The Minister for Infrastructure has allowed private hire vehicles to pick up passengers from the taxi ranks, designating the airport and harbour ranks as part-time ones with immediate effect, following the news that rank taxis were on a lightning strike to protest fare and regulations changes.
Deputy Eddie Noel said he was disappointed by the news of "lightning strike" and used "powers within the Law" to mitigate the situation.
Private hire vehicles will have to charge rank fares when they pick up passengers. Staff from Driver and Vehicle Standards have also been posted at the airport to assist passengers and liaise with the bus service to put on additional buses as required.
Deputy Eddie Noel, Minister for Infrastructure said: “I am really disappointed that the rank taxis have decided to withdraw their services today. I am particularly disappointed that they have done this with so little respect to the public by having given them no notice of their actions and therefore no opportunity to make other arrangements for what could be essential travel.
“Like the rest of the public, I first heard of this through the media and I don’t know how long it is expected to last. We have been talking to the taxi industry over several years and we have been trying to bring about much needed change through evolution. What we have been trying to do has been in the interests of the public, to provide them with the sort of service that customers expect in this day and age. It has not been an easy process. I hope that this action they have taken today will be short-lived and that they will resume normal service as quickly as possible.”
Rank taxi drivers are striking today against changes, which they say are a “step too far”. The Department for Infrastructure announced earlier this week that all taxi drivers would be brought under a one-tier system by July 2017, meaning that both public rank and private taxis will have to charge passengers the same maximum fares, with private companies allowed to charge an additional booking fee.
Extras including baggage will now be incorporated into an additional flat fee of 20p.
They also announced moves to make taxi cabs easier to identify, as well as ensuring equality of access to disabled passengers.
But the measures have upset public rank taxi drivers, who are now refusing to collect passengers from the airport and declining to appear at the Weighbridge or Snow Hill ranks.
Pictured: The Weighbridge Taxi Rank was left empty today as part of the protest.
Speaking anonymously to Express, a public rank driver said that the protest had, “…nothing to do with the money” and was to do with the rising “stress” that taxi drivers are undergoing as a result of increased DfI regulation.
He said that drivers might potentially have to fork out “thousands of pounds” of their own money for vehicle modifications such as disabled access, and argued that the DfI should subsidise some of the cost.
In a sign at the Weighbridge, public rank taxi drivers apologised to customers “for any inconvenience caused”.
“The majority of drivers have withdrawn their services due to an ongoing dispute with the DFI Minister Deputy Eddie Noel. Normal service will be resumed when possible. Thank you for understanding and hopefully your support.”
Pictured: The sign left for passengers at the Weighbridge.
A spokesperson for the Jersey Taxi Drivers Association commented:
"Through this whole process the JTDA and other Public Rank drivers, whose fares are controlled and set by the States of Jersey and who work within the rules and regulations as laid down by the DFI and DVS (the regulators), feel that we are the ones being affected the most by the Transport Minister's policies whilst he continually fails to address the real issues [such as Jersey Lifts] and continues to muddy the waters.
"This current form of Ministerial Government must be seriously called into question when one person can dictate such bad policy and make life changing decisions at the flick of a pen which effect the livelihoods of so many self employed drivers and their families. It is time for us to make a stand."
A spokesperson for Ports of Jersey, who are responsible for the airport and harbour, said that the organisation was working closely with DfI, LibertyBus and private hire taxis to minimise disruption to the 2,500 passengers expected to arrive in Jersey today:
“Additional public buses have been laid on by Liberty bus and hire car companies have advised us they have sufficient rental cars available for private hire. The Minister for Infrastructure has temporarily re-designated the airport and harbours taxi ranks to allow private hire vehicles to use them and pick up passengers. We have also been in contact with our travel partners to advise them of the current situation, asking them to advise passengers of the disruption and provide them with alternative on ground travel options available to them. We are also providing a list of private taxi companies for passengers who may wish to pre-book a taxi.
"Ports of Jersey would like to apologise to any of its passengers affected by this action, which is beyond our control and reassure them that every assistance will be given to them to ensure their onward journey from the ports is not further inconvenienced.”
Express has contacted the Department for Infrastructure for comment.
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