A three-year row over taxi parking at Chichester Railway Station has now ‘boiled over’, angry drivers say.
The situation has reached a stand-off, with most of the licensed hackney carriage drivers now refusing to pay the £395 annual fee to use the ranks on the forecourts.
Indigo Park, which manages the car park and forecourt on behalf of Govia Thameslink Railway, has issued one of the drivers with hundreds of pounds of penalty notices and isn’t allowing others without a permit onto the rank.
Fined driver Alan Venables, however, is refusing to pay.
“I want them to take me to court,” said a defiant Alan, who has been a self-employed taxi driver operating from the station for the last ten years.
Another driver, Christian Burada, who has been working there since October, 2014, said: “The rank permit increases by £40 each year but there is no reason for this when business is going down in the town.
“I am happy to pay if everyone else is made to but it will probably be over £400 next year. It’s hard to justify.”
Police are understood to have been called a number of times, and now British Transport Police is understood to be seeking a meeting between the drivers and Indigo.
Indigo said there was ‘no problem’ but it was aware that ‘drivers regularly use the rank without a relevant permit’. A spokesman said: “Permits are available for registered taxi drivers at Chichester station.
“Vehicles that use the taxi bays without a relevant permit will be issued with a penalty notice.”
Alan said the problems, which had ‘come to a head’ in recent weeks, began around three years ago, because there was no co-ordinated method of enforcing the permits, meaning some were allowed to use the rank without it.
Alan said: “All we wanted was a level playing field where everyone had to pay the same.”
Only around five of the hackney drivers are believed to currently have the permit.
Alan says he contacted Chichester District Council, trading standards and Indigo but the issue was not resolved and had ‘festered’ ever since, now resulting in the stand-off between drivers and Indigo.
Now Alan and some of the drivers are questioning if the charge, believed to be related to a by-law, is even legal.
A Chichester District Council spokesman said: “As a licensing authority, our responsibility is to ensure that hackney carriages are safe for the public to use.
“This includes ensuring that drivers are displaying the right signs, drivers are fit and proper to operate and ensuring drivers are updated regarding changes in regulations and safety information.
“Obtaining a rank permit does not fall under our control and is down to each individual hackney carriage driver.
“The ranks outside Chichester railway station are situated on land owned by Govia Thameslink Railway, and it employs a company called Indigo to operate all the taxi ranks outside its stations.
“Because it is not our land and does not fall under our legal control, each driver has to apply to Indigo for a permit which allows them to wait on the rank.
“As part of our information sharing, we inform new drivers of Indigo’s requirement, and we also remind existing drivers as part of their annual taxi licence renewal letter that they must obtain a permit from Indigo. It is then up to each driver to obtain the permit.
“We have been informed by British Transport Police that they are planning to set up a multi-agency meeting regarding the issues that drivers have raised regarding these permits.”