Taxi!

One interesting aspect of the coverage, in various media outlets, of the announcement that new proposals on the regulation of the taxi trade are out for consultation… is what’s missing. Like the regulation of liquor licensing, the taxi trade has been making regular appearances in a ‘to-do’ list in the reports by the IMC, including its most recent 10th report. In the case of the new proposals on liquor licensing all the main political parties united in opposition to lobby the NIO… and the NIO backed down, at least for now. If we see a similar response this time the IMC may have something to say about it in their next report..From the IMC’s 10th report, 26th April[pdf file],

Previous IMC Recommendations relating to Paramilitary Organised Crime

4.10 We have made a number of recommendations relating to organised crime in previous reports. We thought it would be useful at this stage, after two years of reporting, to recap what we had proposed. In summary, we recommended that:

 All the UK agencies involved in the Organised Crime Task Force should ensure that their strategies fully reflected the significance of the threat posed by paramilitary organised crime in Northern Ireland;

 All relevant agencies should maximise the benefits of assets recovery, and the British Government should provide the Assets Recovery Agency with the resources necessary for its work in Northern Ireland;

 The UK Inland Revenue26 should ensure that its priorities for the enforcement of the tax laws fully reflect the special challenge of organised crime in Northern Ireland;

 The British and Irish Governments should ensure that in the forthcoming introduction of regulations on charities they take account of the need to reduce the opportunities for paramilitary groups to launder funds through charities;

 The review the NIO was then undertaking of the licensing regime for the security industry should take account of the need to bear down to the maximum extent possible on paramilitary involvement, in conjunction with other control regimes and other aspects of law enforcement;

 The arrangements for supervising the alcohol and taxi trades should be examined with the same end in mind;[added emphasis]

 The British and Irish Governments should introduce licensing regimes for retail outlets which would enable the closure of businesses that have been engaged in the illicit fuel trade and would keep out of the fuel industry all those who have been involved in that trade, together with anybody fronting for them.

4.11 We are aware that there have been developments in some of these areas since we reported. For example, the Organised Crime Task Force has reorganised and refocused its work. The Irish Government recently published a detailed scheme for legislation to regulate charities, and in Northern Ireland the British Government is developing proposals for legislation following a public consultation. The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of the British House of Commons is conducting an enquiry into organised crime. We refer to developments on assets recovery above. We will continue to examine progress on all these recommendations.

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  • slug

    Pete:

    Do the taxi proposals announced today address that part of para 4.10 that you emboldened?

  • Pete Baker

    I haven’t looked that closely at the proposals themselves, slug, but I’d suggest that they’re probably intended to do so… whether they actually do is another matter…

  • slug

    Turning to the two most obvious of the taxi proposals I welcome them.

    I very rarely use taxis in NI but recently took one from the airport. I was looking everywhere to see the meter, then it dawned on me there wasn’t one. I much prefer to have a meter, it makes it seem that the price is being determined by some rule.

    I had also found it annoying that you simply can’t hail a cab as you get used to doing in London.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    slug

    You can, as long as there aren’t any police about. Most of the time they seem to turn a blind eye anyway, as I imagine they take the commonsense view that it is better for punters to get home safely than wandering the city centre streets on a weekend night.

    However, if illegally hailing a private hire car, I try and stick to names I know, like Value Cabs and the like.

  • Pete Baker

    In case my post has caused any confusion, what I’m indicating is missing is any reference in the media reports, or indeed the official NIO statement, to what the IMC has been saying.

  • Rory

    One doesn’t, unless both rich and drunk, take a metered black cab to the airport from London, Slug. It is either the Heathrow or Gatwick Express or the fast train to Luton from King’s Cross or else an unmetered minicab where one agrees the price beforehand, and most companies have fixed rates for such journeys. There is no reason not similarly to agree a price beforehand with any driver from Belfast or elsewhere. A journalist most recently told of getting from Basra to Beirut for $200 this way.

    The only effective result of proposed regulation will be simply that – regulation – which will bring no benefits to customers merely increased prices and lesser availability of cabs. It will of course assist government revenues and information gathering which will no doubt delight all of those who read Brave New World with all the wondrous anticipation that they read The Book of Revelations.

  • slug

    Rory – I meant from the Airport in Belfast (International). There is little public transport from Belfast International if you are not going to Belfast (although that has recently changed with the new Airporter service).

  • eranu

    the only good thing about taxis in belfast is being able to get drink after hours.
    what is completely ridiculus is not being able to hail a taxi on a saturday night. there was a problem getting taxis in dublin at the weekend a few years back. as far as i remember they reduced the cost of a licence and now theres loads, not much problem hailing one to get home. when im home in belfast the pantomime of trying to talk your way into a private taxi is a complete pain and black taxis wont take you unless you offer them about a million quid. imagine a taxi that refuses to take you !! have you ever seen the like of it in any other european city you’ve been to??????

    london was great when ive been there, loads of cabs, just hop in and go.

    anyone with any sense knows that belfast needs more taxis at the weekend that you can hail on the street. a weekend night out in belfast is a game of 2 halfs. first it ends before its begun, at 1am. then you enter the ‘cant get a taxi zone’ for an hour or so. you wander round the city centre with lots of other unfortunates offering your life savings to any driver that will stop and wind down their window for you. erm, except round the limelight !

    whos incharge? do they have a clue? im betting its old codgers that dont go out and think everythings great. i would like to hang a sign round their necks that says ‘im responsible for the lack of taxis’ and then dump them at the city hall at 1.30 am sunday morning….

