Tuesday, April 30, 2013

RMT London Taxi Driver Branch Sets Out Demands On Law Commission Review

We note the interim statement from the Law Commission on its consideration of taxi and private hire

We welcome the indication that the Commission will recommend retaining the distinction between taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs).

We are concerned, however, that the replacement of the concept of ‘plying for hire’ with the concept of ‘pre-booking’ may dilute this distinction and allow private hire vehicles to encroach on taxi drivers’ work. (paragraph 5)

We welcome the Commission’s withdrawal of its previous recommendation to abolish quantity controls, which explicitly recognises that the ‘market’ ie. unfettered competition between drivers, is not appropriate. (paragraph 6)

We do not accept the discrimination inherent in the proposal that local authorities should be able to impose local standards additional to national standards on taxis but not on private hire services. (paragraphs 11 and 12)

We are concerned about the Commission’s support for ‘freeing up cross-border working for private hire
services’. (paragraph 13)

We support our London Taxi Drivers branch’s demands for:

Plying for hire to be defined both in our favour and in statute.

PHVs to not be permitted to wait in advance of bookings or form ranks outside venues.

Taxi Ranks overhaul and a fit-for-purpose strategy developed throughout London
STaN initiative planning permission for satellite offices - No rank = No satellite office.

Vehicle distinction to be paramount: the ‘black cab’ is our unique selling point.
A PHV should always be a PHV and should only be driven by a PHV driver whether working or not.

Pedicabs and alike not to have the right to ply for hire or operate on the highway.
Crime statistics and plying for hire offences to be broken down into categories such as Taxi, PHV and

Robust enforcement of plying for hire legislation: funding to be set at a level capable of dealing with the size of both the taxi and private hire trades.

A managed growth of BOTH taxi and private hire trades in the interest of maintaining standards.

We instruct the General Secretary to ensure the prompt publication of a good-quality RMT newsletter for London Taxi Drivers reporting our stance on these and other issues and including a membership form; and a similar newsletter for other areas should the lead officer request it.

Nissan Set To Unveil Final Design For New London Taxi

Nissan will unveil its final design for a new London taxi in the next month, with the firm's executive vice president Andy Palmer confirming he signed off the final production model this week.

The car will sit in the same platform as the New York taxi developed by Nissan, but has been substantially restyled to retain the hallmarks of the classic black cab. The design work has also been conducted with substantial input from current drivers.

It will initially be sold with a 1.5-litre diesel engine, but longer term Palmer hopes the fast-charging infrastructure in London will evolve to make electric versions of the car viable.

"Running costs for an electric vehicle are about a tenth of a diesel, so the business case is there, so long as charging times can be reduced," said Palmer.

Palmer conceeded the project is unlikely to make Nissan much profit, with just 20,000 London taxis in operation at the moment. However, in time he sees the project as invaluable for promoting electric cars.

"The best way to answer concerns about electric cars is to get people into them," said Palmer. "If you think of the millions who ride in black cabs each day, then you get a feel for what these vehicles could achieve in terms of changing perceptions."

A dear John Letter. Bullet point no 8. Still putting up.

Dear John
Hope you are settling into your new job at Congestion Charging. Just a little question for you.
A little while ago, through your legal team officer Abbey Ameen, you sent Taxi Leaks a request to take down a blog post that you claimed misleading.

We have since spent the last few weeks backing up the statements you questioned as misleading.
Next on our list is the matter of NSLs new licensing contract.

In the article in question, we made the statement;
"The awarding of the licensing contract to a company who's wardens refuse to enforce traffic restrictions against Private Hire drivers in Central London".

You said this allegation was "wholly unfounded, inappropriate and denied by our client."

Not only are we in possession of an email from NSL explaining why NSL wardens are not issuing tickets at the junction of Regent Street and Swallow Street, but we also noticed similar allegations were made in the April issue of the badge, page 17...click here
We don't believe your legal team sent the badge the same or similar letter that they sent Taxi Leaks and we are curious to find out, why it's ok for them (The LCDC) to publish this in the Badge, but not ok for us to post on Taxi leaks blog.

Below, CEO from NSL, Parking Services Excepting Cash From Motorist. Published in the Daily Mail on the 04/12/2013

Jim Thomas.


Excepts from email train to Westminster City Council and Parking services from a London taxi driver:
Emails run from 05/03/2012 to 31/12/2012

The Cab driver wrote:
Every night there are Private Hire Vehicles parked on double yellow lines on Regent Street, at the junction of Swallow Street. I reported this to one of your passing Civil Enforcement Officers who informed me that they had been instructed to ignore them and let them do whatever they like.

The reply came back:

Thank you for contacting Westminster City Council.
I have forwarded you correspondence to Parking Services' Customer Relations Department for review, who will respond to you in due course.

Followed by:

Thank you for your email. I note your comments and have contacted the City Council's contractors for on-street services, NSL Limited, with your complaint about mini cabs parking at the junction of Regent Street and Swallow Street.

I have been advised that a joint operation between the Police and NSL took place on 29 January 2012, regarding this problem. The location is being closely monitored at the moment, to ascertain whether special enforcement is requiired in the area.

I acknowledge that you feel aggrieved; however, I trust my comments have been helpful and the action taken has resolved this situation to your satisfaction.
Linda Fraser
Customer Relations Officer
Customer Relations
Westminster City Council

The driver then wrote back:

The 'action taken' hasn't resolved this situation to my satisfaction at all. No action has been taken. Why did the Civil Enforcement Officer refuse to give a PCN to vehicles who were parked on Double Yellow lines? This is still happening every night. They are not slow to give tickets to ordinary members of the public for parking offences. Are they taking some form of monetary payment from the Private Hire drivers in return for not enforcing the law?

Linda Fraser then answered:

Thank you for your email, below. I am concerned to note that you are unhappy with my previous response, and have forwarded your complaint to NSL, for their attention.

I have been advised that, upon sighting Civil Enforcement Officers (CEOs) approaching the area, mini cab drivers move their vehicles on before PCNs can be issued. PCNs will be issued to any vehicles that are parked in contravention, on yellow lines. NSL and the City Council are taking the situation in this area very seriously and are sending as many available CEOs as possible to the area, in order to enforce appropriately.

I can assure you that CEOs are not taking any form of monetary payment from the private hire drivers in return for not issuing PCNs to vehicles parked in contravention.

Thank you for again bringing this matter to my attention. I trust I have clarified the City Council's position and I would like to assure you that this situation is being closely monitored.

Still not satisfied the driver went on:

Dear Ms Fraser,
I told you that this practice is rife, but obviously Westminster City Council turn a blind eye to it. Why else would you turn down the revenue that could be issued in fines? Can you explain why there are still minicabs parked up every night on Double red and yellow lines all over theWest End, right under the noses of 'Enforcement Officers'? Everyone knows that minicab drivers pay them cash for the privilege of being left alone.

Please see article published in Daily Mail.
click here

Also could you give me the name of the Police station that you claim mounted the operation on at Regent Street and Swallow Street on January 29th.

Many thanks,

Answers come back from customer relations at Parking services:

Thank you for your further email dated 5 November 2012 regarding the above enforcement areas. I am concerned that you have found it necessary to contact Customer Relations in Westminster City Council about this matter again.

You state that minicabs are still parking on double yellow and double red lines without enforcement action being taken. I have to advise that the City of Westminster does not enforce red lines; these are enforced by Transport for London.

However, I have noted your comments and have again contacted the City Council’s contractor for on-street parking enforcement, NSL Limited (NSL) to obtain details of the current situation.

