Heathrow Airport Taxi Report


Taxi Expert, Feeder Park Fee, Drop Off Charge Update

LCDC – 11 March 2022


Heathrow Report

Hopefully this report covers all or most of the issues that have been ongoing since I got back to work on the cab in September and meetings with HAL restarted. Therefore, it is going to be a bit ‘War and Peace’ but should bring everything right up to date.

Commercial

Heathrow Airport’s long term accounts manager Colin Fox has retired to be replaced by new man Dan Chaquico.

Dan gave a report on discussions with the Civil Aviation Authority- the period starts for a new settlement in January 2022. He said the CAA were behind in giving HAL the details of settlement, so HAL released an initial proposal of £10 – later reduced to £7.20. This was also going to give an indication of how elements for the Feeder Park could be priced. Dan said he had received a good indication on some of the things he’d asked for – which were both good and bad news for Taxi trade. There was still a lack of clarity on the Taxi Feeder Park fee – which was not a good view on the price for the upcoming year (2022).

I explained that HAL’s previous spokesperson (CF) had agreed not to increase the TFP charge until the Taxi trade had had the chance to respond to TfL’s Tariff Consultation at the end of each year. However, this was now complicated because of the pandemic and TfL failing to stick to the usual procedure of consulting with the Trade at the end of each year with a Tariff increase in April.

This was also explained to HAL in the context of the original proposal from them to implement the £5 Drop Off Charge (DOC) on Taxis. Heathrow then agreed to make us exempt until that process had finished.

On Wednesday, whilst the Heathrow Liaison meeting was going on, the TfL Finance Board decided to allow Taxis to implement the £5 DOC on the meter via the extras. This will start after the new tariff has been implemented (April 30th) although I have now raised concerns with HAL on their procedure that allows Blue Badge Holders travelling by taxi to be exempt that puts the burden and cost on taxi drivers should it later be decided that the passenger was not exempt. It leaves the Taxi Driver having to pay the £5 fee with no option to redress with the passenger. Therefore, Drivers should explain to passengers that may be eligible for exemption that they should take this up with Heathrow Airport direct via their website.

Extras go up in 40p increments so the TDOC charge of £5 will translate to £5.20 on the meter. Drivers will need to set up a Business Account with HAL – I’m waiting for the presentation slides and the details from HAL.

HAL are effectively using us as Agents for their £5 charge – something they tried to deny. However, they said passengers should be prepared to pay a ‘Premium’ to go from one Terminal to another or to be dropped at the Terminal itself. There is an alternative of using the Heathrow Express or being dropped at the Long Stay Car Park for a free shuttle bus.

Electric Charging Points

Are there any planned increases to the cost of charging electric taxis at the taxi feeder park?

In 2021, Dan said price was likely to come down from Jan 2022. It was around £9+ for a full charge at Heathrow against £5 on a street charger (BP Pulse) elsewhere. Changes endorsed by the CAA means the costs could have been halved. However, BP (amongst others) is now nearer £9 due to the increase in price of electric, so we’ll be lucky if the price just remains unchanged.

Drivers want to charge their taxis whilst waiting – we need a system where drivers can charge their car and not lose their place in the queue.

LCDC Reps met with APCOA’s Sean Taylor to discuss the issue before the Liaison meeting to come up with a new proposal put forward by members Brian ‘Noodles’ Nayar and Cliff Mahoney.

During the previous Liaison meeting, HAL’s Charanjit Brar Singh said they would try to pick this up in the new IT ‘Taxi Expert’ system.

Taxi Expert

The Liaison meeting in March focussed mainly on the new ‘Taxi Expert’ system that will replace the out-dated system in place at the Feeder Park. The meeting started much earlier than normal to enable Reps to engage with members of the ‘Taxi Expert’ team who are based in Australia before they went to bed at the end of their day.

The TEX Team we’re pleased to hear that we’d just had a discussion about the Electric Charge points as it replicated what they had hoped to do digitally in the future. We’re now waiting on APCOA’s Sean Taylor to fine tune the proposal put forward by Cliff and Brian.

There was no time for discussion on the usual day to day issues. However, there have been updates in the previous meetings

HAL’s previous updates:

Feeder Park Entry Fee

With regard to the under-recovery money accrued due to the Pandemic period – money from the last couple of months are heading in a good direction…that was until December when Sky News reported that Heathrow demanded all COVID testing be dropped after 600,000 passengers cancelled Christmas flights due to fears of more lockdowns.

HAL said they were working on what has been forecasted to spend and what has already been spent/contributed – Dan will investigate this internally.

LCDC have asked that Dan & HAL makes sure this ties in with TfL consultations. That includes the DOC and the Heathrow Extra.

LCDC and the other trade orgs have asked that London Taxis be made exempt rather than be made to pay. However, if we are made to pay we have asked TfL to let us put the fee on the meter via an extra.

HAL say they are going back to the CAA to understand how to price the Feeder Park entry fee for 2022. Currently no clear direction. Allocated costs, fixed costs are a large number and there’s no clarity so asked CAA to remove. Seeking to remove elements, allocated costs, from pricing calculations – waiting from CAA communication.
However, the good news during the Liaison meeting was that HAL also informed us that the TFP charge would remain unchanged for now.

Taxi Expert Feeder Project Update

Rebecca Marshall HAL (presentation) from January.

The current system is out of support and needs replacing. Glitches means downtime multiple times a week including barriers. Project was paused in 2020 but looking to restart within the upcoming weeks/months. Once project starts, a timeline will be produced for date of implementation. This will replace the existence system. Largely automated. Intention to be cashless.

Replace barriers with traffic lights – fewer potential repairs
Another meeting will be scheduled when the project is up and running.

