Leeds taxi drivers’ rush hour convoy UPDATED

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Commuters faced disruption on Monday when taxi drivers staged a ‘go slow’ through Leeds city centre.

Cabbies – who are campaigning for a taxi rank outside Leeds Bradford Airport – drove in convoy through the city during the morning rush hour.

A second protest was planned for this afternoon between 4pm and 6pm.

The taxi drivers began their rolling protest at Gibraltar Island Road in Hunslet, along the A58M inner ring road and on to Leeds Civic Hall – where they aimed to hammer their message home.

The cabbies, members of the Leeds hackney carriage branch of Unite the Union, are angry at Leeds City Council for failing to progress plans to install a taxi rank at the airport.

Since 2008, a single private hire company has been contracted to provide services on the airport forecourt. Other taxi firms can only drop off and collect outside the airport or pay an additional charge which is passed on to passengers.

The council agreed to look into the possibility of installing a public rank on Whitehouse Lane. But projected costs escalated ten-fold to over £900,000 and the scheme was shelved.

Cabbies are also angry at what they say is the council’s refusal to meet for talks.

Union branch chairman Paul Landau said drivers felt that they had no option but to resort to protest action – and said today’s go slows could be the first of many.

He said the only contact the branch had had from the council was an email from councillor Richard Lewis inviting them to ring his secretary.

Mr Landau said: “It was hardly in a conciliatory tone and basically pointed out he was a very busy man.

“We feel we have done as much as we can to progress talks. We now want a definite time and date to meet with the council.”

Coun Lewis, the city’s executive member for development, said the council’s “door was open”, but the drivers much conduct themselves in a “more professional manner”.

He added: “We offered to meet the taxi drivers to discuss their concerns, but they did not respond until after the end of the working day on Friday and then with the ultimatum that they would be protesting on Monday if we couldn’t see them then.

“Instead they have chosen to disrupt the city’s commuters who are trying to get on with their own jobs. This is no way to do business, particularly since we are not actually involved in their dispute with the airport and that we acknowledge their predicament.

“We sympathise with those drivers who feel that their not being awarded a contract by Leeds Bradford Airport has had a negative effect on their trade when they are already suffering considerably from the impact of the recession.

“Our door is open for them to talk to us if they conduct themselves in a more professional manner.”

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