Tuesday, November 23
A shortage of taxi drivers across the Lancaster and Morecambe district is being tackled with a recruitment campaign and other action by Lancaster City Council including an appeal to former drivers with expired licenses to return and cut-price training courses.
The shortage of hackney and private hire taxis is creating risks to public safety, people getting home safely, and disorder and crime, according to a licensing team work plan and report being reviewed by councillors on the district’s Licensing Committee.
Other issues such as the impact of Covid-19 on taxi drivers, rising fuel costs hitting drivers’ earnings and firms’ profits, the level of passenger fares, vehicle tests and driver training courses are among factors being looked at.
Councillors on the Licensing Committee are being asked to approve a licensing team work plan for 2022. It highlights various issues relevant to taxi passengers and drivers, gives updates on recent work and suggests priority tasks for next year.
Local authorities regulate the taxi trade which includes fares and checking the that drivers are ‘fit and proper’ persons. Checks include drivers’ character and history, their right to work in the UK and criminal convictions, cautions or reprimands.
The transport and driving sectors are undergoing various changes, with shortages seen locally and nationally with long distance HGV drivers and bin lorry drivers hitting the headlines.
Regarding taxi drivers in Lancaster and Morecambe, the city council’s Licensing Committee report states: “There is a reduced number of drivers, locally and nationally. One project has been to increase the number of licensed drivers operating in the district, both hackney carriage and private hire. The scope of this work has been to promote the role of becoming a taxi or private hire driver and to work alongside partners to assist applicants.
“A college course is full in November, due to reduced cost of £100 instead of £220. The council wrote to all expired drivers, 97 of them, and asked them to use a fast-track application procedure. A social media and Job Centre campaign is highlighting the work.”
A shortage of staff in the city council’s own licensing team is another priority issue, the report states. The team aims to fill the post by February 2022.
Taxi vehicle tests represent another factor which might be putting off drivers. The current system is described as labour intensive with excessive steps in the process. Changes are needed to the city council’s on-line vehicle test booking system to make it easier for drivers to book tests. The council will also reintroduce a paid service called Licensing Direct and personal licensing courses. with the aim of re-launching in April 2022.
Taxi ranks on streets are also being looked at too.
The workplan report states: “The reason is to improve availability of hackney carriages to the public. Lancashire County Council intends to conduct a review of hackney carriage ranks across the county. The city council welcomes this and would seek to work with the county council and Lancaster’s hackney carriage trade. The trade should be invited to provide written proposals regarding taxi rank provision at the earliest opportunity .”
It adds that road works on central Lancaster’s ‘gyratory’ road system could lead to significant changes which would cause disruptions. So consultation about taxi ranks with the trade should be done as-and-when needed. A number of taxi ranks have already been updated, the report adds.
The city council’s website shows there are currently 373 registered dual-license drivers. The hackney carriage register has 108 license-holders and the private hire register has 38.
The city council has registered with the National Anti-Fraud Network. Its services include providing information on taxi and private hire license refusals and revocations, DVLA driver and vehicle information, number plate recognition, fraud and crime prevention, investigations, credit and bank account checks, and trading standards work.
Friday, November 27
An interesting piece here from the Church Times, believe it or not. Colin Dobson is interviewed on his life of taxi driving.
I fell into taxi driving following six years of looking after my father when he became ill. By the time he’d passed to glory, I’d run out of money. It was the greatest privilege of my life to care for him, as he slowly lost his powers. In many ways, the dad became the son and the son became the dad, but I gained so much.
I already had my licence from part-time work as a chauffeur, driving the great and the good. I thought it would only be a temporary thing for a few months. Eleven years later, I’m still at it. I might have found my vocation.
The best thing about it is the people. Every week, in ordinary times, anywhere between 100 and 200 souls are moving in and out of my taxi. Each one has a story to tell, and they often share them with me. There are some extraordinary human beings living among us in Oxfordshire, and my passengers are a great blessing to me. Many have become friends.
