Friday, November 30, 2012

Taxi Trade Open Forum Report: From Taxileaks Roving Reporter.

A well attended event with a good spread of representatives from trade orgs. Fleet Owners, a Radio circuit and Ecocity cabs.

John Mason chaired the meeting along with a large cohort from Plastera including KOL staff and various policy people.

What was abundantly clear is that TfL are as far away from solving the issues that face us as they were on day one in the year 2000.

We will list some questions and the response from TfL:

1. Will TfL relax the 15 Year Age Limit to assist in the TX4 crisis?

TfL: No, Mr Mason updates the Mayors Office ever day and is aware that the situation is getting worse every day as cabs come off the road and drivers can't get a replacement. Sympathy but no solution.

2. Will the 'cabbies cabinet' result in a wider representation from the cab trade and will Mr Mason abandon his current engagement policy?

TfL: It's up To the Mayor who is invited but he is aware that the lack of representation is an issue with the trade. As for the engagement policy, Mr Mason seemed unable to grasp that as he stated it was his policy, he could change it without reference to anyone above. As he has said in the past he can't, we question if it is really his policy at all.

3. How many prosecutions for illegal plying for hire has there been since TfL took responsibility for cab trade licensing?

TfL: Helen Chapman said none since she took over and we can find none before. She added that her legal advice had previously stated that, as there were now so many satellite offices (in venue operating centres) prosecution would fail, then confusingly added they are looking for a test case.

People then informed them that in the rest of the UK there had been many successful prosecutions for this offence. Lots of weasel words and then an astounding revelation from one of the policy staff where they admitted that they viewed cars parked unbooked as illegally plying for hire. The feeling from the floor was that TfL are not dong anything anytime soon to preserve our rights.

4 . Tfl were asked about the breaking scandal of PH testing at SGS Hanwell where PH vehicles were passed without ever appearing for testing. TfL's account differed from our reports however TfL refused to state how many PH vehicles were involved, whether they were on or off the road etc. etc.This evasive answer has nothing to do with prejudicing any criminal matters. We have passed this matter on to the National Press to see they can brush them off so easily.

Other issues were raised about the Rwandan Mass Murder suspect driving a PH vehicle, again John Mason refused to confirm or deny if this man was carrying the public.

In conclusion, more heat than light, nothing came from TfL that inspires confidence that they either understand fully our issues or have either the capability or will to solve them.

One can only wonder what is discussed when the UTG meet with them, whatever it is it seems not to offer any solutions.

Everyone who attended left disappointed, a missed opportunity but we have to persevere for our sakes.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

SGS staff sacked for selling post-dated PHV license roundels.

We have been informed that:
On a routine stop, police noticed that a PHV's license roundel, was out of date. When questioned, the driver informed the officer that his new replacement roundel was back at the office.

This raised suspicion and the driver was accompanied back to the office where he produced an envelope containing a bundle of brand new PH vehicle license roundels.

After police made further enquiries at the SGS's Hanworth passing station, three senior staff members were arrested. One was later released without charge, but two have been bailed to appear in December. Subsequently, two members of SGS staff have been sacked.

LTPH have known for over two months that defective vehicles, some which could be in a dangerous, life threatening condition, are being used as minicabs, having not passed proper inspection.
The scale of the problem, which could be massive, is unknown.

Statement from LTPH:
Can't say much as its an ongoing case, but the problem was identified by SGS and LTPH called in the police.
They also said the problem wasn't wide spread. This is contra to what we have been told by our source.

When confronted at yesterday's Taxi Drivers forum at Palestra, they had no more to add.

So what have LTPH done about this?
Have we seen CO's turning up outside clubs and late night bars with lines of PHVs waiting to become hired?

No of course not

Have we seen police stop check points checking PHV vehicle's condition and documentation?

No of course not...

Have we seen all the PHVs passed by the two sacked members of SGS staff, recalled for re examination?

No of course not ...

Have we seen the continued harassment of Taxi drivers subjected to frequent badge and bill checks?

Yes of course we have...

This latest scandal is just another in a list of scandals that have hit LTPH recently

Over the last few weeks.

...We've seen an expose' about a man wanted in connection with genocide and mass murder, who has been working as a licensed minicab driver in east London for the last 12 years... When asked about this, LTPH said they can't comment on individual cases!

...We have seen the sale of 39 satellite office licenses to a company that had only been trading for 12 days, contra to LTPH's own guild lines... Notice how LTPH are moving away from calling them satellite offices. They are now referred to as operating centres!!

...We have seen a plethora of PH companies offering a Taxi service or private hire Taxi service, contra to private hire act 1998... Apparently LTPH are unaware of the contravention of acting as a Taxi driver without badge and bill.

Non of these problems have been satisfactorily dealt with by the current Director of LTPH.

