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Article below is from The Evening Chronicle, 29th Aug

By Sean Seddon 

Click here to read the full article including an interview with committee member, John Hirst
Mobirise

John Hirst, Urfan Hussain, Mohammad Youssaf, Richard Ahmed and Mark Cowie

outside the gate where a taxi rank has been removed (Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

"Taxi drivers behind Newcastle "go to work" day which have
caused gridlock have a message for the council"

The Newcastle Hackney Carriage Drivers Association says members have been forced to take drastic action by Newcastle City Council

"Go to work day"

Meet the taxi drivers willing to bring streets to a halt to protect their livelihoods.

Newcastle’s black cab drivers are taking their fight to the council, which they accuse of devastating the city’s hackney carriage trade.

Drivers say Newcastle has seen an influx of private hire drivers, particularly working for Uber, which has squeezed the market for traditional cabs.

Coupled with a reduction in ranks around the city centre, the men behind the Newcastle Hackney Carriage Drivers Association (NHCDA) claim they are being forced to take drastic action to make themselves heard.

Apologies to the public.

On August 23, drivers descended on the a rank between Eldon Square and Haymarket, causing serious congestion on the surrounding roads.

Just five days later, they did the same again on a smaller scale - and they haven’t ruled out more civil disobedience.

NHCDA spokesman John Hirst, 57, who has been driving cabs in Newcastle for 30 years, said: “We want to apologise to people who have been disrupted but we feel ignored by Newcastle City Council.

“We don’t have an alternative, we need to exercise our right to go to work and take this action because people’s livelihoods are at risk here.”

NHCDA Membership.

The NHCDA, which represents over half of the city’s roughly 800 hackney carriage drivers, insists it is not “protesting”, instead referring to the action as “go to work days” which highlight the lack of rank spaces.

The tactic sees drivers turn up to one rank and, because it’s already full of other drivers, they go on to the closest one.

When that’s full too, they return to the first rank, overwhelming the roads between the two and causing gridlock.

Meetings have taken place between the NHCDA and the council but the drivers are prepared for a long fight and have organised formally under the chairmanship of Mohammad ‘Inty’ Youssaf.

Newcastle has seen a rise in the number of private hire drivers on the road.

The required test a driver needs to do has also been simplified, which NHCDA says encouraged an unsustainable influx of drivers.

By law, local authorities are not able to impose a cap on the number of licences issued.

But the group says this has put strain on existing drivers who have seen new drivers eat into their trade, legally and, they claim, illegally.


Private Hire cars parked around the CIty.

Mr Hirst said: “Having lots of cars around might be a good thing for passengers because you’re less likely to have to wait a long time.

“But we’ve seen private hires parked around the city centre plying for trade which hasn’t been pre-booked which they’re not legally allowed to do.

“What that means for passengers is if that car is in an accident, the insurance won’t cover you if you’re hurt.

“The locality test has been massively stripped back too making it much easier for drivers to get a licence.

“We have a ‘quantity over quality’ situation going on in Newcastle.”

Rank space near The Gate has become a contentious issue between the NHCDA and the council.

Spaces on Newgate Street, which drivers said was one of their most important spots to find work, have been removed in favour of a reduced number of spaces on nearby Clayton Street.

Rank removal.

Mr Hirst said: “We had a perfectly good, working rank outside The Gate which was removed without any consultation.

“The council have made it much harder for us to pick up passengers at busy spots and harder to move around the city due to lanes we can’t use and roads we can no longer turn onto.

“All it has done is damaged our livelihoods and pushed up fares for passengers.”

Council reply.

The council says the Newgate Street rank was removed to aid the reliability of buses.

Arlene Ainsley, cabinet member for transport and air quality, said: “The council is committed to working with the taxi trade to develop locations that work in the best interests of all road users.

“We are aware that some hackney carriage drivers have raised concerns about other drivers illegally plying for hire. This is an issue Newcastle City Council takes very seriously. In cooperation with Northumbria Police, test purchases and spot checks are frequently carried out and prosecutions sought where necessary.

“Changes to the Locality Test were introduced in 2015 following Government recommendations. The interview has been re-developed with emphasis toward licensing responsibility, legislation and driver conditions in addition to disability and vulnerability issues, passenger safety and customer service, medical fitness, road safety and expected compliance.

“It also continues to include local geography assessment.”

Mobirise

Article below is from The Evening Chronicle 29th Aug

By Kathryn Riddell, Multimedia Journalist & Sean Seddon

"Newcastle city centre traffic disruption RECAP:
Third taxi-driver demonstration comes to an end"

Action from some Newcastle taxi drivers is causing more traffic disruption

Disruption.

Motorists in Newcastle city centre faced disruption after a second-consecutive day of action by some taxi drivers.

