Tuesday, December 15, 2015

On A More Positive Note : GLA Member Richard Tracey's Damage Limitation... By Jim Thomas

On Monday, the Uber friendly press jumped on a recommendation -1 of 8- made in a paper entitled "Saving an Icon" released by Tory GLA member for Merton and Wandsworth, Richard Tracey.
Headlines such as "London Tories want to scrap the Knowledge" received massive condemnation from the iconic Taxi trade. 

But, in his defence, Mr Tracey did not advercate scrapping the knowledge he recommend it be reduced in overall length. 

To be fair the other seven recommendations in my opinion would be welcomed with open arms by the Taxi trade.

The paper itself, is well worth a read and at the end has #8 recommendations 


   

It's a shame Mr Tracey got his statistic appertaining to the number of PH drivers wrong, but at least the paper lays out the precarious position of the iconic Taxi trade. At the end of the paper he makes 8 recommendations which deserve serious consideration.


RECOMMENDATION #1 - Commission a competition review of the taxi industry: 
While London’s PHV numbers have doubled over the last decade, taxi numbers have remained stable. Taxis will need to increase in numbers if they are to take some of the demand generated by a surging population. Yet high barriers to entry are preventing the industry from expanding. As such, the Mayor should establish a competion review to determine how to increase the overall competiveness of the taxi industry. As part of this, the review should assess how taxi drivers could legally vary their fares to make them more competive.

RECOMMENDATION #2 - Re-shape TfL as a pro-active taxi and PHV regulator: 
TfL has previously been dubbed an absentee regulator. In order to help taxis compete in the new digital age, the regulator will have to take a more active role in the industry. Given that TfL’s prime responsibility is the daily management of the public transport network, the regulation of the taxi industry is inconsequential in comparison. As such, the Mayor should remove the regulation of the taxi industry from TfL itself and transfer it to a new Public Carriage Ofice, an arms-length body that would have a much more focused role as a regulator.

RECOMMENDATION #3 - Reduce the entry requirements for the London Knowledge: 
The topographical examination that London cabbies must pass in order to be licensed as taxi drivers is the toughest such test in the world. In a time of savvy tourists and GPS navigation technology, the Knowledge has become less useful. With an average taxi driver age of 55, regulators must make it easier for prospective drivers to enter the industry. To do this, TfL should consider reducing the length of the Knowledge. It currently take 3 years on average to pass this exam, perhaps a one-year process is more reasonable.

RECOMMENDATION #4 - Better align PHV and taxi driver licence fees: 
As it stands, the licence fee for taxis is currently over three times as much as that for PHVs. Such a state of affairs is unfair on cabbies. A large part of these additional costs are down to the Knowledge of London examination. Reducing the lager by  two-thirds as suggested above should result in the licence costs associated with the exam being commensurately reduced. TfL should also ensure that, following their current PHV consultation, that PHV licence fees are raised in line with the likely increase in administration costs associated with the forthcoming, tougher PHV licensing regime.

RECOMMENDATION #5 - Offer loans for the purchase of new Hackney Carriages: 
London’s black cab is one of the city’s most easily recognisable transport icons. Yet the cost of purchasing this public good is not met by the public sector, but by cabbies in a private fashion as self-traders. The black cab greatly adds to the cultural fabric of the city, yet Transport for London contributes nothing towards the purchase of the vehicle. This seems particularly burdensome when you consider that a modern Hackney Carriage costs almost exactly twice as much as a Toyota Prius, a popular car for PHV drivers. To help with the purchase of these expensive vehicles, TfL should offer interest free loans to taxi drivers as they replace their older vehicles with newer versions.

RECOMMENDATION #6 - Delay the introduction of ULEZ for taxis until 2020: 
The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will be a zone in Central London within which all vehicles will need to meet exhaust emission standards or pay a daily charge to travel through the zone. It has been announced that that all taxis licensed for the rst me from January 2018 will need to be zero emission capable. Taxi drivers are being singled-out for special treatment under ULEZ, despite the fact they represent a small number of vehicles on the road. To ease the financial burdens on taxi drivers, the next Mayor should consider pushing back the ULEZ introduction date for new taxis back to 2020, when all other cars will be subject to it.

RECOMMENDATION #7 - Ensure taxi ranks come as standard for all large developments: 
Many visitors to London are greeted with a taxi rank when they arrive at main termini and they provide a ready supply of taxis to many Londoners. However, many feel that there are not enough taxi ranks, particularly in Outer London. The Mayor should look to make new taxi ranks a standard requirement for very large developments, such as those at Nine Elms and Old Oak. TfL should also incorporate into its standard Tube and rail map a symbol that represents a station with a taxi rank nearby.

RECOMMENDATION #8 - Sponsorship should fund the rollout of cashless technologies in black cabs: 
Consumers now expect to be able to pay by credit or debit card for their purchases. Yet barely half of taxis currently take card payments. To ensure their uptake, the rental for card machines should be met by TfL on behalf of the consumer, just as they do for ticket machines in tube stations. TfL’s own costs should be met through incomes derived from sponsorship schemes attached to the card payment hardware and software. New York and Las Vegas currently utilise advertising inside their vehicles to pay for cashless technology, TfL could easily emulate this.

The taxi industry is of great use to both Londoners and international visitors. But with the rise of new technologies and challengers to the black cab’s dominance, reform of the taxi trade will be required if this industry is to continue to provide such a service. The above eight points indicate the steps the Mayor and incoming mayor could take to save this threatened industry from extinction. It is recommended that they be implemented as soon as possible. 

