Ranks, hotels and apps. Can there ever be a workable code of conduct

Ever since the advent of the modern day cabbie, there have been "illegal ranks" formed. There have also been accusations of allegedly "bent hotels" as well as "bent drivers." Radio crcuits and apps don't escape criticism either with cries of "foul" when a concierge calls a cab via a circuit or an app.

Illegal ranks generally form at locations where there is an over-riding necessity for a properly marked out, legal rank, Praed Street by Paddington Station and The Ned Hotel in Poultry are just two examples in London.

Those two pop-up ranks have arisen in response to inadequacies in the siting of the original ranks. Badly sited ranks open the door to private hire vehicles creating ranks outside of busy locations so as to illegally ply for hire, as well as direct, person to person touting, where minicab drivers leave their vehicles so as to approach members of the unsuspecting public wanting a legitimate taxi, it creates a public safety issue. 

These ranks as well as others have emerged at many locations and operate where there is a public need. These ranks have also helped shape future ranking policies. Although these pop-up ranks are illegal they are ultimately a necessity.

The downside to these pop-up ranks is the fact that they deny passing taxi drivers work that should legitimately be going to them. Therefore despite the necessity of these pop-up ranks, no driver who is working these ranks can complain when a passing taxi driver picks up opposing an illegal rank. The job is "by right" the passing drivers job.

Hotels

We frequently hear the claim this hotel or that hotel is a "bent hotel." A hotel that which is considered "bent" because certain drivers are favoured. 

The term "bent hotel" is completely incorrect, it's a misnomer, the reality of the situation is that certain members of staff may be corrupt at certain hotels, which is completely different.

From the taxi industry's perspective, if certain members of some hotels are corrupt then this in turn would mean certain taxi drivers are corrupt, you cannot have one without the other.

There are a small minority of drivers who usurp their colleagues on legitimate ranks, and upon receiving a phone call from a hotel member of staff will then pick up what would be considered a prestige job,  in return they will pay that member of staff. In some cases those same said staff members, when they can't access their "preferred" driver, will then either go to the rank or flag a taxi off of the street. Upon loading the passenger in the taxi they will then ask for a fee, typically as much as £20 if it is an airport job. I myself have had this happen on a number of occasions and refused to pay, much to the staff members indignation.

This practice is completely immoral and could, in some cases, be considered a form of theft by those who have been servicing the rank. The only recourse of action seems to be to directly contact the hotel management to complain about the situation, however, in some cases drivers have also taken to reporting the individual staff member to the HMRC for obtaining an undeclared income.

Radio circuits and apps

Radio circuits, and laterly mobile phone apps, have been in existence for several decades now. Many of these circuits or apps, both past and present have accounts within hotels and corporations. A taxi can now literally be hailed at the touch of a button, but where does this leave taxi drivers who have been ranking at hotels or outside major corporations.

The attractive argument is that these drivers should join an app or radio circuit,  but some drivers don't want to do that they prefer to operate completely autonomously and take their chances on a rank, as is their right as self-employed individuals.

Whilst it is not illegal for any company to use an app or radio circuit to hail a cab, should these companies or hotels have a moral obligation to go to the rank first of all. The sensible and fair argument is yes, if an individual requires a taxi immediately and the job is not being paid by the circuit or app account holder.

There is nothing more convenient than finding a taxi sitting outside of your building when you require one immediately. To usurp the rank in favour of another method of hailing can potentially negate the need for a rank outside of that building and ultimately, inconvenience potential customers. The fair and sensible order of play should be to look to the rank first and then if the rank is empty, look to apps and circuits. Prebookings are of course an exception to this.

In summing up, from a taxi drivers perspective, where illegal practices take place, if you are prepared to prevent a fellow taxi driver from procuring a legal hiring because your own activity is illegal, you cannot complain when you are on the receiving end of the same treatment, a driver who pays a hotel staff member cannot complain about a radio circuit or app having a box in a hotel and the job going to the driver on the app.

The taxi industry needs a sensible code of conduct, one where drivers will not pay members of hotel staff for jobs and one where taxi drivers, when illegally ranking,  accept that they are stopping drivers obtaining passing trade, accept that they have no complaint with good grace. As for circuits and apps, there can be no complaint, they are a tool of the trade,  every driver has the choice to either use them.....or not.

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