The worst thing is the people. I’ve seen some dreadful things — especially between the hours of one and five in the morning: drunkenness, violence, and abuse of all kinds. A very wise fellow, working in a senior role for one of the many Christian organisations based in Oxford, once said to me, as I collected him at 4 a.m. for an airport run after working all night, that I have to guard my soul. He’s right.
In the main, I take people safely to airports, cruise terminals, festivals, pubs, restaurants, and schools — but they’re all closed during coronatide. A customer insisted on paying me more than five times the cost of his fare, to help see me through until September. It’s one of many extraordinary acts of generosity of the time, some of which I’m sworn never to disclose. But God knows.
It’s been economically devastating — the worst stress of my life. A thriving business disintegrated overnight with £35,000-worth of work cancelled before the lockdown began. Bookings are slowly returning to about one third of their usual level. Many customers have decided not to book holiday airport travel; and there’s no business travel.
I’ve only survived financially because of the generosity of my customers, friends, and church family. I was able to operate a shopping service free to the vulnerable, thanks to other people’s donations.
As my living depends on it, it’s necessary to be pedantically practical about my car and not overly concerned with aesthetics. I run a Hyundai I40 estate, diesel, which has loads of boot space: enough for four check-in suitcases and carry-on baggage. The fuel economy’s great, but I’m not wedded to the brand. My next taxi may be something completely different — even electric, if only it were affordable.
A coffee break can be a brief stop at a drive-through on the motorway, or something more life-enhancing, like a four-hour walk around Guildford Cathedral on the way back from Gatwick.
My last holiday was for the canonisation of St John Henry Newman, a former assistant curate of my church — St Clement’s, Oxford — in Rome, last October. The cost of holidays isn’t just the travel, but also the lost income. There’s no holiday pay for the self-employed. None of my holidays since I became a taxi driver would have been possible without the kindness of others.
Writing is cathartic. In the past four years, I’ve written over 30,000 words in the local paper as “The Rank Insider” — published every Wednesday in actual newsprint in what used to be the North Berks Herald. I’m not afraid to write about my faith and my work.
I still live in Oxford, where I was born and went to Church of England schools till I was 13. As children, we played in the ruins of Holy Trinity Church. Almost the entire parish was razed in the ’60s and early ’70s, but I still see the old street pattern. These days, I live in a village on the outskirts, with my two beautiful, spirited cats. They saved my mental health.
I’ve never been unaware of the existence of God. I didn’t become a believer until August 1988, but, at primary school in the 1970s, there were traditions such as an annual nativity play, and daily assemblies with songs like “Lord of the Dance”. This contains the entire message of the gospel, and I’ve known my entire life that it’s the greatest story ever told.
The most significant thing to happen to me in recent years was rolling up to one Ash Wednesday evening service at St Clement’s, where they’ve shown me over years the actual meaning of “by this everyone will know that you are my disciples”. They’re extraordinary people.
God’s been nagging me for years, but discernment is the hardest thing about attempting to live the Christian life. It’s my intention to work as hard as I can for the next three years, to raise enough to retire to a slightly down-at-heel seaside community, to pursue photography and writing and whatever else comes along. I will still probably be driving for people, too. God has a habit of upsetting the best-laid plans, though.
There’s such a thing as righteous anger, though I spend my life trying not to get angry, as there’s far too much to get angry about. Eleven years of taxi-driving tells me that it’s best to remain calm, wherever possible, even in the face of the most dreadful provocation. But I can’t abide the greed and injustice which appears to be endemic in the provincial taxi industry. That’s why I now work for myself.
I’m happiest when I am at the all-night petrol station buying the bread for holy communion, or at the holy table setting up for it. There’s an extraordinary sense of the Lord’s presence there, though we’re not at all High, and the surroundings are quite different from Newman’s day.
One of my achievements during the first lockdown was digitising my 14 boxes of comedy and music records, cassette tapes and CDs, many of which belonged to my mother and grandmother. Spotify is marvellous, because you can carry your entire music collection around with you. And, yes, I do listen to music while I’m driving. I only listen when I have no customers. I listen to poetry and podcasts, too.
My hope is in God who provides in wholly unexpected ways. I’ve seen “the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” in this desperately stressful year.
