Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The Diminishing Value of the TaxiCard in Lambeth

The TaxiCard scheme has always operated on an ad hoc basis; the criteria for entry differed from borough to borough; some boroughs gave people the choice of TaxiCard or Freedom Pass; indeed, as I recall at least one borough wouldn’t award the card to Blue Badge holders. The number of journeys varied from borough to borough as did the disabled persons contribution; and, while a lot of boroughs allowed stagecoaching some didn’t, or at least resisted it for years.

After taking a look through the London Boroughs site (see link below) at what the different boroughs are doing I notice that most are increasing the passenger contribution by £1 to £2.50. Now, while this in of itself doesn’t appear a massive rise; so much so the London Council site tries to play down the rise as being the first in 15 years.

But, the site while playing up this detail overlooks the fact that the subsidy has never kept pace with either inflation or the cost of living; thus, the TaxiCard user has seen a real term rise in the cost of their journeys as taxi fares have gone up over the years.

When I first started using TaxiCard I could get from home to Kings Cross Station, around 4.5 miles on one journey. Today, I can barely travel 3 miles, more like 2.5, before having to swipe my card again or suffer the excess fare. With the £2 per journey cut in subsidy it is barely worth holding a card.

That’s the down side from a user’s point of view. These changes in TaxiCard subsidy and the closing down of stagecoaching are also going to impact on the provider, the London cabbie.

The past couple of years have, in my opinion, seen quite an improvement in the reliability of TaxiCard. Where I live, in Lambeth, 2.5 miles from parliament or 3 from Covent Garden, is fairly central; yet, back in 2008 I still experienced problems getting a ComCab from my home – due to their unavailability.

A combination of the recession (you can trust a shortage of work in the centre of town to force a cabbie to widen his horizons in the quest of earning a pound note) and operational changes has improved the system no end – for instance on Saturday evening last, despite a heavy snowfall in Inner and Central London, my taxi turned up in good time and ferried me over to a party in Aldersgate Street, in the City.

The reductions in subsidy, but more especially the scrapping, in most boroughs, of the practice of stagecoaching will, I feel, deter a lot of cab drivers from the system. At the moment when I get into a cab I’ve ordered by phone I tend not to take too much notice of the run in charge on the meter – unless it’s an excessive amount. Because I tend to make journeys that involve a swipe, the run in charge becomes immaterial – that is, my journey is over 3 miles therefore whether the meter reads £3.40 or £4.50 my trip will necessitate two TaxiCard journeys.

Talking to cabbies, as I do, there is a sense that they can earn out of the double swipe trip as most of the second fare doesn’t usually reach the subsidy limit.

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