Reply from taxi drivers

SIR – With reference to your recent article Whose car are you getting into? in The Comet dated November 22, the taxi trade of Stevenage would like to offer the following response. For the last 18 months the taxi and private hire drivers of Stevenage hav

SIR - With reference to your recent article 'Whose car are you getting into?' in The Comet dated November 22, the taxi trade of Stevenage would like to offer the following response.

For the last 18 months the taxi and private hire drivers of Stevenage have worked closely with the taxi operators, Hertfordshire Constabulary and Stevenage Borough Council via regular taxi forums to improve the standard of service provided to the public. This has resulted in new security measures being implemented at the Leisure Park. The maintenance standard of vehicles has improved and the formation of a new Cab Watch scheme designed to further protect the public and drivers alike, amongst other benefits.

These forums have also dealt with the issues of security and driver integrity during recruitment. Indeed, at the moment the trade is in consultation with the council over further regulations covering this area amongst others, the results of which are due to be decided in the new year.

The trade has contributed and cooperated with these official bodies throughout all discussions and will continue to do so as a matter of course. The trade has also historically conformed fully with all regulatory requirements as laid down by local and central government with regards to security and integrity. Additionally, we are currently in the process of establishing self-policing procedures and a voluntary code of conduct in order to further increase the quality and customer awareness of drivers. We are looking to present a formal draft of this to our drivers early in 2007.

We drivers of Stevenage work extremely long hours in order to make money to feed and clothe our families. If we include operating crews and families we estimate that there are approximately 1,500 people in this town who depend on this trade to live. In turn, it is also reasonable to suggest that most of the money will stay in this town, therefore meaning that money from the taxi trade contributes greatly to the economic stability of the area.

We also contribute directly to the well-being of many vulnerable, elderly and disabled people in Stevenage, either by getting them to and from medical appointments, the hospital, the shops and even school. We transport thousands of people each year on essential journeys; to and from work, the railway station, shopping, visiting family or even just getting home safely after a night out. We provide a 24 hour, 365 days a year service, often in difficult and sometimes even dangerous circumstances, as The Comet itself has often reported.

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We do not condone or tolerate cheats and thieves in our ranks. We will continue to strive to further improve our image and service to the public through consultation and cooperation with local official bodies.

It is therefore with great consternation, disappointment and sadness that we viewed your recent article. While it may be accepted that the said article is based on fact, we feel that in even just the main and sub-headlines it gives the reader the totally misleading impression that all drivers are violent criminals, regardless of its intended targets. It must also be noted that it offers no opportunity for the trade (drivers, as opposed to operators) to defend itself or to discuss the above measures with yourselves. It should also be noted that if your reporter had bothered to research the article properly, all of the above initiatives would have come to light with little prompting.

This type of article shows a worrying thoughtlessness as to its impact on local trade, paying no regard to the consistent and positive nature of our work. The article will have the result of undermining public trust in their taxi drivers, thus destroying the Stevenage taxi and private hire trade.

We therefore request that the Stevenage and North Herts public be accurately informed via your pages of the hard work which is going into providing them with a constantly evolving and improving service.

P COOPER

A GEARING

Stevenage Taxi and Private Hire Drivers and associated workers

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