We've known for a long time, just how easy it is to set up a minicab that looks fully legal.
(And so do the sexual predators, who pray on victims, hiding within lines of PHVs, illegally plying for hire.)

Roundels can be sourced from breakers yards and forgeries are readily available. Secondhand minicab vehicles can be bought fully licensed for a whole year by non PHV licensed drivers. Plus some are used to avoid the congestion charge.

LTPH pre-booked only stickers have been available on eBay for as little as £1 each (I managed to purchase 4).

And now this... Genuine roundels being sold for cash.

IT'S TIME FOR THE GLA TO INVESTIGATE THE GOINGS ON AT PALESTRA

TfL are about to launch the usual Christmas message on behalf of Safer Travel at Night.

Be safe, make sure your minicab is booked
They even have a cabwise iPhone app.
But will they be informing the public that the minicab they're getting into could be a life threatening cut and shut?



Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cardiff taxis leader vows to sue minicab drivers for illegal pick-ups

A taxi drivers’ leader has declared war on minicab drivers by vowing to sue them for allegedly picking up so-called flag downs.
Mathab Khan, chairman of the city’s hackney carriage association, claims some minicabs are costing Cardiff’s black and white drivers around £2m a year in lost fares.

It is illegal for unmarked minicabs to pick up people flagging them down – they are only allowed to carry passengers who have pre-booked.

Mr Khan said he has repeatedly approached the council to inform it of the alleged licence breaches in the hope it would take action but claims the authority is allowing minicab drivers to “flout the law”.

He said if a minicab driver picks up a fare without a booking then their insurance becomes null and void and they become unlicensed taxis.

He said that last weekend members of the Cardiff Hackney Carriage Association recorded 127 minicabs operating illegally and it is now willing to bring a civil action against any minicab driver picking up flag-downs.

Mr Khan said he has requested the names and addresses of the taxi drivers whose licence plates he has reported from the council but it has refused.

“This has been going for the past five years and the council are doing nothing about it,” he said.

“Since August I have reported more than 100 drivers to Cardiff council, giving them the time and place they were illegally working and their plate number. I’ve also provided them with examples of legal precedence in case they want to prosecute.

“The council have continued to ignore me about this issue so I’ve requested they provide me with the names and addresses of all those I’ve reported so that I can prosecute them on behalf of the association.

“Unfortunately they don’t want to give me the details though.”
He added: “These drivers are constantly flouting the law and the authorities are allowing it to happen.

“I’m having so many complaints from my members because they are losing around £2,000 a year each – that’s about £2m.”

Bryan Roland, general secretary of the
National Private Hire Association, said he was aware some minicab drivers had taken to picking up passengers without bookings in order to boost their income.
But condemning their actions he said: “As an association we do not defend the criminal actions of any of our members.

We tell them if they have been caught driving too fast or illegally plying for hire then don’t come to us. This association will not support illegal actions and we believe everyone should obey the rules.”
A Cardiff council spokeswoman said: “Licensing enforcement officers have investigated Mr Khan’s claims with regards to private hire vehicle’s illegally plying for hire.

“They have extensively monitored the area in which Mr Khan claims this to be happening, which has included ‘mystery shopper’ type exercises.

“There is no evidence to show that the private hire vehicles parked in the area are illegally plying for hire, they are acting legitimately and simply waiting for pre-booked fares.

“Officers have checked evidence of fare bookings.
“There are many business and hotels in the area that frequently utilise private hire contracts, which accounts for the number of private hire vehicles in the area.

“We are unable to divulge personal details of individual drivers to Mr Khan due to Data Protection Act restrictions.”

source: Wales Online http://www.walesonline.co.uk/

Urgent discussions are underway at the RMT London Taxi Branch Committee to consider a similar approach here.

This man is a hero. Note the usual pathetic 'head in the sand' form the Licensing authority.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Taxi Trade goes down the pan as LTPH take the piss!

Tout till your hearts content, no action. Pee in the street? Lose your badge!

Seeing as how London's Councils have consistently closed most of the public loos in budget cuts, selling some more prestigious ones off to be used as flower shops and sandwich bars, where do they expect Taxi drivers to answer the call of nature?

Most hotels turn away taxi drivers wishing to use their facilities and we have been told by LTPH not leave the cab unattended on Taxi ranks. TfL say we can use underground station toilets, but their is no consideration for parking. Plus this is no help for late night drivers.

There are a few urinals scattered sparsely around, but where are women Taxi drivers supposed to answer the call of nature?

We all know what the men at TfL and LTPH think about women's safety, just look at the way they irresponsibly turn a blind eye to strangers with cars picking women up outside clubs and bars, all over London at night

Question:
Is it legal to urinate up the rear wheel of your car if you have your hand on the car?

