Row over St Albans taxi rank change

St Andrew's Street taxi rank

St Andrew's Street taxi rank - Credit: Archant

Taxi drivers are calling for stricter monitoring of private hire cabs and fairer queuing systems after tensions reached boiling point on Friday and Saturday night.

Drivers working at the St Peter’s Street taxi rank have become frustrated after a second taxi rank, originally used as a ‘feeder’ to the main one at the top of St Peter’s Street, has been creating problems.

It was installed two years ago after taxis double parked at the main rank causing safety concerns.

With peak time for fares being Friday and Saturday nights, drivers at the feeder rank closest to Veeda nightclub are picking up a disproportionate amount of fares compared to the opposite taxi rank according to the St Albans and Harpenden Taxi Association (SAHTA).

General secretary Mudassar Yasin pointed out that having two ranks had become a big problem for drivers who were on the other side, as fares were already hard to pick up. He said: “Drivers I know are working from 7am to 5am straight at the weekends. That’s 22 hours. There is just no work.”

Both ranks operate between 9pm and 1am on Friday and Saturday nights but the Veeda rank converts to a separate rank at 1am, ready for the busiest time of the night.

Mudassar said: “It’s causing problems; it’s causing confusion between drivers and customers.

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“Why would they fix something that was already working, why disrupt that?”

After meeting with SAHTA on Tuesday, Mike Loveday, St Albans council’s legal services chief, said: “We are aware that taxi drivers were double parking in the main taxi rank on St Peter’s Street on Saturday night and in the early hours of Sunday morning.

“This is a dangerous practice that puts customers getting into taxis at risk when other taxis are driving down the rank alongside.

“This rank was created in 2012 to help provide extra space for taxi drivers and to aid with the safe dispersal of customers from Club Veeda so that they do not have to cross the road to get a taxi.”

To add to the driver’s frustration, an increase in private hire cabs have been picking up customers illegally and driving business away.

Private hire cabs are not allowed to pick up passengers who have not pre-booked their taxi ride, as they do not have the appropriate licence or insurance.

Mr Lovelady said: “The council’s taxi marshalls are on hand to help assist with the safety of both taxi drivers and their customers.

“They also work with the police to monitor Hackney Carriage taxis and Private Hire vehicles to ensure that they operate within the terms of their license.”