Taxi wars in Kingston Town Centre

Conflict is brewing between black taxis and minicabs in Kingston after black cab drivers accused their rivals of illegally touting for business in the town centre.

Black cab drivers Tony Joyce and Richard Massett spoke out at a council committee meeting on Wednesday (6th February 2013) to blast the decision to renew two minicab kiosks near the station which they said “should never have been set up in the first place.”

Mr Joyce said Kingston First minicabs were illegally poaching customers from the streets instead of sticking to the pre-paying customers they were allowed to collect from their kiosks at Horse Fair Junction and the station.

He said they were “taking away work from legitimate people” and accused the taxis of congesting roads and causing “a danger to the walking public”.

But Kingston First Town Centre Manager, Paul Riordan, vigorously denied allegations of illegal activity.

He said the Kingston First cabs were “responsible for taking thousands safely home” and  “one of the most successful ranks in London”.

At the meeting, plans to renew the two kiosks were passed subject to re-painting within six months. The Kingston First cabs were bought in six years ago to deal with a shortage in taxis available to transport the thousands of weekend club-goers out of the town centres. According to Mr Riordan, more than five thousand people leave Kingston on Friday nights.

But objectors to the mini cab ranks say there are now too many cabs for customers, as people spend less on taxis due to the economic climate, resulting in a bitter fight for the customers pouring out of Kingston’s clubs at the weekend.

According to Tony Joyce, this makes it even more important that pre-pay cabs stick to their own customers, leaving black cabs to find passing trade.

He said: “All we are interested in is making sure that our people have enough work.”

But the committee said that their priority was to clear the streets of revellers. Councillor Chrissie Hitchcock was sceptical that taxi numbers were too high and said: “The strategy is that we get people out of the town as quickly as possible.

“The system does work and I strongly believe it’s the right one for our town.”

The committee were sceptical that illegal activity was taking place and encouraged the black cabs to take their “strong allegations” to the police if they felt it serious enough.

The ranks will continue to function as usual.

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