  • Rory

    Sounds grim indeed, Eranu. Still you can hardly blame old codgers with lack of understanding being in charge if in fact no one is in charge. Seems to me like another case of “the market misrules”.

  • Nestor Makhno

    Then there are the poor tourists…

    Standing there in the rain in their brightly coloured North Face jackets with their Nikon cameras desperately trying to flag down apparently empty taxis and being completely ignored.

    See it all the time – they must think Belfast has the rudest taxi drivers in Europe!

  • eranu

    “Regulations in Northern Ireland
    In Northern Ireland taxi licensing is centrally controlled by the Department of the Environment (NI) which determines the roadworthiness of vehicles and checks the repute of drivers and/or owners. Two types of taxi licences are available – (1) ‘public hire in Belfast’ that allows taxis to operate within a 5-mile radius of the centre of Belfast, and (2) ‘public hire restricted’ that allows taxis to operate anywhere in Northern Ireland apart from the centre of Belfast.

    The Northern Ireland Assembly has devolved powers to legislate in the taxi-licensing field.”

    a quick google found this. so will the DoE or the assembley do anything about the problem? theres more chance of nasa keeping track of all their old video tapes!
    if they issued some type of weekend license for friday and saturday nights then that might help. im sure there would be plenty of people who would like to do a bit of taxiing at the weekend. this would leave the rest of the week for the full time drivers to make their living.

  • Harry Flashman

    Actually Rory I think you’re wrong, it’s not a case of the market misrules. If the situation is as described then there is clearly some imbalance that has been artificially imposed on the Belfast taxi market (something about which I have no knowledge).

    If as eranu alleges there are hundreds of people wandering the streets willing to pay big bucks to get a taxi then the fact that there are no taxis available tells me that obviously something is preventing the operation of the free market. When you have hundreds of people willing to pay high prices for an easily providable service (we’re talking about a four door saloon and a driver, not the keys to Eldorado) then the fact that that service is not being provided indicates someone is preventing the free operation of the market, and that someone is probably a jobsworth in the council or someone who likes cartels and monopolies.

    Dublin is the classic example. Ten years ago there were horrific two hour long queues at night to get taxis. Why? Because Dublin Corporation allowed themselves to be bullied by the cartel made up of the existing taxi-licence owners, they were very happy that there was a monopoly provided by the Corpo in the form of only two thousand taxi plates, these plates then could be traded around for prices of up to one hundred thousand quid a time. People who had spent that much money on a plate were not very keen to see the market flooded by hundreds of new plates.

    Eventually common sense and the free market were allowed to operate and now there is no difficulty getting a taxi in Dublin. Big, clean, disbled friendly cabs roam the streets at all hours, a victory for the free market.

    What about the guys who had spent fortunes on their plates before the change? Well sorry, you can’t hold the population to ransom in order to keep hold of your nice little monopoly.

    Viva the free market.

  • joe

    Metered taxis in Belfast are far more expensive than those without.

  • jack

    belfast has a hail and ride cab system in belfast public hire taxis its just the doe dont advertise or promote the fact and let to many illegal cabs operate and do not provide enough public hire ranks for taxis to pick up at (edinburgh for example has loads of ranks) were as belfast has 3 that operate during the day (totally inadequate)

  • cozski

    I agree with eranu… in no other town/city would you have drivers weighing up the pros/cons of taking a passenger like they do in Belfast. Taxi – ‘not going that way mate’ (oxymoron). I think there is another very crucial issue that taxi drivers in Belfast should really be considerate of but due to their complete disregard for ‘punters’ and greed they simply aren’t… and thats the sectarian divisions that exist geographically. For example, if you are standing at Shaftesbury Sq on any night and live anywhere in the region of the mid Falls Road it would make sense to walk up Donegal Road… except of course it wouldn’t because that would be very risky behaviour indeed. I know coz i used to live there and resented the fact that taxi drivers would 9/10 say ‘its out of my way mate’ and then leave you to wait fecking hours until there’s no one else to take, risk walking across divides or walk miles in another direction to avoid certain areas. Making money of those things is a disgrace. Now i Live in North Belfast and anyone who knows that area knows precisely how risky it can be walking home from the city centre, across so many communal boundaries. It’s a pretty well known fact that the paramilitaries have the city pretty much divided when it comes to the black public hire taxis (GT Victoria Street Bus station: republicans out front loyalsists at the side – presumably the same applies all over the city) There should be large designated ranks in the city centre and they should be made to pick off the rank in an orderly fashion. Lets face it… if you go up the Bot there’s pretty much a rank there all the time now. And when it comes to the big firms – try ringing a taxi between 1am and 2am – not a hope. And can you pre-book? Ofcourse not… that would make far too much sense! In short, Belfast is sh*t on a night out when it comes to taxis… it’s a wonder tourists ever stay… they probably all head to Dublin after 2 nights of standing on city centre street corners wondering if taxis actually do what they’re supposed to. Roll on the ‘night-time’ economy… might be usefule to think about some sort of infra-structure first though. Cathedral Quarter – £300 million pounds worth of investment, one of the busiest places in the city and can you buy a burger/pizza/chip anywhere? Er, nope. Like most things in Belfast… it’ll be done arse about face and by people who probably cant really be bothered. Roll on Turkey’s membership of the EU – we might get some decent customer service then.