Cabbies warn of second strike in St Albans
Council to consider more ranks to ease congestion
CABBIES who went on strike in St Albans this week have vowed to continue their fight to force the district council to cap taxi licences by holding a second strike next Wednesday.
Mudassar Yasin, general secretary of St Albans and Harpenden Taxi Association (SAHTA), said about 80 members took part in the three-hour-long protest on Monday, joining a convoy from St Albans City railway station and through the town centre.
He said: “We had a good turnout.”
Mudassar said a static demonstration would be held from 2pm to 7pm next Wednesday, August 3, at ranks in St Albans city centre, St Albans City railway station, and possibly at the Harpenden train station. Association members will not pick up passengers during their protest.
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They are aggrieved that their request for the number of hackney carriage vehicle licences issued to be capped was recently rejected by the St Albans district council licensing and regulatory committee.
Committee chairman, Cllr Gordon Myland, said the bid was refused following guidance from council officers and the Office of Fair Trading.
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Between 1995 and 1999, the council restricted the number of licences. In 1999 this stood at 127 but following a request from cabbies at that time and concerns from within the council about the impact of restricting licences, particularly given the need to increase the number of wheelchair accessible vehicles, that limit was removed.
Licences have since risen to 259 hackney carriage vehicles.
The association said deregulation had impacted on cabbies’ income, forcing long-term drivers to leave the trade, and had resulted in congestion on inner city ranks.
Cllr Myland said there was sympathy for the need for more taxi ranks in the city. Officers were currently investigating additional rank provision at several places, including from 9pm until 3am Thursday to Sunday outside Havana in Victoria Street, two loading bays opposite the Cross Keys pub and from 6.30pm till 7.30am Monday to Sunday outside HSBC bank, He said: “We are hoping to be able to do something there, at least during the evenings, if not during the day.”
With regard to cabbies’ concerns about the impact of additional licences on their income, Cllr Myland said the committee recently agreed to a request from SAHTA to increase charges on the fare tariff, as fares were lower than those in neighbouring authorities.