Doing away with the iconic black cab turning circle is the ‘last thing we want to do’ says UCG General Secretary as debate on the vehicle’s feature engulfs the sector.
London is unlikely to see the iconic taxi turning circle scrapped anytime soon, but fresh debate within the industry has surfaced as cabbies look for more taxi vehicle choice to enter the market.
The feature, synonymous with the capital’s black taxi, is seen by some drivers as too expensive and restricts vehicle options. On the flip-side, many others see the feature as a unique selling point that distinguishes the trade from private hire services.
The United Cabbies Group (UCG) shared their opinion on the hot topic stating the turning circle must stay should the licensed taxi industry wish to maintain a two-tier system.
Trevor Merralls, United Cabbies Group General Secretary, said: “In our view, this (doing away with the turning circle) is the last thing we want to do. Yes we all acknowledge that the TXE is a very expensive taxi and we would all like a cheaper vehicle, but the TXE is a purpose built London Taxi recognised as iconic and famous the world over. We do the Knowledge of London to be able to drive a London Taxi at the end of it.
“Doing away with the turning circle would undoubtedly open the market up, we would have a choice of a factory built vehicle with the potential to convert into a Taxi. How much the removal of the turning circle would reduce the price is a total unknown and speculation. However, the choice of vehicle would be the same that PHV have. The public recognise our vehicle because it is a London Taxi and that is what they look for; the iconic shape, for hire light and so on. What next to bring down our cost? Should we do away with the partition? Get rid of the meter? Maybe our wheelchair accessibility?
“If we do any of these things then in our view we cease to be a publicly hired vehicle. Throw in a quicker Knowledge of London, all working in the same way via app technology, it would lead inevitably to a one tier.
“Stop PHV working in our market via app technology a market they are neither trained, licenced or qualified to work in, then there might be more confidence in purchasing the TXE. In our view a better route would be to lobby government to remove the VAT on the basis we drive a publicly hired wheelchair accessible vehicle.
“The taxi trade should be focusing on that rather than keep looking to lower our standards. It’s a shame those who continue to spout about LEVC having a monopoly on the vehicle have never done anything to protect what we have. We are a regulated monopoly because we earned the sole right to ply for hire by completing the Knowledge of London.
“Our regulator continues to further blur the lines and seems hell bent on moving us nearer towards one tier - as a trade we should not help them achieve this. We need to protect the distinctions in the two tiers not help TfL further blur this in the minds of the public. If we don’t value what we have, don’t be surprised when it’s devalued.”
According to Transport for London (TfL) approximately 50million U-turns are performed by London taxis each year. A further 90million ‘tight-turns' are performed on an annual basis too.
The Conditions of Fitness are intended to ensure that all taxis operating in London are safe and fit for purpose.
In 2002, the Public Carriage Office (PCO) undertook a full review of the Conditions of Fitness which was completed in June 2003.
Some changes were made while other conditions remained the same. Three aspects were challenged by Allied Vehicles Limited, one of which included the turning circle requirement.
Following research it was decided to retain the turning-circle requirement.
Speaking in December 2005, Roy Ellis, Head of the PCO, said: "After a comprehensive review, it was found that the tight turning-circle produced tangible significant benefits to the travelling public, and that these outweighed the advantages of removing it.
"Allied Vehicles alleged that the retention of the turning-circle requirement led to fewer taxis, higher fares, less suitable taxis for the needs of the disabled and the unavailability of safer and more comfortable taxis, to the disadvantage in general of passengers and drivers alike.
“The facts of these alleged disbenefits were not borne out by the research undertaken.
"Approximately 50m U-turns and over 90m other tight turns are performed by London taxis each year.
"If these U-turns were replaced by multi-point turns and other alternative complex manoeuvres, this could cause delay and impede other road users.
"Overall, during this review, both passengers and drivers preferred the existing London Taxi."