Update On Operation Neon : by Jim Thomas.

I wasn’t going to comment further on operation Neon until it was completed at the end of May.

However, I was genuinely disappointed on Saturday night.

After seeing a change in tact from the TfL compliance teams involved in the operation, perhaps I was expecting too much. I truly thought they that learned from previous mistakes and would be more understand towards the problems we encounter on a nightly basis in Mayfair.

However this is not the case and although there has been a noticeable improvement in their operational understanding, there are still areas which need further improvement – Not entirely the field operatives fault, as they are nearly all new recruits and therefore have little or no knowledge of the working practises of the Taxi trade in general.
I arrived as usual at Novikov’s to find that the whole kerbside had been taken by parked vehicles. As the rank was unavailable, drivers had taken to temporarily ranking alongside.
Cabs that have to double parked should in no way constitute an illegal rank, as the rank is permitted and allowed, although Westminster’s parking marshals may see this as a parking contravention.
At the point of the rank, a team of compliance officers were speaking to drivers, trying to get them to move off.
I do understand they have a job to do….but then so do we.
Points Of Order
• Customers leaving Novikov’s want Taxis
• As the rank is not marked, drivers were not parking outside the confines of the rank.
• Compliance teams are not traffic wardens.
To ask drivers – albeit politely –  to park opposite on the Holiday Inn rank, is disingenuous an unpractical as customers leaving Novikos will in no way be escorted across the road by door staff who, work in league with the cars and many jobs will be lost to the touts.
It was very disappointing when I tried to point out our predicament to the lady officer and she turned to her colleague and said “they want everything their own way, it’s not right“.
Not true, we just want to be able to offer our services to the public without the public being put in danger by unscrupulous door staff.
I would however, like to thank the TfL team for their efforts in getting the offending cars ticketed by a friendly NSL traffic warden, but please recognise that the park vehicles were not touts, they were customers and would then remain there for most of the evening. Unlike touts who could have been moved on.
There is only one way to stop the cars parking and that is to mark out the rank, in the same fashion as the Nobu rank. Yes we have the odd problem, but all in all it puts people off unlawful obstruction as is the case nightly at Novikov’s.
Also I would hope the lady compliance officer noticed the difficulty I had getting a young American couple, to cross the street to the Vito she had sent onto the Holiday Inn Hotel taxi rank. They really didn’t want to cross the road and became aggressive. They just didn’t understand why they were not being allowed to get into one of the six Taxis outside the Bar/Restaurant.
There is also a major problem with ranks that put Taxis ahead of an exit, instead of level or slightly behind. Customers leaving Bars/Clubs need to see our illuminated “Taxi” for hire lights. Otherwise, customers will flag passing Taxis, causing conflict between drivers and adding to the problem.
Best Solutions Are Always The Simple Ones.
I believe the situation is resolvable by TfL agreeing to Taxi drivers groups giving PCOs training presentations, where we could put all our points across. For the sake of public safety, it’s time TfL compliance worked in tandem with Taxi drivers rather than against us.
Yes there are problems with over ranking, unauthorised ranks and cloned IDs/Badge and Bills. Over ranking and unauthorised standings are a direct result not keeping up with the demand for rank spaces. Therefore the solution is simple, in the interest of public safety, approve and implement more ranks and more feeder rank spaces.
Surely the Mayor is in favour of Taxis not having to circulate unnecessarily.
Third problem ID/Badge Bill fraud also has a simple solution in the form of RF chips embedded in IDs similar to the system used at Heathrow.
Taxi enforcement and compliance budget problems can also be addressed by TfL not dipping into our license fees to use on other projects.
(Thought fees were supposed to be ring fenced).
If we had proper mobile enforcement squads similar to New York, properly trained compliance similar to Birmingham and enough suitable rank space I for one, would be prepared to pay double the licence fee. After all it is tax deductible, like the subs we pay willingly to our representative groups.
Wedding Taxis

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