I have been informed that a supervisor and several CEOs patrol the area during peak hours but have reported hostility, not only from the minicab drivers but also from the customers of the restaurants and night clubs. I am sure you will appreciate the difficulties involved in enforcing this area; hence, the need for a police presence.

The operation mounted on Regent Street and Swallow Street in January 2012 was operated by West End Police Station.

NSL has advised that it has requested a further operation with the police but since the time of the Olympics, the police have had limited numbers of officers available at night. NSL has confirmed that it is continuing to monitor the situation and will take enforcement action as necessary until the police are able to release officers to mount another operation.

With regard to your reference to the article published by the Daily Mail, I have to advise that NSL is conducting its own internal investigation. The City Council is aware of the allegations made but confirms that neither the Council not NSL tolerate such occurrences and are dealing with the situation appropriately.

I acknowledge you may feel aggrieved about this matter; however, I trust the information I have provided has been helpful.

Yours sincerely

Mhairi Hunte
Customer Relations Officer
Customer Relations
Parking Services

To which the driver replied:

Dear Ms Hunte,
Thanks for your reply. Can you tell me what hostility your CEOs have experienced that results in them not issuing parking tickets to minicab drivers, please? Also, can anyone use the same tactics to avoid fines?
Many thanks,

And again the answer came back:

Thank you for your response to my email in which you questioned what type of hostility is encountered by the Civil Enforcement Officers (CEOs) which prevents them from issuing Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) to minicab drivers. You also wanted to know if anyone could use the same tactics to avoid paying PCNs.

I have contacted the City Council’s contractor for on-street parking enforcement, NSL Limited (NSL) for further clarification regarding the requirement of a police presence.

I am informed that the CEOs are subject to physical assault, many serious, by the club goers whenever a CEO tries to issue a PCN to the waiting minicabs or chauffeur driven vehicles.

Although PCNs are issued under civil law, when an assault takes place, this is a criminal offence and therefore the police have to be involved. Since this has become a frequent occurrence, for safety reasons, CEOs are not permitted to patrol the area at night without a police presence. However, CCTV cameras continue to operate.

With regard to your second point, it is a criminal offence to assault another person in order to avoid paying a PCN.

I trust that you will appreciate that an employer has a duty of care towards its employees and their safety is of paramount concern. In this case, appropriate action has been taken to ensure the safety of the CEOs in a high risk area and in order for them to carry out their duties, they are accompanied by police officers.

Alternatively please visit our website http://www.westminster.gov.uk/parking which may be of assistance with your enquiry.

Yours sincerely

Mhairi Hunte
Customer Relations Officer
Customer Relations
Parking Services

Monday, April 29, 2013

£1m payback to victims of Drayton Park road layout bungle

THE Town Hall will have to find up to £1m to repay almost 10,000 illegal fines handed out at a bungled traffic scheme which has caused countless accidents.

Calls have now been made to scrap the road-narrowing lorry restriction in Drayton Park, Holloway, which Lib Dem opposition councillors say has caused nothing but “mayhem” since its introduction last May.

Pedestrians and cyclists have been critical of the layout, which they argue is dangerous.

So far, the entire scheme has cost about £110,000 to introduce and then modify twice. At least three cars have flipped over trying to negotiate the narrowing and there has been constant criticism by drivers of the number of fines they were receiving.

They argued that signs at the junction were not clear. At a full council meeting earlier this year Labour councillor James Murray said the number of fines was tailing off as drivers learned the layout.

But one driver who challenged his fine has won his case at the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service. Adjudicators ruled that signs were not clear and that the fine was illegal.

This means that every fine issued between November and February could have to be repaid.

The council says 10,974 fines were issued in that period. Fines are £130, reduced to £65 if paid within 14 days. It is likely that most drivers would pay the lesser fee, bringing the total cost to the Town Hall to around £800,000.

Lib Dem ward councillor Julie Horton has now called for the road scheme to be scrapped, saying it had inspired a huge number of complaints.

“They have got this scheme wrong right from the beginning,” she said. “They should admit it, rip it up and go back to the drawing board.

“This Labour council just don’t seem to be listening to people. If they had they wouldn’t have redesigned the scheme twice and still got it wrong. A couple of weeks ago a car landed on its roof.”

Cllr Horton said that if all the parking fines were wrong then people should be refunded.

“I know they can appeal and I hope people do,” she added. “But perhaps as a gesture the council should consider returning people’s fines rather than waiting for them to appeal.”

A council spokesman said: “The lorry-ban width restriction in Drayton Park was put in at residents’ request for safer streets.

“When the width restriction was modified late last year, a technical mistake was made and the Traffic Management Order was not changed as it should have been.

“The order is now being changed. We’re very sorry for the confusion and disruption.

“If drivers believe they have been issued with an incorrect penalty charge notice, they should get in touch with us and we will refund any incorrect tickets.”

Source: Islington Tribune

Sunday, April 28, 2013

"Bill-Gate"...TfL Poor Performance Part 7. Palestra Staff Member Found Guilty.

In February, after months of rumours about a possible fraud being carried out at the Palestra building. Taxi Leaks published an article, based on information received from a highly respected member of the RMT Taxi Branch. The Post received much attention from LTPH stakeholders who asked director of LTPH John Mason, "if there's no truth in the article, why it hadn't been removed?

John Mason then contacted the editorial staff of the blog by means of a series of emails from himself and Abbey Ameen, with threats of legal action from TfLs legal department.

In an email to his legal team Mason claimed;
"No arrest has been made of any individual at Palestra, there has been no “breach of security” there is an allegation of fraud and an individual has been dismissed from TfL and is subject to Police action."
He also said:-
"None of this is true and they should “put up” or shut up” when making such allegations in print. Surely this is slander?"

Not only have we proved the arrest of a corrupt staff member took place, we can now announce that on the 17th of April 2013, Brazilian national and ex member of staff at Palestra, Marcos Gurgel was found guilty of fraudulently obtaining £249 from Taxi Driver Stanley Marut.

This email from Stan Marut:
The scam was that drivers who did not use the Post Office verification system and pay at the post office counter and who sent in cheques to TfL did not get their licences until Mr Gurgel telephoned them to say that he had their "bills" ready and they could be picked up but payment would have to be in cash. We used to pay cash at Penton Street so it seemed feasible.

He was arrested and cautioned and I gave evidence to TfL fraud department at Windsor House last January.

The CPS took him to Magistrates Court at Camberwell Green and he was found guilty of Theft.

The sentence:
Community Order - Defendant to comply with the requirement to carry out 300 hours community work within the next 12 months (17/04/2014).
To pay compensation of £250
To pay £70 per month commencing 01/05/2013
Information received from the Criminal Justice System at Sidcup

Complaints not followed up at LTPH
We have, on numerous occasions challenge the issue of 18 brand new satellite office licenses to a newly registered company, which had a new registered address, new company director, which had not been licensed as a private hire operator for the required period of one full year. In our opinion this is malfeasance.

Of all the complaints made about this issue, we have only received one reply, from Deputy Director of LTPH Helen Chapman stating;
"You are correct that it is now our policy that operators must have been licensed as a standard operator for at least one year before we will consider a variation to operate from a late night venue. In this specific case the company name had changed but the director had been associated with the same business for a considerable period longer than a year"

This statement is not correct as shown in the post "TfL Poor Performance: Bullet point 1" read post click here

We also asked for an investigation into the 19 satellite office licenses currently issued to a company that has been liquidated.
So far we've had nothing back.

Perhaps Abbey Ameen could find better use of highly paid TfL legal time by thoroughly investigating this issue, Instead of harassing Taxi Leaks editorial Staff members.

