Credit card readers in the passenger compartment
I wrote the following letter 7 weeks ago and emailed it to London Mayor Khan, Deputy Mayor for Transport Val Shawcross, London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon, Minister of Transport Chris Grayling, London’s transport Commissioner Mike Brown, MP for Kensington and Chelsea Lady Victoria Borwick, TfL General Manager Helen Chapman as well as TfL’s Leon Daniels, Garrett Emerson and Peter Blake. A copy was also sent to the Dial-a-Cab Board and DaC driver David Lessman as a former Chairman of children’s charity, LTFUC. It was also published in the last issue of Call Sign...
I am addressing this email to everyone named above and would hope that my case is written clearly enough to understand. If it isn't, that is due in totality to the anger I feel towards Transport for London with regard to the appalling treatment given to Dial-a-Cab by an organisation that I have always assumed wanted all transport vehicles under its umbrella to work in a safe environment.
But apparently that doesn't apply to London's taxi fleet, justifiably said to be the world's best. And much thanks for that must go to TfL's predecessors, the Public Carriage Office. Yes, there was a certain amount of fear attached to their presence, but that was in addition to respect.
The fact that I edit Dial-a-Cab's in-house magazine, Call Sign, comes second to my pride at being a licensed London taxi driver for over 45 years. However, I’m also ashamed to be connected to an organisation like TfL who have shown beyond doubt that they care not a jot for this trade and that if any of our number were to be attacked and hurt, then that is nothing to do with them.
In other words, TfL doesn't care if we get hurt and they are attempting to prove it because if their plans go through, then some of our number will be hurt - possibly seriously.
What I'm talking about in case some on this list don't know - and I have no doubt that not everyone does - is all to do with TfL's insistence on London taxi drivers accepting credit cards.
That decision is undoubtedly correct. Like many on Dial-a-Cab, I have already been carrying out CC rides for years via our system and with street CC trips for several years ever since we have had fixed CC readers (PEDS) fitted into our taxis with the holster placed handily by our left shoulder and easily fitting through the gap in the partition for the passenger to put in the card and insert their pin.
But astonishingly, even though it was TfL that passed the DaC PED in that position some five years ago at a substantial cost to DaC, I have now been informed that TfL want the PED to be placed in the passenger compartment. That would mean that if three semi-drunk passengers at two in the morning said that the PED wasn’t working, then the driver will have to get out and check it.
I’m sure I don't need to explain what that could mean to any driver being put into that position. Robbery? Bruising? Stabbing? I'm not interested in whether it has or hasn't yet happened. It will somewhere down the line. But why? The PED is excellently placed in a safe position and all it needs is an approved sign on the passenger side of the partition that says the driver accepts credit cards. Why should we be put in danger every time someone comes up with a problem? Most are genuine and I am usually able to sort them out fairly easily, but there is no way on God's earth that I am going to get into the back of my taxi with people I may not even trust.
I often get out to help passengers with bags or women with babies and prams. But would I get into the back of a taxi with an unaccompanied female passenger and take the chance of being accused of an offence against her person? No I wouldn't in either case and I won't. If that means going to court to explain why I don’t want to put myself in danger when it is totally unnecessary to do so because our current system caters for all eventualities, then that is what I will have to do. I have already upset my wife when telling her what TfL wants us to do.
Feel free to look at my record as a taxi driver, which actually goes back several years before my May 1971 taxi beginning encasing my time with London Transport. I give you all permission. You won't find one complaint. You won’t find me down as a trouble maker; I am just a taxi driver who believes that this is the best taxi service in the world and who does his best to provide an excellent service to his passengers.
But apparently TfL are going to force me into deciding whether my safety is as important as credit card acceptance. I want to accept CCs but not if there is the possibility of putting myself in danger.
I also know of one case where a passenger that had failed to secure their seat belt was catapulted forward hitting their head onto a PED case in the rear. It was only at the driver’s insistence that he should have buckled up that a complaint didn't go any further. But that isn't my complaint; I am purely pointing it out as a secondary reason. Perhaps there have been no official reports of it happening, more because our drivers are excellent and unlike the competition, do not need to look at satnavs rather than the road ahead.
But that is a million miles from unnecessarily insisting that drivers may have to go into the passenger compartment if the passenger says there is a problem with the PED. As I have said, it won't be me and if I am forced to do as TfL insist, then the world will know how I feel via our justice system and the newspapers - one of which reported on the 154 alleged sex attacks on their passengers by cab drivers and of whom I would stake my house on that none were taxi drivers. However, I would expect the number of taxi drivers being attacked to go up after being lured into the rear of the cab under the pretence of the CC PED not working.
I find it so difficult to understand that our so-called licensing authority is happy to put us in danger, because an excuse that it hasn't happened yet is just not good enough. It will happen.
I used to write to TfL whenever one of my Call Sign readers asked me a question that I believed they could answer, but I cannot remember the last time anyone from that organisation bothered responding to me. However, my views are now known and hopefully will at least be read and the feelings of myself and many other drivers will be looked at sympathetically, because I just cannot believe that any organisation would do what TfL are proposing.
I have sent this lengthy email to several people including Deputy Chair at Transport Val Shawcross, TfL, Caroline Pidgeon at the Transport Committee, the Mayor's office, two former Chairman of the London Taxi Drivers Fund for Underprivileged Children, Victoria Borwick as a hopefully interested MP and former member of the Transport Committee and someone who knows much about how this trade operates. I have also forwarded it to members of the DaC Board of Management who in all fairness should know my views as Editor.
EXTRA COMMENT FROM DIAL A CAB CHAIRMAN BRIAN RICE :
My sentiments regarding this very important safety issue, is that I knew one day TfL would mandate for CC acceptance, that is why I sought TfL acceptance to put our new PED's in the front of the taxi.
I consulted with John Mason and Alex Moffat regarding the siting of the PED's in the front of the vehicle and I received written permission in March 2011 granting my request.
Five years later TfL change their mind without one word to me, bearing in mind DaC invested £500k in the PED's - total contempt, or just plain negligence? I have been lobbying TfL since 3 March this year, with several meetings, plus I have sent 31 e-mails, copying an array of dignitaries relaying my concern for driver safety. All I get as a response is that it is still being discussed - that is since March this year.
If TfL persist with this fiasco, then after the first driver is attacked, I will happily hand over my correspondence warning TfL of their folly to the driver so that he may take them to Court.
I would really like to make a stance on this issue, however, the problem I have is that it will not be me that suffers or DaC, but my Members when they have a stop put on their cab!