A few weeks ago, we were informed on the twitter page of a leading member of the Joint Ranks and Highways Committee, that he had specifically requested a Taxi rank outside the exit of the Shard restaurant in St Thomas Street SE1.
We were then informed it would be sited further down the street, leaving PHV free to intercept customers as they leave the restaurant.
The LCDC twitter account alleged Leon Daniels had become personally involved with the placement of the new rank, which drivers now feel is totally unsatisfactory.
Are TfL senior management interfering in operational rank matters and why?
It's quite apparent to everyone, why the rank has been sited away from this location. The space outside the Shard (soon to be new Hotel), is being used by a certain favoured private hire operator as a pseudo minicab rank.
Is this is the same company often seen to be given exceptional help from TfL in regards to acquisitions of satellite office license?
We now hear again via the LCDC Twitter account, that TfL have instructed their red-routes network enforcement officers to ticket Taxis plying for hire in advance of the Taxi rank.
It should also been pointed out, that no such instructions have been given in regards to PHVs illegally plying for hire outside the shard.
Complaints from customers are common, stating they are being intercepted on the 31st floor (the restaurant) by representatives of the Private Hire operator, asking if they require a Taxi.
This is touting.
It is a criminal act, an act of solicitation.
It is also an arrestable act.
An act that should result in a fine plus the revocation of the drivers PHV licence.
Any private hire driver who instigates a journey in this manner also contravenes the conditions of his insurance policy meaning both he and his passengers are uninsured...this on its own is an arrestable offence and the vehicle can be seized.
As this act is carried out with the full knowledge of the operator, the operators PH licence should also be revoked.
Perhaps this is a job for secret shoppers from TfL, seeing as how they seem to like a free meal and night out.
(As witnessed by their attendance of the British Parking awards last week, even though TfL weren't nominated)
Perhaps they could ask TfL staff and their guests to check out the Shard.
To reiterate, these offences are serious, but TfL, inspite of complaints, choose to turn a blind eye, possibly to facilitate the business associates of the satellite office licensees, who TfL class as Stakeholders.
Many complaints have been made to TfL but they are constantly ignored, especially when complaints are made on line.
(Probably why they keep insisting complaints are made online)
But then TfL don't process complaints made against PH drivers. They are sent directly to the operator to deal with.
It has also come to light that TfL have recently spent £250,000 on promoting their twitter accounts.
(This would have paid for an amazing rank, possibly with a weather shelter and benches)
This is the same TfL who forgot to mention to the Joint Ranks Committee, that contra to belief there was in fact £80,000 in the ranks budget, but, it was hidden in a TfL account. It appears that only TfL senior managers knew it was there and it only came to light after it was too late to spend. As a result, the money was lost and this years budget has been halved to £40,000.
(Info published in the badge)
But if TfL are going to keep putting ranks in the wrong places, then it's just an overall waste of funds.
We have seen ridiculous placing of ranks over the last few years. Remember the impotent rank in Cornhill?
It took demonstrations from a united force of cab drivers to get the rank moved, to outside the Abacus bar. But even then, they still left space in front of the rank for minicabs to illegally ply for hire and tout. Plus after objections from the satellite office operator, the accommodating space was more than halved.
We also saw the unbelievably bad placement of the Mahiki rank where customers can't see the "For Hire" signs of the waiting Taxis, plus the laughable extention of the rank at Babbel bar.
The RMT Ranks and Highways team have now been promised a full enquiry by the GLA into the running of Taxis and private hire by TfL.
One question that the inquiry must ask is:
Why do TfL bend over backwards to help private hire operators set up and operate these businesses and yet rigidly enforce any laws or regulations when it comes to Licensed Taxis?
But then again, this is all small potatoes in the overall scheme of things.
The sale of PH roundels to "friends"
The counterfeit licenses cover up
The wholesale issuing of satellite office licenses to favoured operators.
The dismantling of any meaningful form of licensing enforcement
The bullying and intimidation of drivers who demonstrate
The over selling of suburban licences
The outsourcing of all TPH licensing responsibilities
(In fact so much has been outsourced, it's rumoured that TfL had to bring down staff from Coventry and invite ex staff, to make up a full table at the parking awards)
Lately on twitter TfLTPH have been posting about Taxis blocking a 10 foot section of cycle lane in Finsbury park. This only happened a couple of times while The loading bay became a temporary rank.
Every night of the week minicabs block cycle lanes all over the place, worst being regent street, and Lower Thames Street.
And yet TfL/LTPH haven't uttered one word, about PHVs blocking cycle lanes.
It's not just TfL who shoulder the blame, the Met police also turn a blind eye to illegally park, illegally plying for hire and touting minicabs. The robberies, sexual assaults and rape, excepted as collateral damage, as long as the late night streets are cleared.
TfL have divorce themselves from any form of responsibility
We are being driven off the road and out of business.
Our representative groups are threatened with exclusion, should they rock the boat.
How much more is this trade going to let TfL throw at us before the drivers themselves stand up and shout
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH?
Almost half the trade pay good money for representation.
Where is that representation?
Allegedly, it takes less than the price of a new cab, to bring silence from one organisation.
It's now time for the people who take our money, to stand up and earn that money.
As usual, space will be made available on this blog, should TfL and any of the trade orgs like to explain their actions.