Bullying, intimidation and a massive loss of income are some of the major issues facing legitimate taxi drivers in Trinidad and Tobago.
Their oppressors, they say, are P-H taxi drivers.
On the first day of consultations on a national transport policy at the Ministry of Works and Transport yesterday, the heads of multiple Taxi Drivers Associations voiced the same complaints- PH drivers have been killing their trade.
The drivers were asked to list their security concerns to Police Commissioner Gary Griffith who was present. Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan and Transport Commissioner Clive Clark were also there.
For the head of the Hospital Taxi Drivers Association, Alastair Saunders, his income has taken the biggest hit as he loses passengers to PH drivers.
“Sir, we have been plagued by the PH issues, I come out to work at 4.30 in the morning and I finish at six and I go home with a $160,” Saunders told Griffith.
He said the taxi stand was located on the corner of South Quay and Charlotte Street and while there was a police presence in the area, PH drivers were being allowed to poach their passengers without consequences.
“They are running rings around us, I trust and believe that no one here can go home and survive on a third of our salary and the intimidation is rampant, when we talk about it, they come on the stand and start inspecting our vehicles,” Saunders said.
The head of the Princes Town/Barrackpore Taxi Drivers Association, Chandradath Rampersad said the issues in Princes Town have escalated to become potentially life-threatening. Rampersad begged Griffith to intervene, saying drivers who ply the Moruga/Princes Town route were taking over the Barrackpore taxi stand.
“The Princes Town Police know about it and they not doing nothing about it, we need you to come down to Princes Town, they (police) not giving anyone tickets, they making all kind of poor excuses. The drivers are begging me to assist them so I told them I am coming to this meeting because it is really going to chaos, it is going to have a murder on that stand,” Rampersad said.
Speaking on behalf of the Malabar Taxi Drivers Association, vice president Cleve Peters said PH drivers have set up an informal ‘taxi’ stand and poach passengers before they can get to the legitimate taxis.
He said the drivers operate out of a bus terminus on Hollis Avenue.
“The maxi taxis coming from Port-of-Spain usually drop off their passengers right in that area there and our taxi stand is up by the market. When the maxi drops them there, I understand it is difficult for the people to walk and it is convenient for them because the PH taxi will accommodate them one time and that is about 60 or 70 per cent of that transport they are getting,” Peters said.
He said the legitimate taxi drivers are left with only the ‘over flow’ passengers while PH drivers are filled to capacity.
Public Relations Officer of the Maraval Taxi Drivers Association, Jason Wickham, said the placement of the Maraval taxi stand in Port-of-Spain has left both drivers and passengers vulnerable to criminals.
Police Commissioner Griffith asked the taxi drivers to give a list of their concerns and contact information to Road Safety Coordinator, Brent Batson and promised to have police officers visit each taxi stand to see the issues plaguing them first hand.