At the recent Taxi Drivers Forum, I personally bought up both these issues to a panel of heads of departments. My statement was met by blank expressions, from which I managed to draw no response.

This public body operates like a private company, who are far from open and transparent. They are not our employers, it is our license fees that pay their inflated wages.


We have now been told, it is highly unlikely, there will be anymore Taxi Driver Forums at Palestra.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Taxi Proprietor Takes Council to The Ombudsman over Taxi Vehicle Test Results.

We've all been there, take the cab in for its annual inspection....and wallop, a stop note.
Leaky steering box, brake cylinder, smoke test etc.

Take it back to the garage and the mechanic is scratching his head saying there is nothing wrong. He then wipes over with a cloth and says "just take it back and try again".
As if by magic, it now passes with flying colours.

We all take this as just another part of a Cabbies lot, but a certain taxi proprietor in Brentwood decided he'd had enough of the jumped up little jobsworths at his council's inspection centre, he decided to take his case to the local government ombudsman after a decade of, in his opinion bad service.

A TAXI firm boss is to receive £1,000 compensation from Brentwood Borough Council after the authority was rapped by the local government watchdog for poor record-keeping.

Graham Dinning, the managing director at Treble Twenty Cars and Couriers, got the Local Government Ombudsman involved after he became concerned about the safety checks the council was carrying out on his taxis.

Mr Dinning, 54, asked the ombudsman to investigate the council's emissions testing and brake calibration policy.

The investigation concluded that the council's mechanics only did a visual emissions test, which is not up to the standard of an MOT test – the level the authority said it would provide.

The watchdog's report also found that the council did not have any records to show that its brake-testing machine had been calibrated before 2010.

Mr Dinning said: "We have pursued this complaint to the ombudsman for public safety reasons.

"As a responsible taxi company, Treble Twenty pride ourselves in ensuring that, where possible, our cars are fully roadworthy and any defects are repaired immediately when they are brought to our notice.

"However, like all other taxi operators, we also rely on the six-monthly safety checks by the council to ensure our vehicles are in the best possible condition.

"I was horrified to find out that the council had failed to carry out their safety checks correctly over such a long period.

"If the council had found out that we had not carried out our safety checks correctly, it would have been screaming that we were putting passengers' lives in danger and would have justifiably taken our licences off us."

Mr Dinning, who lives in South Weald, added: "The council should not only be apologising to the trade for its failures, but to the public of Brentwood as a whole because it is them who may have been put at risk by the failure of the council to test vehicles correctly.

"The council systematically charged the trade for elements of the vehicle test that were either not carried out, or which were of such poor quality that they were meaningless, and they should refund the costs of the tests to the trade.

"If you went anywhere else and paid for a service that you did not receive then you would be entitled to your money back, but it appears that this does not happen when it's Brentwood Borough Council.

"It's one rule for them and one rule for us."

The ombudsman has instructed the council to pay £1,000 to Treble Twenty Cars and Couriers to compensate the firm for its "time and trouble".

The firm will be giving this money to the BBC's Children in Need Charity Appeal.

A council spokesman said: "Public safety is the council's primary concern.

"The ombudsman was satisfied that the brake-testing equipment was calibrated and so brake testing had been valid and in line with legal requirements.

"Emissions testing has been carried out over a number of years, although this is not a mandatory part of the licensing process. In 2010 we introduced improved emissions testing equipment though even with previous methods, public safety was not compromised.

"All minimum safety requirements have been met at all times.

"We are confident in the current high standards of all our testing and record-keeping."

Source: Brentwood Gazette
Apr 27th, 2013

For the full report and verdict of the Local Government Ombudsman click here

Friday, April 26, 2013

‘Time to kill Clipboard Johnnie?’...by Paul Bond.

An Open Letter to M.P.’s of London, The Lord Mayor, Mayor of London, Commissioners of Police, TfL and the London Taxi Trade.

This week I attended the taxi trade forum held at Palestra under the auspices of TfL’s LTPH Directorate. I again raised the following proposal (that I have sent to them before) without any response.

Every Private Hire Operator must have an IT booking System (there are many at low cost) approved by TfL that receives bookings with details of the driver, passenger, destination etc.

TfL can bring this about very swiftly by making it a condition of licensing without any legislation; it will bring the following immediate benefits:
  • Ends fictional scribbled ‘instant’ pre bookings outside venues that flout the law and in effect ensure the passengers are uninsured, vulnerable travellers that put other road users at risk.
  • Breaks the links between corrupt door security staff, predatory drivers, organised crime, drug dealing, money laundering and much else.
  • Ensure PH business is carried out within the law and enforcement authorities have a clear ‘audit trail’ of all bookings made in advance available in real time. This protects legitimate operators and preserves the Taxi trades hard won right to ‘Ply for Hire’.
  • Ensures all licensed PH drivers are working for an operator and those not so, liable for the congestion charge etc., as all work must come through an operator, they can’t be working legitimately.

A simple solution to end the scourge of illegal activity and it can happen NOW without waiting for the maybe never to be enacted Law Commission Draft bill.

Will those who have the power to make the above happen do so?
Will they kick it into the long grass?
Will it be killed by vested interests?

There is everything to gain for the law abiding citizens and visitors to this great city.
The only losers are those with criminal intent.

I could have written this from my position on a union committee but thought that would be used as an excuse to ignore the message by some and again let an important measure be held back by petty infighting or political bias.

It’s the message that matters here not the messenger
Let’s all step up to the plate and get behind it and ask some searching questions as to why, if it does not happen!

Please pass this letter on to any organisation or individual you think will support the proposal and ask them why if they don’t?

For further information my contact email is: PBCab@rmtmail.org

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Taxi Drivers Forum, Palestra: Unstructured and Unprofessional.

Before proceedings got underway, the trade was shown just how important our issues are to LTPH with the announcement by Chairperson Helen Chapman, the meeting would be cut short to facilitate the cleaners.

I wonder if Boris would ever inform a meeting of the board at TfL they have to conclude early as the man who washes up the tea and coffee cups has to get away early?

According to the LTDF today, many who attended felt there was no structure to the meeting which came across as very unprofessional. Important issues were fudged and time was wasted on minor issues.

Almost one third of the time allocated was initially spent discussing wether extras could be reintroduced. We were informed that although it was previously announced in a TfL press notice, the Christmas charges would be automatically activated after this Aprils fare increase meter change, this will not now be the case, as meter companies say they can not accommodate the request.

A representative of the Jewish Association of Cabbies (JAC) accused LTPH of being institutionally racist and anti-semitic, as the engagement policy which has terms and conditions they could never meet, excludes them as a group from regular and meaningful meetings, along with other small representative groups.

Another driver asked about compensation for loss of earnings, after having to answer false allegations from a member of the public. He was told that his situation had already been dealt with. Unfortunately the driver concerned, still feels the issue hasn't been concluded to his satisfaction.

The question of signage for private hire was bought up and the assembled drivers were told that the PH trade had made it clear in the private hire consultation they didn't want more/ better signage. One driver asked why the trade wasn't balloted over ID badges, to our amazement, we were told LTPH couldn't afford to write to every driver (although thats exactly what Leon Daniels did over the Cabbies Cabinet Scam).

There were no real answers about the volume or extent of the cloned Bill, IDs and Badge issue and the panel moved away from the subject rather sharpish.

LTPH were accused of inventing rules and regulations that they had no intention of backing up with enforcement. It was felt by the drivers that we need to see the rules against illegally plying for hire being enforced and the argument that LTPH are waiting for a water tight test case, no longer holds water as the situation outside many night venues is completely out of control.