Answer:
There is no evidence that a man can urinate in public if he aims for his rear wheel, while his hand is on his vehicle. You can be fined for urinating in public, but you have to be caught in the act by a police officer or have a complaint made against you.

According to the Ministry of Justice, the 1986 Public Order Act makes "disorderly behaviour" in England and Wales, including public urination, an offence punishable with a fine. The Law Commission stated that a police officer may make an exception for an expectant mother.

Public urination is also regulated by local bye-laws that state "No person shall urinate or defecate in any public place". There was an attempt to insert an amendment into the Criminal and Justice Police Act 2001 to create a specific offence for public urination, but the amendment was rejected.

Why has no one at TfL stood up for better facilities for taxi drivers, such as unisex toilet facilities accompanied by a rest rank. Stephan Bischof created a type of wheelie bin, which incorporates a urinal, to help combat the antisocial behaviour of drunken misfits. The wheelie bin urinal has been trialled in many towns including London, in a bid to stop public street urination, but this is totally unacceptable for women drivers.

Instead of being instrumental in supplying more, desperately needed rest ranks, Director John Mason now threatens to revoke existing working ranks.

See TfL notice below.


Transport for London
London Taxi and Private Hire
Notice 24/12

Driver Behaviour – Urinating in the Street

We have received reports that there are ongoing problems with both licensed taxi and private hire drivers urinating in the street in certain areas.

Areas where this issue has been reported include:
Cornwall Gardens, Kensington and Chelsea
Ecclestone Square, Westminster
St George’s Square, Westminster
Vincent Square, Westminster

Problems have also been reported in other London boroughs and this
unacceptable behaviour reflects badly on the licensed taxi and private hire
trades as a whole and will not be tolerated.

Urinating in the street is unpleasant and unacceptable for the people who live and work in these areas. It is also a criminal offence and we will advise the public to report all such offences to the police, as well as to Transport for London (TfL), so that the drivers responsible can be charged and appropriate action taken.

Any licensed taxi or private hire driver who is charged and subsequently
convicted will have their fitness to remain licensed reviewed and risks having their licence suspended or revoked by TfL.

Some of the offences committed by licensed taxi drivers are occurring near taxi ranks and where offences continue TfL, along with the London borough, will review the taxi rank and if necessary revoke the taxi rank to help stop offences occurring.

TfL is aware that access to toilets for drivers is an important issue and we will continue to work with all Local Borough’s to increase access and availability to toilets for drivers.

A map showing toilet facilities at underground stations is enclosed and
information about other public toilets in each London borough is available on the internet.

You can find this map at tfl.gov.uk/maps and tfl.gov.uk/accessguides

John Mason
26 November 2012 Director, Taxi and Private Hire
Follow us on Twitter @tfltph
For previous Notices visit tfl.gov.uk/tph


BORIS SPENT £125m ON BORIS BIKES AND £120m ON NEW BORIS BUSES.
HOW ABOUT BUYING THE WORLDS BEST TAXI SERVICE A FEW DOZEN OF THESE



Swedish cabbie flags unique London career

As London gets swept up in "Scandimania", one Swede has found himself in the driver's seat. The Local talks to the only licensed Swedish cab driver in London about his unique career, getting the Swedish PM in his cab, and Sweden’s presence in London.
As London gets swept up in "Scandimania", one Swede has found himself in the driver's seat. The Local talks to the only licensed Swedish cab driver in London about his unique career, getting the Swedish PM in his cab, and Sweden’s presence in London.

“No one else from Sweden, past or present, has managed to go through the ridiculously hard testing system: The Knowledge of London,” Andreas Eriksson trumpets to The Local.

Not until now.



Eriksson, a 38-year-old from Västerås in central Sweden, was the first Swede to ever pass the test and became an official London cab driver in September.

He believes his background puts him in a unique position – in fact, some passengers have even suggested he contact the Guinness Book of Records for managing to become Sweden's only driver of a London "black cab", as they are commonly known.

“While a Swedish carpenter can go to Greece or anywhere else and ply his trade, a taxi driver from Stockholm or Gothenburg can’t just turn up in London and start driving," says Eriksson.

"He or she will first have to qualify to become the second ever Swedish national!”

And that’s no easy feat.

The Knowledge Test, a famously rigorous probe into the most intimate understanding of London’s streets, was initiated in 1865 and usually requires several years of study.

And now that Eriksson finally got the green light, he is keen to investigate how to use his nationality to his advantage.

While he admits painting the cab in blue and yellow may be one patriotic step too far, his first thought was to provide Swedish holiday travellers with city tours in their mother tongue.

In the past, Swedes on holiday in London have hired translators who have had to sit in on tours, making the process often doubly expensive for the passengers, he explains.

