This year has seen unprecedented support from TfL towards third party companies, one of which has had a dramatic economical effects on our trade and other licensed Taxi trades around the country.
The biggest threat our trade has ever faced, has enjoyed a free hand to run riot over regulation and legislation laid down by Parliament.
New regulations have been bought in but many in the trade feel rules are being changed to facilitate an interested party at the detriment of established Taxi and Private Hire drivers of many years standing.
It's been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that regulations are being contravened everyday, and instead of enforcement followed by revocation (as promised by Sadiq Khan when campaigning for the job as Mayor), TfL and the Mayor's office, have resorted to actually changing and watering down regulating guidelines and in some cases, blatantly ignored current legislation.
From one TfL Managing Director, we've had the "Dear Jo" Email's, the covert un-minuted coffee house meetings, multiple lies -on-off insurance, Uber met all requirements when first licensed, Uber has a pre booking landline- told directly to the transport committee of the GLA....and this man unbelievably, still has a job at TfL?
When fake medicals and topographical tests came to light in the Sun News paper expose', TfL said they would no be taking direct action but would be more vigilant in 3 years time, when certain PH driver's licenses were up for renewal.
TfL's legal team, seem gutless to take on a large Private Hire operator whose philosophy is "it's easier to seek forgiveness than permission". So far, they appear to have gotten away with every rule they've broken and haven't had to seek forgiveness once. What message does this put out?
Funny thing is, this company state quite openly they are not a private hire operator but a tech company and they supply technology to the drivers who act as private hire operators. And yet TfL have chosen to licence the company as such and not the drivers.
Confused.....it gets much worse!
TfL director of legal Andrea Clarke and general counsel Howard Carter, last reviewed their advisory panel in 2012 appointing 11 new firms, including Dentons, Trowers & Hamlins and Lewis Silkin to a roster which also includes Berwin Leighton Paisner, Eversheds, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith Freehills, K&L Gates and Gowling WLG.
They now have a 200-strong legal team, comprising of 90 lawyers who handle TfL's core commercial work for operations which includes the capital that gets invested into the Underground, as well as diverting legal resources towards the office of the Mayor of London, the British Transport Police, the London Legacy Development Corporation.
Firms on the payroll also advise the greater London authority, which also comes under the remit of TfL. (So no conflict of interest there then!!!
Back in 2012, when an employee from the Diamond Chauffeurs was caught blatantly touting outside a bar on Cornhill, by senior TfL staff members, their operator licenses were revoked, but they immediately appealed. TfL's legal team embarrassingly lost in the high court and decided to just leave it at that.
Diamond can be found today openly touting with impunity on pavements outside a number of London venues, left alone by TfLTPH enforcement. Many smaller PH firms now use the case as a precedent in defence when caught openly breaking the terms of their licence variation outside London clubs and bars.
Read the case for yourself >Click Here<
TfL's legal team waited some twelve years to get (in their words) "a water tight case". After losing the appeal, they've now been labeled "The Quality Street Gang" by the Taxi trade.
Trade org reps who attended the hearing, said they couldn't believe the weakness of the case bought by TfL, in light of the evidence that was available to them.
Observers have said it was exactly the same with Uber's "It's a meter, it's a smart phone?" case.
Un-phased by the crippling affect of their woefully inadequate performance in general, TfL now operate a more relaxed approach to PH licensing. In doing so, they churn out somewhere in the region of 600 new PH licenses every week, allegedly to give Uber a steady flow of new drivers.
Issues such as:
• The ease in which Uber first became licensed without a landline
•The Meter Case
• On-off insurance policies
• RD2.com's acquisition of PH operators licence and multiple licence variations (satellite offices), without the requirement of being in business for the minimum period of 12 months
• Fake medicals, fake topographical test's
All now swept under the carpet.
Interestingly enough, the new commissioner of TfL, Mike Brown asked for it to go on record, that he had no part in the licensing of Uber....why would he insist on this going on record at a meeting of the Cabbies Cabinet?
So far, there's been a lot of shouting for Demo's, but not one of our trade orgs have challenged the real problem of TfL's conflict of interest with interested third party companies, (apart from the LCDC's expose's in the Badge paper).
I recently attended a meeting in Taxi House where most of our representative orgs were gathered to talk about what to do in light of the Toronto verdict. To my surprise two of the orgs hadn't even read this ground breaking story.
It also appears our largest trade org, has no viable plan to challenge these serious issues in the coming year. If they have, they don't seem to be letting on to anyone.
So perhaps it's time for the drivers to finally cross the line in the sand and take action for themselves.
The infighting and fragmentation has to stop and everyone has to come together under the one flag. Take the diary off the dashboard, forget the colour of the lanyard and fight for the badge that hangs from it.
At the beginning of 2016, our enemies predicted we would be gone by Christmas as with TfL's help, they double the size of their working fleet.
But we are still in there punching our weight.
2017 has to be known as the year the drivers fought back.
If you don't get into the ring, you can't win the fight.
If you don't fight back now, TfL will destroy our trade and replace us with a one tier system, as per their agenda.
Our fight back begins on January 12th at the Bank Junction and continues the following week for five days.