In the past a Taxi rank has always been situated by the main exit on South Carriage Drive (SCD). But on the opening day, Taxi drivers found no rank or facility to rank. Embarrass trade representatives from the United Trade Group (UTG) Ranks Committee (LTRC), hurriedly made inquiries and were told that the event company wants to move the Taxi Rank to the north side of Hyde Park on North Carriage Drive (NCD).
But drivers decided this would be inappropriate as people leaving the venue wouldn't have a clue where the rank was and would have to walk through the darken park, almost the length of Park Lane, and so they formed a flash demo and ranked outside the main exit.
A message was put out by the LTDA that Taxis should use both SCD and NCD, but last night curious drivers found no access to NCD as the gates were shut.
So what's going on?
Yesterday evening, the United Cabbies Group put out this message on social media:
"Unconfirmed reports that a satellite office licence has been issued for Winter Wonderland, we are trying to confirm".
Customer services manager, Paul Ellis of PWR events, has already issued a statement saying that THEY personally will not be offering private hire booking services, but TfL can't be trusted not to have given a satellite operation licence to a PH company.
In the past, we have seen satellite offices operating outside many venues in London ranging from roped off sections on the pavement (unlawful), an old Phone Box, even an archway next to a locked door on More Lane.
We have to remember TfL have no shame and don't stick to the rules when issuing licence variations.
We have now been informed that TPH general manager Helen Chapman, has asked the three representative groups making up the UTG, to encourage their members to use the rank in North Carriage Drive.
This definitely stinks of a sell out, similar to the Olympic rank sell out, where Taxi ranks were hidden away from venue exits and PH were allowed to wait outside picking off the punters.
But how has it come to this?
Surely that's why we have a London Taxi Ranks Committee, chaired by The LTDA's Richard Masset, hosted by Unite the union.
Why was this situation, not sorted out weeks or even months ago?
We will have to wait and see what's to happen at WinterWonderland. We have been informed that there is an emergency meeting scheduled for Monday morning.
The trade must not lose this rank.
Drivers have shown they are willing to fight, all the way if need be, to keep the right to pick up the public leaving a major events such as this. If necessary, we will bang the place up with Taxis and bring Park Lane to a complete standstill.
THERE MUST BE NO OLYMPIC STYLE SELL OUT THIS TIME.
Join the Mob:
It is now imperative that if you are a "Taxi Driver" on Twitter you should follow both
@Flash_Demo and @TAG_HIT_SQUAD
Also follow @UCGup. This account will put out constant information about all work related aspects plus traffic updates and what's going on at certain venues.
We have seen in the past under the directorship of John Mason, TfL imposed a temporary Private Hire rank for a PH company using a bus stop in Cavendish Square. More recently TfL authorised the Hilton, Dorchester, Churchill and Cumberland ranks to be closed and used by an events company on some of the busiest night of the year.
It will be interesting to see what will happen at the Winterville festival, which opens in Victoria Park on 2nd December. We have been informed that although a rank request has been placed at this venue, so far nothing has been confirmed by TfL.
This is definitely a toe in the water type case scenario.
With the Law Commision and deregulation on the horizon, TfL will be looking to sell off major ranks to the highest bidder, especially if they find the trade has no appetite to fight back.
I can see the headlines in the trade press now:
UTG and interested parties fight to keep station ranks.
PH wanted the lot, but we negotiated on your behalf to keep Paddington and Victoria....what a victory
Today 1:30 pm receiving reports that Queen Mothers Gate is closed. No access to South Carriage Road.
Who's wonderful decision was that?