It was stated from the floor that we desperately need more rank spaces. In just a few decades we have gone from one rank space for every taxi to 65 taxis vying over each rank space available. We will shortly be seeing new road schemes which will sweep away even more traditional ranks over the next few years.

It was explained to the assembled drivers, that although the self appointed quango known as the "Joint Ranks Committee" meet regularly on a monthly basis with LTPH, they do not have decision making powers. In other words, a waste of time and money.

LTPH tried to side step the ranks issue, stating they have no control over the situation regarding the appointment of ranks. It was politely pointed out, the Mayor as head of TfL does in fact have the power to do just this. Boris had no trouble finding road space for the Barclay Bank Bike scheme, even managing to replace a number of cab ranks with bike docking bays.

If the Mayor is serious about a cleaner, greener environment for Central London then it should be a priority to implement more rank spaces to take as many taxis as possible out of traffic congestion and negate their of constantly having to circulate to look for work.

Highlight of the evening was when Mike Bailey, chairman of the RMT London Taxi branch, fed up with constantly being ignored by the Chair, decided to interject and was threatened with eviction from the meeting by security which didn't go down very well with the drivers. He then went on to make one of the best speeches I have heard for a long time, that laid out the dangers we are facing, concerning our exclusive right to ply for hire, from the Law Commission.

Also a great short speech from RMT Vice Chair Paul Bond talking about illegal practise at Satellite offices

The meeting was bought to conclusion 30 minutes early at 7o/c. Quite a few drivers remained speaking on a one to one basis with panel members. When I left the room, just after 7:30, there were no signs whatsoever of any cleaners.

Before I personally attend another forum at Palestra, the length of the meeting will have to be extended, the format would have to have a radical shake up and the meeting would have to be chaired by an independent Chairperson. Until then, I believe this type of forum is a complete waste of time.

Murder on Tothill Street (first published May 2012)

Article originally published 12 May 2012 – a number of the predictions made were eerily prophetic

On May 10, fourteen months after the investigation began, the Law Commission presented the nation with their ‘provisional’ views on the taxi and private hire trades – in reality, it was a capitulation to the traditional aggressors: the minicab empires.

It should be remembered that there are three main issues, the rest are superfluous due in many parts to them being interconnected. The first, underlines the surrender, the allowing of private hire vehicles to work across district borders.

The L.C. call for cross border hiring’s to be legalised, appears to be innocent enough, mildly describing a situation where a PH Operators vehicle breaks down with passenger in another area. Current law specifically prohibits the operator from contacting another operator (in a different area), they presumably envisage the passing on of bookings as a measure to protect the public. After a few more pages, that credulousness is cast aside as the prejudice comes to the fore – operators would be permitted to use vehicles and drivers licensed anywhere, a complete deviation from the rationale.

At the outset of the consultation, the L.C. suggested they would be working on a blank canvas approach to taxi and private-hire law. Yet within months, the L.C. not only decided to retain a two-tier licensing system, it decided to permit cross border hiring, thus following a consistent line of legalising previously illegal activities.

The L.C. place great emphasis on national standards, although this emphasis does not extend to advising what standards they have in mind, but there is emphasis nevertheless. The L.C. allude to DSA driving tests, group 2 medicals and enhanced CRB checks, in respect of drivers, stuff that most of us have anyway, yet like true snake oil salesmen, great play is made of the magic elixir of standards.

Rather foolishly even some in the Hackney carriage trade are seemingly supporting these standards, although they appear to have little concept of what they may actually entail. Again, the duplicitous nature of the cab trade comes becomes apparent – attempting to set standards on a trade they regularly show nothing but utter contempt towards.

Public safety is of obvious concern, hence the national standards, it is instructive to note the L.C. chose to mention the case of John Worboys – ‘The black cab rapist’ – the unpalatable fact the L.C. appear to miss is that Worboys would have been granted a license under any licensing regime in the country – they similarly neglect to advise of systematic failings within the metropolitan police, this would ordinarily seem too bizarre to neglect to mention – although the L.C. choice to cite Worboys as a ‘black cab’ driver is quite revealing, showing partiality. A balanced document would have perhaps mentioned the plethora of both licensed and unlicensed minicab drivers who have been convicted of horrific offences over the years.

Obviously, the worry of the taxi trade is the national standards for private hire maybe piecemeal, to this end the concern is perhaps justifiable – however it does smack of duplicity – whilst the taxi trade want national private hire standards, they want no such national governance of their own industry. Such inconsistency will no doubt be highlighted when the consultation closes.

The only person permitted to change the envisaged national regulations will be the Secretary of State – as the regulations are national they will naturally cover the entire country – be this central London or the Lake District – it is astounding to comprehend the L.C. would seemingly believe the profit margins of the likes of Addison Lee are comparable to Bert’s taxis of Mungrisdale – which of course would suggest the new standards will need to be of a quality to encompass both John and Bert.

The rationale behind the national standard is that if the Lake District has the same standards as London, with licenses at the same cost – then a person wouldn’t need to travel to avoid localised licensing regimes.

No one can know how much influence of private hire operators are imparted into the consultation, and backed by the DfT and government, we are likely to never know, but the apparent slant is there for all to read.

To back up their fixation with cross border, the L.C. informs of envisaged new powers for local licensing officers over vehicles from other districts. This is all part of the overt plan, a person can still obtain a license elsewhere, the national standards will be the exact same nationwide anyway, they surmise it must surely follow that licensing departments will need the power to check the vehicles and drivers from these areas, thus firmly backing up the cross border scenario.

The L.C. appears to view the expansion of large PH into other areas as a good thing, one where mere fundamentals such as localised regulation shouldn’t prohibit expansion. They selectively appear to forget Dr Darryl Biggar’s thoughts on how taxi monopolies emerge, although, in a manner we have become accustomed, they quote the poor chap to death when his words suit their purpose. It naturally doesn’t appear to concern them locals have developed both taxi and private hire policies and standards over an extended period of time.

The L.C. alludes to private-hire driver pseudo employment, but don’t seemingly have the courage to even suggest this matter should be reviewed by the HMRC. Of course, they’re view would (and still may be) very useful, as theories go empires are generally built through the blood, sweat and tears of others, minicab drivers, those low paid, family tax credit claiming serfs, never get the acclaim they truly deserve. Notably, the L.C. seemingly fails to recognise why the turnover of drivers in the minicab industry is alarmingly high – with the profits of minicab companies even higher.

Of course the L.C. is truly balanced in their views, as much as they seemingly love minicab proprietors, they detest taxis with equal measure. Local authority regulatory control of taxi numbers was a key target from the outset. I am sure most of you, like myself wonder why a body whose job it is to review the law would feel the need to be involved in economic theory.

The L.C. plans for the taxi trade revolve around taxi delimitation, there is little of consequence about the effects, although they seemingly are aware to impose deregulation overnight would create ‘market distortion’ – in layman’s terms they mean anarchy.

They don’t feel able to comment on taxi rank provision – no doubt they gave it a great deal of thought – the same type of thought most of us give the first coffee of the day, one would suspect – one that involves multi agencies such as coffee, milk, water and sugar, plus the limitation of space due to the size of the cup. Due to things like that – ranks were, as you might expect – ignored.

That too makes good sense. As the L.C. are still going to permit cross border hackney carriages – if you can recall a few paragraphs above, they naturally need licensing departments to regulate vehicles they do not license.

The maximum national standards for private hire will be minimum standards for taxis – to this end there will be still localised regulation – just not regulation permitting local authorities to limit taxi numbers. Intimating the envisaged more austere licensing regime for taxis than private hire, although doubtless we will be given some feigned response implying the opposite.

