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MCNAMARA: Pandemic not an excuse in finding solutions on chargepoint issues holding taxi trade back

Taxi image credit: LEVC

Taxi representatives are demanding to see action from Transport for London (TfL) on issues that are holding the trade back and creating problems for drivers, as the trade emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.

Steve McNamara, the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) General Secretary, has asked for quicker movement on solutions surrounding dedicated electric chargepoint access to taxi drivers in the capital.

The taxi representative accused decision makers of using the pandemic as the ‘latest excuse’ as they stall to find solutions on key issues affecting taxi drivers in the capital.

Licensed taxi drivers have questioned why new chargepoint technology, available to the private hire firm Uber, has not been made available to the black cab industry after months of calling for urgent action.

The cabbies' frustrations follow the opening of the UK’s first rapid charging hub for fleet vehicles, which includes dedicated and protected card enabled access chargepoints for Uber partner-drivers

The multi-charger hub located on Mayfair’s Park Lane currently provides rapid charging for 10 vehicles, with future plans to more than double its capacity in the coming months.

According to sources, the two Uber-dedicated chargers are set up in such a way that it only allows Uber drivers with valid cards able to access them.

bp pulse are also expected to work with the licensed taxi industry to look at the best way to enable black cabs access to the remaining, non-Uber dedicated, chargers.

However, for many months tensions have remained high in the taxi industry as drivers trying to use e-taxi charging facilities find Rapid Charging Points (RCP) BLOCKED by minicabs and other motorists.

McNamara wrote in TAXI Newsaper: “The Coronavirus crisis and devastating impact of the pandemic on the taxi trade, put many of the issues we had previously been working to try to fix and support our members with, on the back burner.

“Members had bigger challenges to deal with like simply paying their bills and keeping their cabs on the road. Meanwhile, policymakers didn’t want to listen, blaming their inability to do anything and everything on the pandemic.

“In reality, the pandemic was just the latest excuse in a long line of them. So, now that the worst of it is hopefully behind us, we want to see action from TfL and others, on issues that are holding the trade back and creating problems for drivers.

“Over the last few weeks, as more and more drivers have returned to work, one of these issues (which not only impacts drivers' day-to-day work but will also undermine the trade’s longer-term recovery), is access to charging points. With more than

a third of the taxi fleet now zero emission capable, the shortage of charging points is becoming more apparent. Too often drivers also can’t access dedicated taxi-only charging points as they find them being used by a van or more often a PHV driver with total impunity, and probably end up in a row.

“The LTDA has been calling for more dedicated charging points since the TXE was launched – pushing TfL on access to points that sit unused in bus garages during

the day, calling for the development of dedicated charging hubs with multiple charging points for taxis and highlighting the need for enforcement at existing e-taxi only points, which can easily be achieved by introducing an RFID card system which would only allow taxi drivers to use these points.

“Whilst we have been assured time and again that these issues are being looked into, little progress has been made. Or like on enforcement, we are told it’s “too difficult”, yet we are constantly hearing of other operators introducing the necessary technology.

“Instead, TfL send out ‘reminders’ by email and on Twitter telling PHV drivers not to use them, as if that will make a difference! I have now contacted key people at TfL asking for an update on what progress has been made on this issue, as well as on plans for the taxi charging hub we were promised at Baynard House in the City.

“In the meantime, we are also trying to take matters into our own hands. I have been reaching out to a number of charging networks to see if we can work with them

to develop a taxi-only hub in central London and to get our members a better deal.

“There is appetite from them to work with us, but the biggest problem these companies face is getting access to land, which is either controlled by councils and TfL – who move at a snail’s pace and seem to make things as difficult as possible – or big institutional investors and landowners who are impossible to reach. We are looking to see how we might be able to help through contacts in the London Chamber of Commerce and elsewhere.”


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