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'd like to hear his views on Uber and see how this ex JP defends the forieng interloper that doesn't pay UK taxes or conform with current PH regulations.

The way he prattles on makes me sick. Anyone would think we give a lousy service to the general public, are in short demand drive sh*t carts, and have a thriving future ahead of us.

Ask him about strategies and modern technology that is available to reduce CO2 and NOx polutiong that his Tory shyster friends are running away from ?

Ask him if is is proud of the Toxic poluted envioroment TFL and Boris Johnson have created that is currently killing tens of thousands of Londoners each year.

Ask him what the GLA are doing about the pollution levels that are off the Richter scale in london ?

Tell Richard Tracy, TFL/GLA to piss off with their broom and clean up their own back yard. And get the hell out of ours!

Anonymous said...

I think Richard Tracy is talking a lot of sense personally

Anonymous said...

anonymous 7:19pm - do you have other children apart from Richard?

Alan Wicker

Anonymous said...

A re-visit to the COFs might help. How could TFL have got it so wrong?

Consulting all so called stakeholders and afterwards, saying no change wanted to anything, turning circle , alternative vesicles etc.

Yet we see people apparently happy to hail a humble Prius on the street, squeeze in the tiny back, then 3 point turn anywhere, so much for competent consultation.

Anonymous said...

Anon7:15 Tunnel vision. That's why you keep reproducing the article. The London taxi trade is head long into extinction and your worried about the freaking knowledge.
As a nightman Jim, have a good look around what drives London taxis... The knowledge already has a fast track. If these people have done the knowledge, my dicks a kipper!

Anonymous said...

IN THE WORDS OF CORPORAL JONES: 'DON'T PANIC, DON'T PANIC'!!!!! And before anyone says we're in a serious predicament, I do realise that! However, what I am referring to is the attitude of many drivers, who start acting like headless chickens, whenever these numerous Idiots, mention changes to the knowledge, COF, turning circle, etc. To illustrate this, I've seen the following comments recently: 'They're right, the knowledge is too long, the turning circle is no longer necessary, I have a multitude of problems and I am finding it hard on the knowledge, my family are suffering as I'm skint' etc,etc it was the same for the majority of us in our time! They also suggest we should lower our fares and the status quo will prevail. Well, to address the above; basically the knowledge is a necessary evil & the time it takes is (in my opinion) necessary, to winkle out the wheat from the chaff. It is not all about routes, etc but a system to psychologically eliminate those who cannot or will not commit. I know there are many examples of people taking longer than necessary to do it and situations where allegedly some seem to have waltzed through it, at a faster & dubious pace but on the whole it works - although it did so a lot better when under the old PCO.

We all thought it was too long and we were being victimised, at one point or another, when we were doing it but that's part of the game they played. It was like it in my experience, in the early/mid 80's & it is no doubt the same now. Also, we all knew the vehicles we would drive and if honest loved the thought of the turning circle, that many now wish to do away with - I for one don't wish it to become a reality. However, what I am trying to put across is that we should not give these ignorant cretins, any respectability, by paying attention to their idiotic remarks. None of these people, have to my belief, completed the knowledge - although, maybe they should try before commenting!

Basically, we should NEVER, NEVER, EVER, lower our standards or our prices, for the benefit of competing with the glorified mini-cab brigade, that this American outfit are - or to appease the trendy beard hipster media brigade. For instance, do you see the luxury designer brands reducing their prices, due to all the snide counterfeit goods, sold in markets & pubs - or the well know watch manufacturer, due to the Hong Kong copies. No of course you don't because their products are far superior, just as we are! Therefore, let's have no more talk of lowering our standards or fares & push to get away from the umbrella of TFL & back under the Met - as much as we moaned about them. Also, all the drivers who get on twitter and come out with comments that alienate our cause - give it a rest and think before you tweet. let's face it none of the MP's, authorities or press give a t*** for us, whatever they say. We and our families are the only ones who know how committed we have been and are. (Although, the public, media and others may one day find out and then they will be wishing we were still around.) So let's not give these people any credence at all and ramp it up, until we get a result. We have nothing to lose and I really feel sorry for all the young ones out there as it's hard, very hard at the moment. We'll get NOTHING, pandering to the media, MP's, TFL, etc & in the words of my granddad when discussing suchlike: 'they're all not worth a cup of cold p***'! The French know how to do it & get a result - as much as it grates me to say it. And I'd like to finish with another pearl of wisdom from Corporal Jones: 'they don't like it up em'! (Apologies for the length of this comment).

Anonymous said...

Well said and lets royal get up in jan and be united

T.Beaven said...

HEAR HEAR !

chris said...

Apart from a view comments on twitter which do alienate to some degree, those who vent there frustration on twitter must keep it up because it works. Richard Tracy appears to have altered course slightly, maybe because of social media. Should we not ask the students who pass the Knowledge if it should be diluted, i know the answer will be no. The turning circle for me must stay, its those small regulations that keep us apart and for me a necessity in the small streets of London, who's roads are becoming even smaller, always having to stop for a Vito to turn around much like the damn Prius, next some will say the headroom is not necessary. One union one app, or maybe two of each just to keep them on form.

Damian said...

Anon 2.23 well said, we must never lower standards!

(And never 'reduce the lager' either)