Select Committee on Transport Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Heathrow Airport Consultative Committee (PEAT 06)

  1.  This is the response of the Heathrow Airport Consultative Committee to the invitation, issued on 8 February 2007 by the House of Commons Transport Committee, for interested persons to submit evidence on the subject.

  2.  The Heathrow Airport Consultative Committee (HACC) is constituted by Heathrow Airport Limited in accordance with Section 35 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982 (as amended by the Airports Act 1986). The Consultative Committee operates as a body independently of Heathrow Airport Limited. The Consultative Committee has 43 members drawn from the whole range of stakeholders concerned with or about the establishment and operation of Heathrow Airport. It was set up in 1948 but has expanded considerably since then both in terms of the number of members and also in the range of activities which it pursues.

  3.  The Committee regrets that it only had your Committee's call for evidence drawn to its attention on Saturday 3 March last by one of our members. This submission has, therefore, been put together rather hurriedly in order to meet your deadline of 5 March. We hope nevertheless that it will be of interest to your Committee and one adjudged as being worthy of some remedial action being taken.

  4.  The HACC has a Passenger Services Sub-Committee (the PSSC) which deals with the majority of the matters your invitation has highlighted as they affect Heathrow Airport.

  Members of the Sub-Committee, some of them are appointed from amongst frequent travellers through the Airport after advertisement, conduct monitoring exercises of the various operations and facilities at or serving Heathrow which are experienced by passengers as they travel through it.

  5.  The PSSC receives numerous complaints from passengers about their experiences and, together with concerns raised from its own monitoring exercises, discusses these with airport management, with the surface transport providers, taxi organisations, with airline representatives catering and hotel organisations with a view to resolving them. The Committee has no executive functions.

  6.  Particular concerns which have been the subject of discussion with Heathrow Airport Limited recently have been those arising from the security procedures introduced over the past six months and the airport's contingency plans to deal with events such as the several days of fog in December 2006.

  7.  One matter which the HACC wishes particularly to drawn to the attention of the Inquiry is that regarding the situation for passengers (and local people) who wish to travel from the Airport to a destination outside of Greater London and, unless they use a pre-booked private hire vehicle, must use a London "black cab".

  8.  The HACC is aware that your Committee published a report, "The Regulation of Taxis and Private Hire Vehicle Services in the UK" on 12 February 2004, and regretted that this excluded the taxi situation in Greater London.

  9.  By law, some of which date back to the Hackney Carriage Acts of the mid-1800s, the "black cab" trade has a monopoly of operating licensed taxis within the Metropolitan Police District. Until the year 2000, this District extended outside of Greater London into, for example in the West, Spelthorne, other parts of Surrey, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire.

  10.  Upon the establishment of the Greater London Authority in 2000, the boundaries of this District contracted to be coincidental with those of Greater London whilst the role of the licensing authority, the Public Carriage Office, was absorbed into Transport for London, a functional body of the Greater London Authority and the Mayor of London.

  11.  The taxi licensing functions in those areas from which the Metropolitan Police has withdrawn were taken over by the local authorities for those areas.

  12.  The western boundary of Greater London is substantially at or close to that of Heathrow Airport and in the revision of the Police District boundary and transfer of taxi licensing functions, no provision was made for the significant number of passengers who wish to take a taxi from Heathrow Airport across the border of Greater London into one of the surrounding districts.

  13.  The problem which arises and is the subject of frequent complaint, is that journeys by a London "black cab" which cross the border do not have to be undertaken "on the meter" when the driver should negotiate a fare with the passenger before starting the journey.

  14.  Some of these complaints are made by Councillors representing their local authority from outside of Greater London and, serving as members of the HACC, are voicing the concerns of their constituents.

  15.  Because of the taxi legislation, a London "black cab" is now not licensed to pick up a fare outside of Greater London on their return journey to the airport and many drivers are therefore reluctant to accept passengers wanting an outward journey from the airport.

  16.  Equally, a taxi licensed by an authority outside of Greater London may convey a passenger to Heathrow Airport but it may not pick up a return fare unless it has been pre-booked.

  17.  As a result of this unsatisfactory situation, the HACC has for some five years been pressing for some change in legislation which would resolve the situation satisfactorily from the passenger viewpoint but has found little enthusiasm for this from the regulatory authorities.

  18.  According to the complaints received, it is unusual for passengers to be advised of the fare required before starting a cross-border journey and they are then faced with a demand for quite high fares at the end of their journey. These are claimed to be £50 or £60 for some journeys to destinations which can be as close as only one or two miles from the Airport.

  19.  We were advised by the Heathrow Hotels Association of complaints from their customers of these high fares with allegations that for those foreign customers with a particular destination on the Colnbrook By-pass, the charges were even higher.

  20.  In an effort to ameliorate the situation, Heathrow Airport Limited instituted a scheme early in this century known as "Fares Fair" under which taxi drivers were asked to participate by charging flat fares to some of these areas near Heathrow. These have been increased from time to time but are under £30. We have been unable to obtain evidence of the effectiveness of this scheme.

OUR CONCLUSION

  21.  It is difficult to emphasise sufficiently the strength of feeling amongst the members of the HACC on this subject of taxis after some five years of seeking remedies in what has appeared to be an insoluble problem.

  22.  Until the contraction of the boundary of the Metropolitan Police District in 2000, this taxi problem did not exist, it has only arisen because of the lack of consideration of the consequences of that border change. The solution may be to be to revert to that situation operating before contraction of the District boundary.

March 2007





 
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