Just when you thought it couldn't get any crazier, TfL show they are quite incapable of resolving problems at major night venues.
After constant pressure from the Taxi Leaks' team, plus ground work put in by the army of ordinary working drivers who make up the Tag hit Squad, TfL have decided to try to cool things down.
After a year of complaining about the widespread abuse from a TfL Private Hire operator, who's cars consistently use the Regent Street bus lane as a private minicab rank (with no fear of retribution from Council, Police or licensing authority) TfL are to trial marshalling at the site.
But!!! and here lies the major problem:
When the venues at Swallow Street start to get busy, between the hours of midnight and 4am, unbelievably, the marshals will be moved 100 yards up the road to the point of the Heddon Street rank. Absolute madness.
Since the Heddon Street rank was implemented, it's had the desired effect of discouraging minicabs from hanging up, illegally plying for hire and touting. It hasn't been used by Taxis as well as we would like to see, but there has been very few problems since it went live and with more drivers encourage to use the rank, it could become a huge success.
However, getting back to Swallow Street. Although there is some misuse of the bus lane during the timed restriction prior to midnight, the main body of touts arrive around midnight, just when the marshals will be marching away.
So, in our opinion this whole ridicules operation is a complete waste of budget.
Marshals, HAVE NO POWER TO STOP MINICABS RANKING OR TOUTING, as we see constantly at Charing Cross Road, Old Street and Liverpool Street Station.
There is, as always simple, common sense solutions to these problems.
The Marshals need to stay at Swallow Street and should be accompanied by a compliance officer. Although the CO has no power of stop, he can of course check the licensing details of any Taxi or Private Hire driver found standing. If in the officers opinion the driver is illegally plying for hire or touting, the officer has the power to take details and report.
But do TfL have the apatite to go up against their most favoured operator.
The PH company at the Gaucho restaurant, is the same one who was given 18 new satellite office licenses on the same day they registered as a new PH company, contra to TfL policy which states you have to be registered and in business for a minimum of one year before you can apply for a licence variation.
This is also the same company that was granted a satellite office licence at new change after a Taxi rank request was turned down.
This is also the same company who are allowed to form an illegal rank on double red lines, completely blocking a cycle lane outside old Billingsgate.
Surely TfL have consulted the UTG's Joint Ranks Committee on this, as part of their engagement policy?
How have working Taxi drivers agreed to this trial?
The RMT ranks and highways team have held discussions with both Westminster Council and their parking agents NSL, who have both gone on record to say they would consider a kerbside rank similar to the one at Heddon Street. This would also go a long way to contribute to solving the problem at Swallow Street Arch.