PHC TAKES A LOOK AT THE STORIES THAT HAVE MADE THE HEADLINES OVER THE LAST TWO DECADES. THIS MONTH IN 1996.
PONY EXPRESS LAUNCH DESPATCH RIDER TRAINING SCHOOL – Pony Express announced the start of a two week training course at Vauxhall for novice couriers who, if successful, would qualify for a ten week placement with the company.
The move came after the company had difficulty in recruiting its own despatch riders. Course leader Bob Barber, former courier at Greater London Hire, said: “Trainees need a full licence to get on the course, plus the right attitude. We supply everything else, including insurance, protective clothing and P-reg CB250s.”
YOU’RE NOT A TAXI – South London cab firm Ladywell Cars bowed to pressure from local black cab drivers after they asked the company to remove the word ‘taxi’ from a front window advert display.
The previous owner of the Catford minicab firm had painted a sign outside the office with a picture of a car, with the word ‘taxi’ next to it.
Ladywell Cars boss Billy Sevier said:
I am truly amazed that anyone could be this petty, everyone knows this is a minicab office. The sign didn’t mean we were trying to nick the work of black cab drivers. It was just the way it was painted.
MINICAB LICENSING PUT ON HOLD – The London private hire trade came under the media spotlight after the Government decided not to go forward with a cab trade licence bill before the General Election in 1997.
Campaigners for a minicab licence law hit out at the announcement, including Steve Wright (below), chairman of the London Private Hire Car Association, who said: “I am devastated”.
Others who criticised the decision by the Government included Labour MP for Hampstead Glenda Jackson, who condemned ministers for not taking a legislative Bill forward.
And Diana Lamplugh, who campaigned for better safety awareness after her daughter went missing, said: “I am extremely disappointed.
“Lots of people use minicabs every day, so why on earth shouldn’t these passengers know if their drivers have been checked?”
Bob Oddy, speaking for the black cab LTDA said: “This was just a licence to dupe the public.”
‘PLEASE DON’T KILL ME!’ – Billy Smith described how he thought he was going to die after he picked up a half-drunk passenger with shotgun, who told him in no uncertain terms to: “DRIVE AND KEEP OFF THE RADIO!”
Billy did as was told but then: “At a set of traffic lights, he turns to eye a police car, which allows me to key in the microphone, so my controller can hear what’s happening.
“Then my passenger give me the low-down. He’d had a fight in a pub some nights earlier and the other guy had finished the ruck by hitting him with a pool cue and putting him in hospital. And now my man is on his way to find the guy and: “SHOOT HIS ***** OFF!”
“We arrive at the edge of a housing estate in South-East London and my drunken passenger stumbles out, turns around and points his gun at me. He then apologises sincerely that he is 50p short, but if I say if he just lets me live, I’ll certainly call it quits. As soon as he takes a step backwards, I’m out of there, like Damon Hill off the grid.”
CAN A CUSTOMER USE A DRIVER’S PHONE TO BOOK A JOB? – A controller at Lichfield Radio Cars In Kew wrote in to Minicab & Courier to ask: “If a driver has a mobile phone, can he pass it through his window to a person wanting to take a journey?
“If the office accepted the booking before the passenger gets in the car, would that satisfy the law that a pre-booking had been made. Would this offer a solution when drivers are approached by potential passengers on the street?”
The magazine replied: “About eight years ago, there was a minicab company in Greenwich which had payphones in its cars for exactly this purpose.
“But, when we contacted New Scotland Yard for advice on this subject, they were unenthusiastic to say the least. We would certainly not advise any minicab driver to do this as a matter of routine. Except under the most exceptional of circumstances, we would not recommend this.”
HIT BY A POLICE CAR – Wembley minicab driver Neil Smith said he was left with whiplash after a police Astra vehicle collided with him as he tried to perform a U-turn in the early hours of the morning. His K-reg Cavalier suffered a smashed wing, wrecked front offside wheel, suspension and steering and a blown tyre. Neil claimed that the, “coast was clear” when he started his manoeuvre and that: “I was just trying to do a U-turn in a quiet road.”
DA DENY DESPATCH RIDER CRITICS – Despatch Association chairman Bob Doughty (below right) hit out at the New Scientist magazine after it claimed that London courier riders were, “messengers of death”.
A picture was painted of couriers forced to risk their lives by unscrupulous employers, of learners being thrown on despatch circuits without any training and Bob said: “This is more News of The World than New Scientist. I’m truly amazed what purports to be a serious scientific journal can come up with this stuff.”
‘THAT’S MY CAR!’ – Normandy Cars vehicle rental boss Ian Ferguson went on a 550 mile round trip to Hartlepool to recover one of his Ford Sierras. Ian said: “It was a long way to go to get one of our vehicles. But unfortunately, this kind of thing is all too common and non-payment leads to higher rent for honest customers.”