I do pray, but not nearly often nor systematically enough, nor even, probably, for the right things. I do suffer from a dreadful level of shyness when praying with others; but my church home group have been extraordinarily gracious and kind.
I carry a battered old Bible in my taxi, and sometimes a rosary hangs from the rear-view mirror; so I’m often asked to pray for others who don’t feel that they can offer prayer themselves, because “I don’t quite believe enough.” I tell them that they’re good enough for God. I pray most often for peace.
I couldn’t be locked inside my own place of worship: I’m a keyholder. But I wouldn’t mind being there with Newman, who raised much of the money to build it. Inside, it’s quite different from his day, and I wonder what he’d make of it, and of Oxford in 2020. I also have quite a few questions for him about his prodigious writings.
Colin Dobson was talking to Terence Handley MacMath.
Wednesday, September 2
Wednesday, June 10
Sunday, April 12
Wednesday, January 22
Wednesday, January 15
Wednesday, December 18
Thursday, August 15
Saturday, September 3
Oh, the photo is one the daughter nearly scared to death by screaming when she found it innocently sharing the bath.
Thursday, September 1
Saturday, August 6
The first was from Walney Island, I got to the address and was waiting for a minute or two when a guy walked down the garden path towards the car, then he stopped and went back inside presumably to answer his phone which had started to ring. I seemed to be then for waiting ages after that and so I blew the horn, just then another car pulled up behind me and also sounded his horn. Then I spied the guy sneaking out of the house and who then actually climbed over the hedge and into next doors garden to use their gate to make his getaway. What I think happened was that his mates had rung him and offered him a lift instead of paying for a taxi and he was too spineless to tell me and then maybe have to pay the no pick up fee. All to save a couple pounds, I hope he ripped his pants and gets a dodgy kebab for supper.
The last job of the day was from a pub in Dalton and when the couple finally come out and get in the cab they both say different destinations,” Which one first” I asked no he said” just the one we’re going home” “oh no we are not she says we’re going to the Railway pub”. This went on back and forth between them and got increasingly heated, now then which one do you listen to? After a minute or two I worked out that the guy was the soberer of the two and took them home, with the women getting more and more abusive to him I was glad when they got out, but as I drove away I could still hear her shouting that she wanted to go to the pub from a few hundred yards down the street.
Thursday, July 28
Ten minutes later she runs out dancing and giggling and whilst harassed mum is locking her door she tumbles straight into the oil patch again if it wasn’t for the little girls tears and cries of” mum, mum” I would have laughed. Harassed mum decided enough was enough and just wiped her down and said she’d have to go as she was.
I guess that she never did a good job of the clean up judging by the perfect black child’s footprint on the less than perfect butt of my next lady passengers white jeans, I almost felt guilty but it was the last job and so I went home laughing.
We sit behind glass windows like being in a goldfish bowl
Sat glued to our seats looking at our console
Taking calls galore from our work stations
Sometimes it feels like the United Nations
Chinese and Italians not to mention Irish and Scots!
We’ve got to decipher these bloody clots.
Then we have our drunken friends
Most named “harpic” because they’re right round the bend
You know when they’ve had too much beer
When asking for a taxi from “Here,”
Some can’t even get the words out
Whilst women just continually shout
And we have to listen to complaints and abuse
At times you feel like putting your head in a noose
It’s worse when your drivers go without saying
And the angry hordes for your blood are baying
We’ve got to sit and pacify screaming people
I think I’ll jump off the highest steeple
But no we can’t let down the others who matter
The lonely old folk who just want to natter,
Then of course there’s the drivers our bread and butter,
They’re not bad apart from the odd nutter,
So please spare a thought for your operators,
And keep us free from these masturbators.
Friday, June 24
And so in what seemed like slow motion to me a large brown dog appeared on the front of my bonnet looking straight at me with surprised big brown eyes. Apart from a few brown hairs, there was not a mark on the car, oh and the dog was okay too. The guy with the dog was as drunk as a skunk and didn’t say a word he just stood in the road swaying gently back and forth until his wife led him away. All was well and so we set off again and only got a few hundred yards when the local postman who was walking along sorting his letters sauntered out straight in front of us, after another narrow miss I considered making the first job of the day my last.
