Hackney Carriage drivers in Mansfield have said they may consider striking if problems with taxi ranks are not solved by Mansfield District Council.
Your Chad reporter headed out on a Friday night to listen to the drivers concerns, which include lack of rank space, private hire vehicles illegally ‘plying for hire’, and Mansfield District Council raising their license fees.
Christoper Riley of D&C taxis is a representative for the community of Mansfield Hackney Carriage Drivers.
Hackney Carriage Drivers can only wait for fares in designated ranks around the town, which Mr Riley says are not in busy locations.
Although drivers are told there are enough spaces for them to trade, this takes into account areas like the Old Bus station, where there are 13 spaces.
However, Mr Riley says these spaces are redundant, as drivers can wait there all day, and pick up no fares.
If there is not enough rank space to pull in and wait for fares, drivers are expected to drive around town, wasting their fuel and causing pollution.
One of the areas that you would imagine drivers could do a roaring trade - the train station - has no spaces for drivers to wait for fares.
Mr Riley says this costs the trade dearly.
Now, drivers feel that their pleas for more space and better policing of illegal practices are not being heard by Mansfield District Council.
Mr Riley said: “We are doing things right and being patient, but it could come to a strike if things don’t change.”
Nazrul Miah, who has been a driver for ten years said: “All we need is more spaces, and better policing of private hire vehicles illegally plying for hire.
“These out of town licensed private hire vehicles are taking money out of the community.
“There’s no fight left in us anymore, we've given up."
Mr Miah had been out working since 2pm that day, but by 8pm had only picked two customers up from the ranks.
Jamie Germain, who has been a driver for 11 years says it is a lot harder to earn a living now.
Mr Germain said: “Our licensing fees have been raised in the last year, but what are we getting?
“Licensing officers might come out on occasion until 11 pm or midnight, but we need them to be out at two or three on a Sunday morning.”
Mr Riley adds that the rank space they do have are often neglected.
On Quaker Way, the signs on the road that mark out the taxi rank have faded, and drivers with disability badges often don't realise the space is a taxi rank, and park there.
In addition, bollards have been up up an a space that taxi drivers used to pick up fares, and did a good trade on Queen's Walk.
Mr Germain said: "The Council are totally and utterly against the taxi trade.
"This might have to come to a head because the council aren't listening to us."
Jacqueline Collins, director of governance at Mansfield District Council said: “The council welcomes feedback from drivers licensed by Mansfield District Council and we are aware of their concerns.
“We are currently consulting over taxi rank provision in the town centre with Nottinghamshire Council Council, which has responsibility for highways matters.
“We have also asked the county council for various works to be carried out at ranks in the town centre, including repainting the lines of the rank in Quaker Way.
"The rank’s signs on the signposts there are relatively new and clear to read by other road users.
“In addition, we have been in contact with East Midlands Trains to ensure there are clear signs at Mansfield Railway Station to direct passengers to the nearest taxi rank.
"It should be noted that there has never been an official rank at the station.
“The area around Queen’s Place, known as Queen’s Walk, is a pedestrian-only zone and vehicles are not, and never have been, permitted to park there.
“The council’s licensing officers work both normal office hours and out of office hours and they will take action if they see offences being committed.
“The Licensing Team takes complaints against taxi drivers, whether local drivers or from out of town, very seriously and investigates them all fully, using the council’s CCTV to assess and gather evidence where possible.”