Whilst the L.C. appear to trust local authorities to enforce their new laws, this trust does not extend, as mentioned above, to one where they are able to control taxi numbers. One could be mistaken for believing with such a grandiose title as ‘Law Commission’ they would realise that under certain conditions the law can be just plain stupid. Even the L.C. should recognise that places such as Liverpool, Cardiff and Sheffield were re-regulated due to police advising local authorities that they were spending too much of their time moving on taxis from fouled cab ranks – than doing what they’re paid for – which is presumably catching proper criminals. Unless the law has some type of escape mechanism to allow for local authority action – it is patently ridiculous.

Another illustration of the ambiguities of the L.C. is the lack of clarity in respect of licensing fees. It was acknowledged by Mr. Christopher Symonds QC in Newcastle CC v Berwick DC [HC QBD] 2008.

“One of the reasons why Berwick have received numerous applications for licences from outside their area is undoubtedly the fact that the cost of the licence in Berwick- upon-Tweed is less than in many other areas including Newcastle upon Tyne.”

The L.C. moots the idea of a national licensing fee, nothing substantive, just a punt into the main field of the consultation. The national fee would presumably be set by the Secretary of State for Transport.

The other mooted idea (these people can moot with the best of us) is to vary the costs of enforcement locally. The thought occurs that this is nothing more than fudge; it would still lead to ‘honey-pot’ areas charging greater fees as the cost of enforcement still has a bearing. The alternative would be for some type of licensing poll tax, where all areas pay for the enforcement of the ‘honey pots’, this would be highly controversial, in effect a licensee from the Lake district would be burdened with the cost of enforcement in London. The simple fact the L.C. haven’t seemingly thought about how enforcement will be funded is in itself quite astonishing.

For reasons explained in chapter 12 of the consultation the L.C. remains convinced changes need made due to technology. They appear to miss the point that how a booking is made is of little consequence, be this by carrier pigeon, telephone, iphone ‘apps’ or twitter feeds, it is clearly more important that the person receiving the booking is licensed. To all intents and purposes, this is already the case, the person receiving the booking is already licensed, thus the technology part of the document is nothing more than the proverbial ‘red herring’ and duplicitous in the extreme.

Due to column inches I must now finish this article, but there’ll be more, I can guarantee it.

The Reiver

Source: http://www.national-taxi-association.co.uk/

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Addison Lee Appeal Over

Addison Lee's courtcase is now over.

The Court of Appeal Judges have retired to consider their verdict as TfL, Cyclists and the Taxi trade wait with baited breath.

This is normal procedure and the verdict will be announced in due course

TfL boss claimed £180 on expenses to buy toy buses for Boris

Corgi produce the die cast models under licence from TfL. Image: Corgi
London’s transport commissioner has claimed almost £180 on expenses to buy toy buses for Mayor Boris Johnson.

In January MayorWatch reported that senior Transport for London executives had charged taxpayers thousands of pounds for taxis, magazine subscriptions, meals and internet use.
The single largest claimer of expenses was TfL Commissioner Sir Peter Hendy whose claims included more than £2,500 on taxis and travelling costs.

New figures covering claims made between 15th September and 31st December 2012 show that Sir Peter claimed a further £800 on taxis during the closing months of the year.
TfL repeated its defence of Sir Peter’s taxis use, stating: “He is overseeing the delivery of a ten-year multi-billion pound budget to manage transport in London, and also deliver Crossrail and the upgrade of the Tube and there are occasions when his full schedule and late hours necessitate the use of taxis (which, of course, TfL licenses).”

Sir Peter’s expenses also include £179.70 for “Die Cast Models of NBfL for the Mayor”.
NBfL is TfL’s in-house abbreviation for the New Bus for London, the Mayor’s new bus which is due to enter regular service later this year.

According to a press release issued in October by die cast toy specialists Corgi, the company “has the exclusive rights from Transport for London to produce this bus in die-cast.”
The statement suggests fare-payers have picked up the tab for making the Mayor a gift of toys licensed by his own organisation, rather than the licensee providing them at no cost.
The toy buses do not appear to be listed in the Mayor’s public register of gifts and hospitality.
Answering an FOI from this site, TfL declined to provide details of expenses claimed after January 1st 2013. However these figures are due to be published online “within the next 4-6 weeks”.

Commenting on the latest expenses claims, Green party London Assembly Member Darren Johnson said:
“Not only are Londoners paying massively over the odds for the New Bus for London, they are also being asked to pay massively over the odds for toy buses for Boris Johnson. An unbelievable waste of public money.”

Source: MayorWatch.co.uk

New York City to unveil six all-electric taxis

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is flanked by Ken Srebnik with Nissan, at left, and David Yassky with TLC at right as he arrives at Rockefeller Center in the new electric taxi, Nissan Leaf, and is greeted by Ken Srebnik of Nissan. Six of the cars will be on the streets for the first time on Monday as part of the City's effort to make one-third of the taxi fleet to be electric by 2020.
NEW YORK’S yellow cab fleet is about to get a jolt.

Six new all-electric Nissan Leaf taxis are set to hit city streets Thursday — kicking off a year-long pilot program to test the environmentally-friendly cars.

Mayor Bloomberg said the test cabs “will put us ahead of the curve in helping us answer important questions about incorporating electric taxis into the fleet.”

Starting Thursday, six all-electric Nissan LEAFs will be put on the road as New York City taxis. This vehicle runs exclusively on electricity and never needs to fill up at the gas station.

The city has set a goal of making a third of its 13,237 medallion cabs electric by 2020.
“These all-electric LEAF taxicabs will help us determine the best way to seamlessly integrate electric vehicles into the taxi industry’s 24/7 business and operational models,” said Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky.
“Our next steps on the road to a more environmentally responsible and fuel-efficient future for the taxi industry are crucial ones," added Yassky.
The taxis emit 70% less carbon dioxide than an average car, officials said.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

'Cosy deal under Livingstone let black cabs use bus lanes'

John Griffin has again appeared in the Court of Appeal shouting that the legislation which allows Taxis to use bus lanes, was no more than a cosy deal cooked up by Ken Livingston and the Taxi trade.

It's quite simple really and easy to understand, that Taxis need access to the kerbside to ply for hire, pick up and set down. It would be highly dangerous for prospective passengers to have to cross a bus lane to board a Taxi stopped in the middle of he road.

To take Taxis out of bus lanes would literally mean taking away a huge part of the area they could safely ply for hire. Taxis also use a Taximeter to determine the fare, therefore it is financially advantageous to passengers for them to be allowed to use London's bus lane network.

On the other hand, minicabs are only available after first being pre-booked. A safe pick up and drop off location can be arranged at the initial booking call. As private hire operate on a fixed fare basis, time is not an issue in regards to price.

Below is a report of today's appeal.

Black cabs were granted permission to use London’s bus lanes under a “cosy deal” cooked up by Ken Livingstone and the taxi trade, the Court of Appeal was told today.

Nicholas Green QC, representing Europe’s largest minicab firm Addison Lee, said the arrangement breached European fair trade laws as it allowed black taxis an “accelerated course” through London that was unavailable to minicab passengers.

Three Appeal judges today began hearing Addison Lee’s bid to reverse a High Court ruling last July that maintained Transport for London’s ban on the capital’s 50,000 minicabs from using bus lanes.

TfL contests that only black cabs should be allowed to use bus lanes as they are unique in being able to “ply for hire” and it is easier for taxi drivers to be spotted and pick up passengers when using the lanes.

Opening the lanes to minicabs has sparked fears about buses being caught in congestion and a greater safety threat to cyclists.