Taxi Liaison Officer Charanjit Brar Singh (Chinny) from HAL clarified this is an information presentation – more discussions and changes can be discussed in the high-level meetings in the near future.

Terminal Drop Off Charge (TDOC)

Operating as it was planned. Taxis exempt until April 2022.

APCOA Forecourt Advisors and 2 mobile units had been driving around assisting people stopping/dropping off in the wrong areas.
HAL interested to hear any visual feedback/observations.

APCOA Forecourt Advisors are no longer on site – only mobile teams remain. HAL have capital funding for the unintended activities so want to make sure they aren’t having any safety issues for vehicles dropping off in the incorrect places.

T2 signage above the rank

The sign was faulty but, after several years, now works.

Locked toilet on T2 rank

This has now been resolved. In future, if any cleaning requirements are needed, the Taxi marshal on rank (rank agent) can support.

Terminal 4

Only authorised vehicles to go into that area.

Hopper Buses

When will buses return to normal running service?

As and when demand picks up and it’s required. If there’s no demand, the service won’t be turned on. This is an independent service operated by Heathrow Hotel Association, so this is out of our control.

Should they be subject to high emissions standards?

HAL said they couldn’t comment as they were not HAL buses and that all their buses were planned to be replaced as soon as funding allows. Meanwhile, Taxi passengers are being penalised despite investing in Electric Vehicles.

The trade were offered contact details of the Hotel community that operates the Hoppa. However, it’s not our place to hold discussion with Bus Operators, but it is hypocritical of Heathrow Airport to tell us that they are charging us £5 to drop passengers at the Airport – and that includes from one Terminal to another – whilst 12 year old, diesel powered Bendy Buses are used to transfer passengers who wish to avoid the £5 fee to Terminals from Long Stay Car Parks, or to transfer passengers from Terminals to Hotels around the Airport in even older Hoppa Buses.

APCOA Feeder park Report

APCO’s Sean Taylor confirmed they have increased and trained more people during peak periods of the day. Additional staff levels in T2/3/5. – there has been an improvement from the end of last year.

Police update:

Concerns raised about vehicles parking up on M4/M25 spur – If you witness this, please let the APCOA team know. On-going issue Police, HE & HAL working together to address

AVA Car Park

LCDC told HAL that there was an agreement that vehicles using AVA Car Park plus Short Stay Multi-Storey Car Parks (private hires – Uber etc) would always pay more than London Taxi Feeder Park charge (Black Cabs).

Sofitel

Sofitel is not a Heathrow operated property – it’s long leased to the Arora group. HAL said they could get managers details of to correspond with them, but it was pointed out that the trade had concerns that Taxis will be asked to pay fees that are greater than TDOC (Sofitel £7.20) at other Hotels at Heathrow where drivers could not pass the fee on.

APCOA’s Sean Taylor wrote to TfL to ask if it’s a refusable job – TfL said it’s not refusable. HAL said they must take guidance from TfL.

However, LCDC were given a copy of the email from TfL’s Head Compliance Officer, and pointed out that he’d said:

“I’ve spoken to our policy team to doublecheck and we have not heard about this or any other hotel having a drop off charge. I know HAL are introducing a drop off charge at the airport but I’m surprised a hotel is doing the same or would want to but anyway…..
 
The short answers to the questions are:
•           Taxi (black cabs) drivers cannot add £7.00 to the fare when dropping off passengers at this hotel. Only extras authorised by TfL can be added to the metered fare
•           Taxi drivers on the rank cannot refuse hirings to the hotel as it is within the compellable distance
 
I can understand why the drivers would want to add £7.00 to the meter or refuse these journeys as that is a lot to pay just to drop off, especially when the total fare from one of the terminals probably won’t be that high.
 
A preferable way forward would be for the hotel to not charge taxis for dropping off or for passengers to be dropped off in a safe and appropriate location near the hotel but which doesn’t incur the drop off charge.
 
I am aware our policy team were speaking to  taxi trade reps about fares today so I’ll get them to ask about this and see if they are aware of the hotel charging this. I’ll get back to you if I hear anything further.”

It was then pointed out by LCDC’s Rep that ‘a safe and appropriate location’ was actually the Departure’s forecourt which had a walkway into the Hotel at Level 1.

TfL, APCOA & HAL had no choice but to agree.

Tags

Tags will be given out when business get back to usual. HAL asked Orgs to encourage drivers to return tags if they are no longer needing them. Tags will only be given out when business get back to usual and if that does not impact the local road network.

In the March meeting, HAL confirmed that they would not be issuing any new Tags to drivers and that it was 1 out and 1 in. However, the new Taxi Expert system will also be using a newer updated version of the Tags and an App so hopefully the issue will be resolved. The position of all the trade orgs remains that any Green Badge Driver should be allowed to operate at Heathrow (unless sanctioned by disciplinary issues) and that the decision was made unilaterally and without consultation by HAL.

Reps Signing in.

HAL have said that Reps can no longer sign in overnight.
Signing in can only be up to 1 hour after last flight and 1 hour before 1st arrival. This should stop the activity of certain representatives, both past and present, sleeping in offices.

LCDC are still trying to get access to the old HALT Office despite protestations from Unite. HAL have said that LCDC/UCG/RMT can share – we await permission from the HAL Property Department.

Taxi Feeder Parking Wardens will only sign in on a voluntary basis, when needed, to make sure that the local Feeder Park road network remains clear. They are there to help – please do not abuse.

Local Journey times

The 60 minutes LJ time has a ‘discretionary’ extra 10 minutes for journeys to the South East of the Airport (e.g. Twickenham etc).
It is at APCOA’s discretion.

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