Thursday, March 26, 2015
Assembly member Valerie Shawcross, has called for more to be done to stop illegal touting by unlicensed cab drivers.
Assembly Member Val Shawcross celebrating St George's day
The Labour assembly member said touts are "getting away with it all the time", adding: "There are two cab-related sexual assaults a week and touting is all part and parcel of that risk."
This number as this blog has pointed out many times befor, is just the reported cases. Met police estimate that up to 90% of attacks go unreported, which could equate to as many as 20 minicab related sexual assaults weekly.
She also complained the problem is "massively under-enforced, with only 14 TfL compliance officers on duty at night".
Worst still were the reports from the Chairman of the LCDC Grant Davis, that one particular Saturday night when he was working, there were only 2 cab enforcement officers available on duty.
Speaking at the a mayors Question Time at City Hall yesterday, Mr Johnson said she had made "a valid and powerful point" and insisted efforts would not just be redoubled but "multiplied many times" to improve matters. Unfortunately a broken promise heard many times before from Boris.
"I'm going to put my hands up here and say we need to be doing more," he added. (Didn't he say that last month/last year/the year before?)
Helen Chapman, general manager of taxi and private hire, said the English language test was being examined as a possible way of improving minicab services for Londoners. How on earth can TfL justify licensing a person to deal with the general public who doesn't speak the countries language, it's unacceptable and scandalous.
She said: “There is currently no statutory requirement for private hire drivers to speak a specified level of English, although all drivers must undertake a map reading test conducted in English. This statement doesn't hold water as TfL can evoke their powers to reject any applicant under the fit and proper person requirement.
"We are always looking at ways to improve the service we offer to our customers and we are putting forward a proposal to introduce a new English language requirement that all drivers must meet before becoming licensed.
It's amazing how quickly amendments were made to the London cab act to put IDs on the statute, yet this argument has been dragging on for years. Presently, there seems no political apatite to solve this issue.
"This is one element of a wide-ranging consultation on Private Hire Regulations that we expect to launch in the near future. And that's the key words "In the near future", a term that neatly always means...it's been shelved. More proof that the present directorate at TfL have been and still are woefully inadequate.
There are rumours that a knowledge examiner has been suspending for refusing to see knowledge students using interpreters.
Trade politics will always attract a heady mixture of the sincere, pompous, deranged or down right shifty, no matter the more we meet together the less those with self interest can prosper.
The next steps must be as follows:
1. An agreed trade wide 'manifesto' is published.
2. The Joint Ranks Committee is reconstituted to include those currently excluded, even the existing members would admit it needs new blood and more people.
3. Any and all talks with TfL, The Mayor, BAA , London Councils etc. must have representation across the trade and those who currently attend this or that should agree not to unless the others are included.
4. Government, Mayor, GLA and TfL etc. informed that this new trade body (London Taxi Congress?) is the 'voice of the trade'.
5. It won't mean that everyone goes to every meeting except those that do carry a mandate from us all and report back to us all.
Of course some will have to surrender some perceived status and others not. Some will have to 'sell' their organisation or union on its benefits, democratic structure etc. etc. It should of course always have been so and some need to set aside personal ambition, old hatreds or just plain obstinacy.
There can be no more pathetic 'we're in your out' nonsense that only serves those who wish to see us divided and in fact, diminishes us all.
So trade leaders, can you now walk the walk?
But one Taxi driver in Walsall ended up with a rather more valuable forgotten item - a bag containing £10,000 cash.
Mohammed Nisar picked up one of his regular customers from Hereford at Walsall train station and drove him to his normal destination of British Car Auctions in Green Lane, thinking no more about it. However, soon afterwards, a call came in from the council saying that something important had been left behind.
Thinking nothing of it and without looking inside, father-of-three Mohammed simply reached for the innocuous looking shoulder bag and placed it on the front passenger seat.
It was only when the flustered passenger returned to the rank in another taxi less than half an hour later that he realised something was out of the ordinary.
"He nearly had a heart attack, he was really worried," said Mr Nisar, aged 55 from Hatherton. "He came up to me and said 'do you realise what is in that bag?'.
"He was very, very thankful. He had just bought a car but forgot the money."
It is not the first time Mr Nisar, who has been a cabbie for 15 years and works for himself, has found things in the back of his car.
Mobile phones regularly slip out of pockets, while purses are also frequently left behind. Only two years ago one passenger left a wallet containing £150 in, but Mr Nasir drove straight back to the man's home in Darlaston and returned it.
Now, following his latest find, he is urging fellow taxi drivers to do the same if they find themselves in the same situation.