Mr Green said: “My client has long taken the view that the initial decision to allow black cabs into bus lanes was a cosy deal between the then mayor, Mr Livingstone, and the black cab trade.”

He told the court he had just obtained previously undisclosed “dynamite” and “explosive” TfL research into bus lanes.

“It shows that the reasons TfL had worked on for 18 months to justify keeping private hire vehicles out of bus lanes would apply equally to black cabs,” he told the court.

But the Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson, who is hearing the case with Lord Justice Elias and Lord Justice Patten, said: “I can’t see anything that is explosive or dynamite at all.”

Mr Green said there was a “wafer-thin distinction” in practice between the way black cabs and minicabs were used - though minicabs must be pre-booked and cannot be hailed in the street.

He said Addison Lee, which has 2,900 minicabs, took £30m a year in fares for journeys to and from airports and Eurostar services at St Pancras but was penalised by being unable to use bus lanes to speed up its passengers’ journeys.

The case continues.

Source: Evening Standard.

TfL Poor Performance: Bullet Points Part 6: Cloned Bills, Cloned IDs, Cloned Badges: What Next?...by Jim Thomas

Allegations have been circulating the ranks and shelters, that some drivers have received letters from LTPH, where an ID badge has been used to identify, in connection with a transgression quite unknown to the drivers.

This from the LTDF Taxi forum:
Mate of mine received a letter for not wearing his badge at a station one night.

He doesn't work nights and always wears his badge.

Phones PCO and asks for the reg of the cab which they only supplied him with the last three letters.

It wasn't his cab!

We have known for almost 3 years that high quality forgeries of Bills, IDs and even badges are out there. There is concern that they are now being produced and sold at an alarming rate. Allegedly, some of these forgeries are good enough to fool compliance teams.

The issue first came to light after a bad accident in Victoria between a TX2 and a Toyota minicab. Three elderly passengers were cut from the wreckage and hospitalised, as the driver of the Taxi did a runner. It later transpired that the vehicle had been hired from a Taxi garage, using a fake copy bill.

The second fake to show up was presented to a City of London Police station and although director of LTPH John Mason played down the incident saying it was just a cheap copy, even though it was good enough to fool a police officer dealing with the incident.

Initially it was thought that the counterfeit documents were in fact genuine and had been purloined by a corrupt member of staff, during the move from Penton Street to Palestra. In an email from the deputy director of LTPH, Helen Chapman, it has been claimed that the stock of blank bills have all been accounted for.

No Warranted Powers For Compliance Teams.
LTPH compliance teams have no power to stop vehicles. Their only available weapon under the present administration, is to perform Badge and Bill checks at major Taxi ranks. This procedure is woefully inadequate and is failing to net significant numbers of forgeries. At present, according to TfL's own statistics, just over 2 drivers a month are being caught. You don't have to be a criminal mastermind to work out, if you don't rank up at a station, you won't get checked.

After nearly 3 years of Badge and Bill checks, the problem has reached epidemic proportions. Last year saw just 27 drivers arrested for use of fraudulent documentation.

What happened to the so called unforgeable new digital license and IDs, which were supposed to be issued to all drivers by March 31st? Unfortunately, some would say the new Taxi drivers Bills are easier to clone than the old one!

This issue is serious and need to be dealt with some urgency!
Someone at TfL has to stand up and admit that the present administration's handling of this problem has been an embarrassing failure. How much longer do we have to put up with LTPH's poor performance, which would not be tolerated in any other form of business administration. Where does the buck finally stop.
Three years of failure is enough!
Surely the only way forward is with new direction from new leadership.

Simple Solutions?
Compliance teams must work in conjunction with uniformed warranted police (cab enforcement) officers and reassume the roadside checkpoints we had back in 2011.

It is also essential for compliance teams to visit all garages who rent vehicles and examine closely the copy bills left with Cab proprietors.

Tighter controls on the approval of License variations (Satellite Offices)
There has to be better observation of the working practises of satellite operations as many are abusing the terms and conditions of their license. The need for planning permission before any license can be issued, has to be reinstated.

It is alleged that last year, RD2.com managed to acquire 18 satellite office licenses, even though they'd only been in business for a few days. TfLTPH's regulations state a PH company must be in operation for minimum of one year, before they can apply for a license variation.
Although complaints have been made about the RD2.com issue, no statement has been made by LTPH.

Below are some of RD2.coms vehicles, clearly working from a Taxi rank in Gresham Street in the City.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Who Are Addison Lee's New Owners?

The Carlyle Group
An American-based global asset management firm, specializing in private equity, based in Washington, D.C. The Carlyle Group operates in four business areas: corporate private equity, real assets, market strategies and fund of funds, through its AlpInvest subsidiary. In its 2010 annual report, Carlyle reported assets in excess of $150 billion under management diversified over 84 distinct funds. The firm employs more than 890 employees, including 495 investment professionals, in 20 countries with offices in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Australia, and its portfolio companies employ more than 415,000 people worldwide. The firm has over 1,300 investment partners in 71 countries.

According to a 2011 ranking called the PEI 300 based on capital raised over the last five years, Carlyle was ranked as the third largest private equity firm in the world, after TPG Capital and Goldman Sachs Principal Investment Area. Carlyle had been ranked first in the 2007 listing.

In 2010, the Financial Times announced that Carlyle Group is the private equity firm of the year.

Carlyle has been profiled in two notable documentaries, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911 and William Karel's The World According to Bush.

In Fahrenheit 911, Moore makes nine allegations concerning the Carlyle Group, including: That the Bin Laden and Bush families were both connected to the Group; that following the attacks on September 11, the bin Laden family’s investments in the Carlyle Group became an embarrassment to the Carlyle Group and the family was forced to liquidate their assets with the firm; that the Carlyle group was, in essence, the 11th largest defense contractor in the United States. Moore focused on Carlyle's connections with George H. W. Bush and his Secretary of State James A. Baker III, both of whom had at times served as advisers to the firm.

A Carlyle spokesman noted in 2003 that its 7% interest in defense industries was far less than several other Private equity firms. Carlyle also has provided detail on its links with the Bin Laden family, specifically the relatively minor investments by an estranged half brother.

In his documentary The World According to Bush (May 2004), William Karel interviewed Frank Carlucci to discuss the presence of Shafiq bin Laden, Osama bin Laden's estranged brother, at Carlyle's annual investor conference while the September 11 attacks were occurring.

The Iron Triangle also talks about links with the Bin Laden family; the documentatry makes claims that Carlyle bought political favor to get investment dollars and arms sales to the middle east.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Scotland Yard pays £68,000 (the equivalent of two constables' salaries) to move iconic sign just 15 yards Read

  • £68,000 is more than twice the initial estimate for moving the sign
  • Metropolitan Police is supposed to be making £500 million cuts
  • Moving the sign aimed to ‘reduce pedestrian conflict’ on the pavement
  • The sign is refurbished every 15 years at the cost of £7,000

The Metropolitan Police has come under fire for spending £68,000 moving New Scotland Yard’s world-famous revolving sign – just 15 yards.
The move comes as the force, which has to make £500 million of savings by 2015, plans to sell the building anyway.
The staggering sum – the equivalent starting salary of two constables – is understood to be more than twice the initial estimate for the work.

The work went ahead last spring as part of a revamp of the HQ, despite senior Met officials expressing concerns about the negative reaction it might provoke.
The force even prepared responses to questions such as: ‘Isn’t this a waste of money?’
Details of the spending were uncovered by The Mail on Sunday using Freedom of Information laws.
The revolving sign was installed outside New Scotland Yard in 1968 after the Metropolitan Police moved its headquarters from the Victoria Embankment.

