of business. With so many cabs available companies have in some cases stopped pre-booking them, telling their employees to hail from the street.

[W]e now have the opportunity to become the first city in the world to have a completely integrated transport system (excluding rickshaws).

By allowing cabs to accept Oyster Cards while at the same time drivers should offer an appropriate discounted rate for the journey (say 20 per cent) for using the card.

At the same time TfL runs a promotional campaign spearheaded by Boris Johnson and offering tokens in the Evening Standard, I believe could be of mutual benefit to all participants.

By promoting the fact that we are helping London’s struggling businesses by keeping down their costs might even help raising London cabbies’ profile, possibly changing the view held by many that we are greedy and self serving.

Sponsorship from a body like the London Chamber of Commerce, could offer prizes for the cabbie who gave the most discounted rides and the most frequent passenger who availed themselves of the service. Corporate sponsorship of the scheme could be extended to a tie in with the London Olympics.

Another idea suggested by the Chairman of the London Taxi Driver’s Association is that with London’s transport bursting at the seams in the morning and evening rush hour, TfL could introduce an online system to marry up empty cabs travelling to and from London with commuters. With again a discounted fare balancing what the passenger would normally pay on the train with the convenience of being picked up locally and having a seat for their entire journey.

While Tweet a London Cab the fledgling (sorry about that) no booking fee service, who allow people to book a cab via Twitter should also have wider coverage, possibly incorporating that morning and evening commute suggestion.

As a footnote; TfL pay some of their staff over £100,000 a year to think up these incentives, and I offer them gratis, so you see we cabbies can be altruistic.

Now boys, do you still want to tie me to a stake and roast me?