Taxis descended on the same rank between Haymarket and Eldon Square at the same time, creating congestion in the area, with buses struggling to access the bus station.

Go North East services X84 and X85 were not serving Gallowgate or Eldon Square and were terminating at Central Station.

The demonstration ended at 3pm and traffic is now starting to recover in the city centre.

The disruption follows Thursday's widespread traffic chaos , organised by the newly-formed Newcastle Hackney Carriage Driver Association (NHCDA) which intends to raise awareness about a number of issues for drivers in the city.

According to organisers, who dubbed it a ‘Go to Work Day’, the action was arranged to highlight the lack of rank spaces in Newcastle.

Some buses were stuck in traffic for an hour and at one point all services were told to avoid the area altogether, throwing timetables into disarray and leaving passengers lining up.

Council claim to be working with the trade.

In response to the protest, councillor Arlene Ainsley, cabinet member for transport and air quality, said:

"The council is committed to working with the taxi trade to develop locations that work in the best interests of all road users.

We are aware that some hackney carriage drivers have raised concerns about other drivers illegally plying for hire.

This is an issue Newcastle City Council takes very seriously.

In cooperation with Northumbria Police, test purchases and spot checks are frequently carried out and prosecutions sought where necessary".

Response from NHCDA - **Newcastle City Council continue failing to inform the public that they stopped enforcing the Private Hire locality test & this is the main reason over 1500 Private Hire vehicles are now plated for Newcastle. Concerns with "air quality" did not seem an issue when this decision was made - Did Newcastle City Council not realise the impact of 1500 extra vehicles could bring on the environment?**

"We had to resort to this"

John Hirst, a Newcastle Hackney Carriage Drivers Association spokesperson said: “I’d like to make an apology to the public for any distress this has caused today but we feel as hackney carriage drivers that...we’ve had to resort to this.”

He added they don’t consider it a protest because they are “only exercising our right to come to work”.

Mr Hirst went on: “It’s not out fault there aren’t enough rank spaces, it’s Newcastle City Council’s fault.”

300 cars

Driver estimates '300 cars' on the road
I’ve just spoken to a driver who reckons there are 300 cars on the road now.

Everyone is keeping tight-lipped down here but I’m 99.99% sure this is going to keep happening.

Police stopping taxis

Police trying to stop taxis entering street

An officer is trying to stop taxis from going into a filter lane at Eldon Square. It isn't working.

Reminder: these drivers aren't doing anything they're not entitled to, they're just all doing it at the same time.

NHCDA Statement

“The Newcastle Hackney carriage Drivers Association, the main body representing the city’s hackney carriage trade, has decided to exercise the right of all hackney carriage drivers by having a Go to Work Day to highlight the difficulties of having insufficient rank spaces within the city centre.

“The hackney carriage trade has suffered serious setbacks as a direct result of Newcastle City Council removing ranks without prior consultation or involvement from drivers.

“The recent closure of the taxi rank at The Gate, in particular, has created substantial difficulties for hackney carriage vehicles to move around the city and this is further exacerbated by limited or restricted access through bus lanes and gates.

“This, together with the historic closure of ranks, has caused an accumulation of problems and the hackney carriage industry feels that essential driving routes, whilst transporting members of the public, have become complicated and with increased fares, and therefore not in the interests of public safety or convenience.

“Hackney carriage drivers are keen to address the problems of insufficient rank spaces provided by Newcastle City Council.

“The difficulties of finding spaces which are accessible to members of the public, particularly at weekends, has a direct effect on traffic congestion and traffic flow.

“This is also impacted by the numbers of private hire vehicles which illegally park up and ply for hire preventing the hackney carriage trade from legally working.

“The numbers of private hire licences issued by the Licensing Department have increased threefold in as many years due to reductions in the criteria for issuing private hire licences.

“The city centre, at weekends, is flooded with private hire drivers accepting non pre-booked work and whilst there may be difficulties managing and policing this, the hackney carriage industry firmly believe it is the responsibility of the local authority to prevent this from occurring.

“The resulting issues with traffic congestion, public safety, air quality and pollution, which are known agendas for Newcastle City Council, should be tied in with their licensing policies and practices, otherwise their members are being counter-productive.

“Whilst the hackney carriage industry recognises and welcomes Newcastle City Council’s plan to further pedestrianise the city centre and increase access to shopping, leisure and tourism, drivers want members of the public to be aware of and able to use a Black Cab as an official emblem of the city and an integral part of the city centre’s transport system.”

Posted on 28th August 2018 in PHTM 

Taxi driver demonstration caused congestion in Newcastle.


 

Posted on 29th August 2018 in Taxi Point.

Taxi demos continue in Newcastle.