It was created by the late graphic designer Edward Wright who taught at the Royal College of Art. He also designed the foundation stone for Churchill College, Cambridge.
The sign, which revolves 14,000 times every day, is refurbished every 15 years at a cost of £7,000.
Brian Paddick, a former Met deputy assistant commissioner, said: ‘Bearing in mind that the force has got to make cuts, they could have saved money on redesigning a building that they’re not going to use any more and spending £68,000 on moving the sign.’

A TaxPayers’ Alliance spokesman added: ‘It’s utterly astonishing that the Met would waste so much taxpayers’ money moving a sign just a few metres.
‘It’s difficult to believe this was actually allowed to happen.’
The redevelopment comes after the Met purchased New Scotland Yard for £120million after 41 years of renting.
Council officials gave the green light to proposals to demolish an unsightly derelict Italian restaurant and overhaul the building’s frontage, including moving the sign.
The changes were aimed to ‘reduce pedestrian conflict’ over the narrow and busy pavement outside the entrance.

Source: Mail on line.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Free Taxi from Get Taxi for Singer.

Girls Aloud's Sarah Harding Offered Free Taxis During Six Month Driving Ban

The 'Sound Of The Underground' singer faces six months without driving after her recent conviction.

The 'Something New' singer was disqualified from driving for six month earlier this week (16th April) at a hearing in London, after being caught behind the wheel while chatting on the phone.

Taxi company GetTaxi say they "sympathise" with the girl band star and have offered Sarah free use of a six-seater cab during her ban, which comes complete with blacked out windows so she can avoid paparazzi snappers.

"We can sympathise with Sarah being instantly recognisable and hassled by the public," managing director Roy Manor told the Daily Star, when asked about their offer.

Source: Capital FM

At Long Last, Proof That Someone Is actually Listening. By Jim Thomas.

I've been waiting a long time to make this post, but as they say everything comes to those who wait.

Just before midnight last night, a combined team of STC cab enforcement officers, along with LTPH compliance and local council wardens descended on Regent Street. First target was the line of touts outside the Swallow Street Archway.

Drivers found illegally parked in the bus lane were ticked, while others on double yellow lines who could not confirm booking details, were moved on. The same situation at Heddon Street saw for once, a Regent Street void of illegally plying for hire touts, for most if the remainder of the night.

Ticketing the touts by NSL wardens is a mine field, because of a recent judgement against Westminster Parking Services, that allows Taxis and private hire vehicles the right to make contact and then wait for a pre booked passenger, for as long as it takes the passenger to board the vehicle. Many tickets given to pre booked Taxis or minicabs can be challenged and are very winnable.

But the "get out of jail free" card is, the job must be pre booked in advance. According to licensing expert James Button, who wrote Button on Taxis - Licensing Law and Practice, PHVs can not stand outside a venue and wait for a booking to be given. That constitutes illegally plying for hire, which is a recordable offence and carries the same penalty as touting.

Provincial police, licensing authorities and local councils around the country are now treating the problem of illegally plying for hire very seriously and many errant minicab drivers have been convicted in recent months. Latest to act in this regard is the Metropolitan Police service in the Richmond area.

Allegedly, NSL wardens have in the past been threatened at certain West End venues and are reluctant to ticket or challenge the touts. Giving the touts the odd ticket for £60 does not act as a deterrent. They look at it as just a small set back to their takings.

The only way to deal with the tout problem, is for the Met's Cab Enforcement in conjunction with compliance teams from LTPH, to hit them (the touts) hard on a regular basis and report perpetrators to the CPS for illegally plying for hire. They could then be referred for prosecution through the courts and once found guilty, their PH license could be revoke.
The word would soon get around that the licensing authorities meant business.

Last year, the POP report from the Met police in Wandsworth, put the instances of recorded and unrecorded minicab related serious sexual assaults including rapes, at an all time high of approx 22 a week. That's over 3 attacks a night.

Last nights action in Regent Street could of course be a one off, but if it stopped just one serious sexual assault or rape, it would have been worth all the hard work put in by the many drivers who decided that enough was enough and have decided to fight back.

Who ever listened and put last nights operation together, I thank you on behalf of the young people who's lives and the lives of their families, weren't shattered.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Addison Lee boss John Griffin bags a £300 million fare as he sells minicab firm

Founded with one car in Battersea in 1975, father and son team, John and Liam Griffin, sold the business today to the Carlyle Group — which also owns the RAC and health food chain Holland & Barrett.

The Griffins and the family of Lenny Foster, who co-founded the minicab empire, will share those spoils while retaining a small stake in the business.

It has been quite a rise to fortune for John Griffin as, in the Seventies, he was forced to ditch his apprenticeship as an accountant and turn to mini-cabbing in order to make ends meet and rescue his father’s business.

Today, Addison Lee uses a cutting edge IT system to manage bookings for its 4500 cars after emerging as the major competitor to London’s black cabs.

Under the terms of the deal, the elder Griffin, John, will remain as chairman and the younger as chief executive. Drivers who work for the company don’t own shares and so will not get a windfall after today’s deal.

Liam Griffin told the Evening Standard: “We’re very much concentrated in central London but now we can look at going further afield within the M25, like the suburbs. We’ll look primarily at that area first.”

Carlyle Europe Partners managing director Andrew Burgess said he was keen to roll out Addison Lee to other cities in the UK which could benefit from the cabbie’s use of apps and technology that creates such an “efficient dispatch” system.

Internationally, Addison Lee already has burgeoning joint ventures in Paris and New York and the younger Griffin said that Carlyle’s deep international experience — it has 33 offices around the world — would help Addison Lee make major breakthroughs overseas.

The cabbie is also looking to widen the range of accounts with blue-chip corporates, which should mean that it will end up hiring more than the 4000 cab drivers that Addison Lee employs today.

John Griffin courted controversy last year, when he spoke out against London cyclists.

He claimed they were to blame for their own injuries on the capital’s busy roads, arguing that they “leap onto a vehicle which offers them no protection except a padded plastic hat”.

He added that people were safer taking taxis as they would be “sitting inside a protected space with impact bars and air bags and paying extortionate amounts of taxes on our vehicle purchase, parking, servicing, insurance and road tax”.

He also argued that for compulsory training and insurance for London’s cyclists, who were sufficiently angered to accuse him of “victim blaming”.

Carlyle was advised on the transaction by Deloitte, OC&C and Latham & Watkins. Addison Lee was advised by Catalyst Corporate Finance.

Source: Evening Standard.

Haymarket, Are Westminster's Planners of this World?

The summer of 2013, sees work resume to complete phase 2 of the Piccadilly two way scheme.
This phase will see lower regent street reduced in part to two lanes traveling north. The existing pavement areas will be extended out towards the middle of the road,

As you can see from this artist impression, the Taxi rank spaces that used to be in the middle of the road have gone, along with the congestion. It's amazing what an artists brush can remove!

Meanwhile back in the real world...Ever wondered why Haymarket hasn't been resurfaced for god knows how long?

Empty Bus Lane

The perspective of the photograph taken by the artist tries to give the impression that the street is mainly void of traffic, when in reality we are looking down the 24hour bus lane which excludes most of the traffic, causing congestion all the way back to Piccadilly Circus for most of the day.

Just when you thought the West End couldn't get any crazier, Westminster spring this bombshell on us...Haymarket is to go from the current FIVE lanes to TWO, with Carlton, Norris & St James Market all pedestrianised.

The artists brush strikes once again.

Notice in this impression, the queue of traffic has mysteriously been photo shopped out, along with the Bus, Taxi and Cycle lane.