Mr Nisar said: "At the end of the day honesty is the best policy. There are some drivers who don't return things but what is the point.
"If the council had not have called me and no-one had have claimed it after 12 or 24 hours I would have taken that bag straight to the police station. It is better me going to them rather than them coming to visit you.
"Mobile phones are the most common thing left behind but most of them now can be traced anyway.
"My message is to encourage all my taxi driving brothers that if they find something valuable just give it back."
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
A minicab driver, who threatened a teenage girl in Bromley before two women came to her rescue, has been handed a community order.
Abdul-Muhib Hannan, of Imperial Way, Chislehurst, pulled up in a silver saloon car alongside the 14-year-old girl, who was walking along Turpington Lane at around 3.30pm on January 14.
The 26-year-old threatened her in an attempt to get her into his vehicle but two women waiting at a nearby bus stop in Brosse Way intervened.
Officers arrested Hannan on suspicion of attempted kidnap but he was later charged with a public order offence.
He pleaded guilty at Bromley Magistrates’ Court to using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour towards another person intending to cause them harassment, alarm or distress.
Hannan was sentenced at the same court on March 20 to a community order requiring him to undertake 150 hours of unpaid work.
He was also ordered to pay a £60 victim surcharge and £85 court costs.
It seems that Nissan has suspended development of its new London black cab, because its petrol version it won't meet standards for London's proposed Ultra-Low Emission Zone.
Its plans for a new black cab for London appear to be on hold and will remain so unless Boris Johnson’s proposed Ultra Low Emission Zone in London is not given the go ahead. A decision on the zone is expected fairly soon.
The zone would not come into effect until 2020 but rules governing the sale of new cabs would come in two years earlier.
Nissan fears that regulations outlined in the consultation, requiring all new taxis registered in London to be zero-emission by 2018, would mean that its new petrol cab would effectively be obsolete in three years.
In effect, London’s Mayor Boris Johnson is proposing to make all London taxis zero-emissions capable by 2018. Nissan's design, based on its NV200 van-based MPV, is powered by a 1.6-litre petrol engine.
News of the hold-up was noted by a few auto magazines at the end of last year and start of this year, but have not been picked up more widely.
James Wright, Managing Director of Nissan Motor GB, was quoted late last year stating that the firm had "suspended the project until the regulation of the market has been decided".
It was also reported as stating that until it knew the requirements for new cabs under the zone, such as the range needed for an electric taxi and guidance on charging points, it would have to suspend development of its greener London cab.
The NV200 taxi is already in service in cities such as New York and Barcelona, but a suite of styling and engineering changes were being made for the London version.
The hold-up seems an odd decision, as Nissan has already developed and launched an electric version of the underpinning van for the project, called the e-NV200, which would meet these emissions standards.
However, it seems that Nissan wants five years to break into the market with its petrol-based taxi before going all electric, and a big concern may be around how many charging points there will be available in London from 2018.
I had expected the Nissan cab to take significant market share, and am thus surprised at the firm putting the project on hold.
While the firm had planned to sell the cab initially with a 1.6-litre petrol engine, it had hoped that longer term electric versions of the cab will be viable as the fast-charging infrastructure in London develops.
And it was going to be one of just three options for licensed cab drivers, alongside the Mercedes-Benz Vito and the London Taxi Company’s TX4.
Of course, Nissan may decide to re-enter the London market with its electric van once it knows how any new zone might shape up. But, as things stand, all this means bad news and good news for Midlands-based firms.
It’s good news for the Geely-owned and Coventry-based London Taxi Company. The latter is planning a £250m investment in a new plant and an electric taxi to be built at Ansty, near Coventry.
A Nissan pull out would mean less competition for its new electric TX5 cab.
But the Nissan hold-up is bad news for ADV Manufacturing, the Coventry-based firm responsible for the final assembly of the Nissan cab.
The base vehicle was meant to to be sourced from Nissan’s Barcelona factory and shipped to the ADV plant in Coventry for final taxi assembly. The extensive taxi transformation was going to involve new bodywork, an interior refit and revised suspension and steering.
Less than a year ago, Brendan O’Toole, the Chief Executive of ADV Manufacturing said: “This is great news for ADV and indeed for the City of Coventry. The company is already taking on more engineers, technicians and other specialist staff to reinforce our product development group”.
He went on: “We will be expanding and training our production team to build taxis from the early summer. We anticipate the Nissan taxi will become the new market standard and thereby underpin sustainable jobs at ADV for many years”.
Quite where the Nissan hold up leaves the ADV-Nissan joint venture is an interesting question.