“As I have been trained on all London areas I can pretty much offer a spoken tour tailored to each customer based on their interests, be it rock ‘n’ roll, architecture, or just the classics - all in Swedish,” he explains.

Meanwhile, Eriksson is a keen participant in London’s Swedish community.

He writes a column for LondonSwedes.com, keeps in touch with other Swedish business owners, and even drove Millennium actor Sven-Bertil Taube to an event at the Swedish church.

As to why London seems to have caught a case of Sweden, and indeed Scandinavian, fever, Eriksson explains that the answer is simple:

“Sweden has a lot going for it and has always had a reputation abroad as being one of the best places on earth to live,” he says.

“In a quite deep recession such as the one Britain is struggling through, I think people look for inspiration in places where it seemingly isn't as harsh and miserable.”

While Eriksson admits he’d love to have Sweden’s Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt in the back of his cab one day, the plan for now is to just keep driving.

“The good people of London have places to go, people to meet and things to sort out,” he tells The Local.

“It is my job to assist with that as best I can.”


Source: The Local, Sweden's News in English

Are Loyal Addison Lee Customers Being Punished For Their Loyalty?

As a business owner, it’s all too often that I notice companies losing touch with their customers. Unfortunately I was on the receiving end of this recently with Addison Lee, a taxi company I have been loyal to for around seven years.

When I first started using Addison Lee, its prices were competitive and its innovative use of technology made it stand out in the market. However, over the past six months I have noticed prices creeping up and benefits disappearing. A recent monthly bill had increased by £70, thanks to the addition of a £40 admin fee and substantial price increases (e.g. 10 minute journey from Kennington to South Kensington cost £17).

As a priority account holder with a monthly bill, it would have been easy for these increases to go unnoticed, and I wonder how many other customers are being charged more without realising it. Being a loyal customer with a premium account, I would expect to be rewarded with lower prices - but thanks to new admin fees and higher rates for account holders, it seems I am actually paying more for my loyalty.

It’s something that is all too common with big successful businesses - they add more management layers and begin to lose touch with their customers - the thing that made them successful in the first place. It seems that once the company has secured a customer’s loyalty, they stop taking care of them.

Unfortunately while Addison Lee have become complacent, they have opened up a space for a new competitor. I recently tried Hailo, an app for hailing nearby taxis, and was very impressed with its innovative technology. Not to mention that the cost of my 10 minute Kennington to South Kensington journey was half the price at £8.80.

Addison Lee have made the mistake that many companies have made before them - they have taken their existing customers for granted and lost touch with their needs. Companies need to realise that in a tough industry, loyal customers want to be rewarded or they will seek out other options - namely, their competitors.

Anthony Karibian, CEO of bOnline

Source:
http://www.businesszone.co.uk/blogs/bonline/ceo039s-blog-backing-small-businesses/are-customers-being-punished-loyalty

Sunday, November 25, 2012

TFFail show what can be done

TFFail are meeting with the Deputy Mayor of Transport

TFFail is proud to announce we’ve successfully secured a meeting with Isobel Dedring, Deputy Mayor of Transport and Vernon Everitt, MD TFL Group Marketing and Communications.


Our meeting is soon, but never the less we would love to receive questions set by our followers that we can put forward to both Isobel and Vernon. Please be creative with your questions as we are aware that a lot of commonly asked questions are answered on the TfL website.

Please email all of your questions to questions@tffail.co.uk Note: only questions received via this email will be considered.

We would like to thank everyone who has helped us along the way. We honestly couldn’t of done it without your continuous support and we hope to only progress in becoming a unified voice for disgruntled commuters. We’ve got this far with your help and truly believe we can get a lot further with your continued help.

When we set up our website we wanted to have over 5000 followers on Twitter before the end of 2012. Unfortunately we’re a long way off but the year is not finished yet. We also wanted to meet with a senior member of TfL and are happy to have secured a meeting. It is fair to say we’ve so far achieved 50% of our yearly goals.

We will be compiling a hard copy edition of Underground Thoughts to take with us so keep sending in your #UndergroundThoughts, as of this post we will be taking the best #UndergroundThoughts and entering them into the Underground Thoughts book. Please keep them PG rated.

We would really appreciate it if everyone could retweet this message so we can get this out to a lot more than just our followers as we truly believe there is a missing link between TfL and the commuters.



THIS COULD HAPPEN IN HERE: WE MUST MAKE SURE IT NEVER HAPPENS IN LONDON
As the licensed Taxi industry in Ireland became deregulated, it emerged that 1 in 7 Taxi drivers now being licensed, have a criminal record. Some serious issues have come to light with drivers convicted of offences such as rape being allowed to drive Taxis.

See this investigation into the matter posted on YouTube some months ago.