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Problems at the port; How can you help the trade?

Quite often our trade is adversely affected by the actions or indeed inactions of others. The traffic chaos caused by TfL and local authorities is a good case in point, but I will talk more about that in my next article.

One recent issue that has caused a bit of a kerfuffle comes from out west i.e. Heathrow. I know some of you will now be thinking of turning the page because you don’t work there and its of no concern to you, but you couldn’t be more wrong. If you regularly find yourself attempting to find a rank with spaces available just think how much harder it will be with a couple of thousand more drivers working full time in town! Heathrow has already seen a big influx of town drivers who have decided the chances of receiving a PCN or letter from TfL for over-ranking is lower. The police do seem to be turning up a couple of times a day instead of a couple times a week, but an ongoing charm offensive by some trade reps and the excellent work carried out by a handful of volunteer wardens ensures we don’t currently see more tickets being issued. So, what’s about to happen that has many drivers panicking? Two things: Crossrail and the 200 electric Jags that will shortly start to operate from Heathrow. Both have the full backing of airport managment because they are perceived as an environmentally cleaner transport solutions and Heathrow needs cleaner air if it ever wants to get a third runway, which is its number one priority. Will these two ventures impact our work at Heathrow? Absolutely they will, maybe not straight away like the Heathrow express did, but as Crossrail ramps up into full operation it will have a significant impact. 
So, what are we going to do about it? If we all continue as we have been i.e. heads buried in the sand, or too busy slinging mud at others in our own trade because they don’t look like with you, pray to the same God as you, don’t belong to the same trade org as you, then the answer is probably nothing. It’s no good sitting in the canteen or in the back of someone's cab saying it’s nothing to do with me, someone else needs to do something about it. We all need to be doing something about it, before the time eventually comes when it’s just too late. In all walks of life, if you lose work or you just want more then you need to go out and find it, but can we do that? After all, people either come to the rank or they don’t, right? Yes, that is true, but it’s also true that 89% of people that could potentially get a taxi from the airport rank have already booked a taxi or private hire car long before they even set foot on a plane. That’s a huge pool of passengers that we are missing out on and a huge number of passengers that never come to the rank. We would only need to capture a small portion of that to bring in much needed work. Obviously, there is a problem, but how do we capture that work? The answer could be as simple as having a booking website or having a tie up with various other booking websites, be they airlines or sites like expedia, but then that leads to other problems like:

  1. They would want a piece of the pie.

Prices would have to be fixed.

Maybe we need to ask ourselves what’s the problem we would rather have:

  1. Giving away a percentage of income?

  2. Receiving a fixed price for completing a hiring?

  3. Sitting in an empty cab in a full feeder park for more hours than there is daylight?

Is it more palatable if we say:

  1. Spend a bit of money to make more money? After all if we tied up with booking sites they would be advertising our services worldwide.

  2. Get paid a fair price for giving a service, because fixed fares don’t have to mean LOW fares?

  3. Do the above, increase work and maybe you’ll be home with money in the bank and some daylight hours still left in the day?

I can already hear the mumbles; “we’ve tried it all before and it didn’t work,” and to them I say so we try again and maybe it will work. I’m not saying the above is the answer, it’s just a possible answer. I’m not saying it will be easy to achieve, it could be nigh on impossible. What I am saying is if YOU don’t start taking a real interest and YOU don’t start looking for real solutions and commit to them then don’t expect things to improve for YOU. You could be and probably will be saying the unions or I should be doing something, believe me I’ve tried. Unfortunately, whilst some reps think it’s more important to keep a silly feud going by dragging up events from many years gone by, or refuse to go along with an idea because it’s not theirs, or whilst small groups of opinionated, self-interested drivers waste my time with petty issues, then I’m just banging my head against a brick wall. Most of the drivers that have thwarted good ideas out west in the past because the idea didn’t suit them are no longer driving cabs, but the consequences of their actions are very much affecting all of us today. So, my question to the next generation is, will you maintain the endless loop of allowing the opinionated, self-interested minority to dictate to you or will you say “what can I do to help?”

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