Sunday, June 19
Now you may not believe this but the taxi drivers here in Barrow aren’t really well known for their sense of style. But what with the heat wave which we have been experiencing for the last week or two, some of them have really surpassed themselves some of the tee shirts and shorts look like they were bought on some long ago foreign holiday at a time when the driver had had a good sample of the local tipple. Maybe at some time, they may have fitted as well, who knows but sadly with the ravages of too many pies and fries that’s not the case now. One driver I saw today broke all the rules cargo style three-quarter length pants (guys when you reach a certain age and size just don’t do it) and a black and white vest top way too small, looking down past the glimpse of white calves revealed black socks (pulled well up) and open toed sandals. But all was explained when I saw that he was proudly sporting in his left ear the biggest shiniest bluetooth I had ever seen, the radio waves from this must have caused temporary insanity.
Saturday, June 11
Tuesday, May 24
Wednesday, May 18
Tuesday, May 10
that gear about, though.
Tuesday, May 3
A customer I picked up today never ever tips, so I was very surprised when the fare was £3.40p and he said here's £4.00 keep the change. But when I looked at the four "pound coins" I was not shocked to find that one of them was a worthless lead forgery, Ah well nothing changes eh!
Monday, April 25
Tuesday, April 12
Thursday, April 7
Thursday, March 31
But what did shock me was when he told me that the military no longer keeps a record of confirmed kills on a soldier’s service record. I wasn’t aware they did and if so that’s one that should definitely be consigned to the history books. He then went on to tell me that he had two confirmed kills and I found myself not knowing how to react to that. At the end of the day that’s what these guys are trained and paid to do but no congratulations from me, sorry.
Sunday, March 20
Wednesday, March 9
Friday, March 4
My passenger was a young lass of about eighteen years of age and she looked as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth. Where do you want to go I asked? "Dalton” she replied and so off we went to the next town along which is about six miles away, as we got closer to Dalton I asked her whereabouts she would like to be dropped off at. “The lacquer knacker” she replied brightly, I looked at her blankly and said I have never even heard of that, it’s a pub she said looking at me as if I were daft, I still never had a clue and so she said “The golden ball” and then the penny dropped. That was the first time I have ever heard it called that,it must be a local Dalton thing.
Saturday, February 27
The two girls seemed to get more and more stressed for every yard that we drove along, they were on the phone making last minute arrangements and asking each other if they had forgotten anything all in all in a total flap. On the way, we stopped off at the posh hotel where the reception was to be held and when the bride and bridesmaid got out of the taxi to drop something off there was silence for a minute or two then the brother and I looked at each other and just burst out laughing. Talk about stress give me a good funeral do anytime.
Friday, February 19
Monday, February 8
Thursday, February 4
Thursday, January 28
One of my fare's today was telling me that she was a barrister up here in Barrow on a business trip from that there London and that it was her first time oop north. “Well, what do you think of the grim north?” I asked,” well I was baffled when none of the taxis stopped when I hailed them I had to take the number off the side and ring for one myself,” she said. I explained that most cabs here are private hire and that most hackney cabs also work for company’s when not on the rank. Then she went on to say (which a lot of visitors also say) how green it was and that she had been expecting a grim grey industrial town. Shortly afterwards we were going down from a high point at the top of Hawcoat looking out seawards over Walney Island towards the Isle of Man, and she was impressed by the fabulous views of the miles of empty sandy beaches. “I bet it gets busy during the summer,” she said and was very surprised when I told her that we get very few visitors.” Well someone sure wants their butt kicking “she said anywhere else and they would be promoting it for all they were worth.
Wednesday, January 27
Tuesday, January 19
Wednesday, January 13
She was only going up the road a half mile or so to a local hotel, as we got nearer alarm bells started in my head when she slurred that she was going to collect her car. But as we pulled into the hotel car park she swore when she saw that her car was blocked in by four or five others. I let out a sigh of relief because I knew that the hotel staff wouldn't even consider waking up the paying guests to move the cars for some drunken lady. I was proved right and returned her back to her dustbin within a few minutes.