Even the cycle lobby groups are up in arms about it. In the new scheme it is imagined that cyclists will wander along in harmony with the traffic as cycle lanes, along with Taxi ranks are consigned to the past.

At present, the Taxi rank spaces in the Haymarket play an important part in our night time trade. They allow drivers to queue patiently, waiting for the theatres to burst and after, offer refuge from parking restrictions for drivers seeking to use nearby toilet facilities. Something else Westminster has removed from the streets.

Most important is the retention of the rank outside Tiger Tiger which at present discourages a free for all from touts and sexual predators, illegally plying for hire.

It is time that the illusive joint ranks committee made their presence felt by getting back all the rank spaces in this area that have been silently removed by both the council and TfL, who are part funding this scheme.

Although work on this phase of the Piccadilly two way scheme doesn't start till 2014, our representative groups must insist that the Taxi ranks in this street are not removed as were the ones in Lower regent.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Cheltenham Borough Council bosses say “no” to rickshaws in the town – for now

THE “torturous” process of trying to bring licensed rickshaws to the streets of Cheltenham is over – for now.

Borough council bosses have said they will not be adopting a policy which would allow them to grant permission for the pedi-cabs to operate in the town.

However, they have vowed to look at the controversial issue again in the near future when a new Law Commission report and draft bill is published on the licensing of taxis at the tail end of 2013.
The unanimous decision, taken this evening at the Municipal Offices by the authority’s cabinet, comes more than a year after business owners first approached the council with plans to operate the vehicles in and around the Promenade.

Cabinet had decided in December 2012 to defer making a cast iron decision on licensing rickshaws on the grounds that the vehicles do not fit neatly into existing Hackney carriage legislation.

But dissatisfied councillors called in the decision for scrutiny, stating the decision to put off saying yes or no simply wasn’t good enough and “lacked clarity”.

As such, cabinet was asked to reconsider and now they have, saying no and opting to wait for new, “more fitting” legislation to come into law.

James Meyer, one of the people behind Rickshaw Revolution, the company which wanted to bring the pedi-cabs to the town, told the Echo the latest decision will force him to sell the three rickshaws he had bought.

“Clearly, I am extremely disappointed,” he said.
“I will be selling the rickshaws. No business can afford to take on stock and then wait 13 months only to be told that in another year I might be able to run my business.
“It doesn’t work that way.”

Meanwhile, Peter Jeffries (LD, Springbank), cabinet member for housing and safety, who has been dealing with the licensing issue, rejected accusations that the council had taken too long to make a decision either way.

He said: “It’s about legislation and democracy, not just taking a decision because we want to do something.

“I am confident that we have been open, honest and professional in our attempt to support this licensing.

“We could have easily just said no, but we didn’t. We took it on.”

Councillor Duncan Smith (C, Charlton Park), the chairman of the scrutiny committee which dealt with the call in said any qualms had been “more to do with the decision making process rather than the committee taking a view on whether rickshaws should be licensed”.

He added: “Cabinet has made a clear decision which is what we wanted them to do.”

Read more: http://www.thisisgloucestershire.co.uk/

Gatwick Airport Concorde House row - taxis to be allowed access to Atlantic House

GATWICK Airport has moved to appease angry staff and taxi drivers frustrated at being banned from accessing a popular drop-off and pick-up point - by saying they will soon be able to be dropped off at another building.

Last week the Crawley News revealed how signs had been installed at the entry route to Concorde House, at the back of the airport’s South Terminal, stating that no unauthorised access was allowed.

They also warned that any drivers caught travelling down there would receive penalty points on their licence.
The location has been popular with cabin crew and other airport employees who live in Crawley because it is closer to the town than the entrance to the South or North terminals.

Staff contacted the News to express their anger at having to pay an extra £8 for a return journey to one of the terminal entrances.

In the past week a petition has been set up by Virgin Atlantic cabin crew member and Southgate councillor Liam Marshall-Ascough calling for the decision to be reversed.
This received more than 200 signatures in 24 hours and gained the support of Crawley’s MP Henry Smith.

Since hearing the level of concern at the decision, airport representatives have clarified their longer-term position.

However, a spokeswoman for Gatwick Airport said it is essential the flow of traffic to Concorde House is managed while improvement work is completed.

This means taxis and cars will have to use either terminal entrance until the summer, although airline crew buses will still go directly to Concorde House.

From July taxis and cars will be able to drop off and pick up from Atlantic House, the new base for crew facilities, where airline buses will also arrive.

This is also located on Perimeter Road East, past Concorde House, through the tunnel located there.

Ryan Grice, vice-chairman of the Hackney Carriage Association, said this announcement is good news for the town’s taxi drivers but he questioned why it has taken so long to be shared.
He said: “I have been a taxi driver for 12 years and even before that, when taking family and friends to Gatwick, Concorde House has always been my location for the South Terminal.
“I think customers will see very similar fares to Atlantic House as they pay to go to and from Concorde House.

“If there is any difference in price I would say a journey will be only 40p or 60p more expensive.
“This is good news but why couldn’t Gatwick Airport Limited have told everyone this from the off? They have caused a lot of frustration by simply installing these signs and not sharing the full plans.”

TfL Poor Performance: Bullet Points Part 5: An Open Letter to the Director Of London Taxi and Private Hire...by Jim Thomas

Dear Mr Mason.
I know you don't like going to court or spending money on lawyers and I'm not surprised given your record in court against Private Hire Companies.

When I complained (on more than one occasion) to deputy Director Helen Chapman about the amount of illegally plying for hire on central London streets, I was told to be patient. As LTPH have never had a successful prosecution for illegally plying for hire, they were waiting for a water tight case, which could then be used as case law.

After patiently waiting for nearly two years and having seen the mess your legal department made of the water tight test cases against Diamond Chauffeurs Ltd, perhaps now would be a good time to try the approach I suggested back then.

I did warn at the time, that going after the PH company was in fact a mistake, as they obviously don't mind spending money on lawyers and tend to have better legal teams than TfL.

The only way to deal with this problem is by making mass hits on the ever increasing lines of illegally plying for hire minicabs, using the full resources available to you with the STC cab enforcement unit.

Once convicted, licenses could then be revoked and this would act as a deterrent.

Wayward drivers would be more apprehensive if they were being charged and convicted more frequently. At present they know they have more chance winning the lottery than being nicked for illegally plying for hire.

Also, another good piece of advice would be cutting back on the number of satellite office licenses, currently given out like confetti to anyone who can scrape together the licenses fee.

If you need any information on how to deal with illegally plying for hire, please feel free to contact the Richmond branch of the metropolitan police who have experience and success in this field.

Jim Thomas.

Below a tweet from Metropolitan Police Services Richmond 18/04/2013

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

We Need More New Ranks And We Need Them Now!

Late on Sunday night I made my way to Novikov's in Berkeley Street. There were about six Taxis sitting there, I decided to drive on by and check out Coventry Street. But at the bottom of Berkeley Street, by the lights with Piccadilly, I was hailed by a young man.

He told me his destination and as we started on the journey he said "Why didn't you stop on the Novikov rank, do you not like it there?"
I told him I was a regular and that as it was late, I though it had adequate covered with the six Taxis already outside.

He told me he actually worked at the restaurant/bar and thought the impromptu, rolling rank was a great idea as the guests obviously preferred using licensed Taxis .

I mentioned the fact that I had seen the door staff accepting money from touts after being supplied with jobs.

He said the door staff are corrupt, they have agreement with some drivers, even unlicensed ones who pay more. But he said in general, the customers now know that Taxis will be outside or if not, regularly passing and feel much safer using our services.

He then explained why:
"The other night a friend of mine visited the club and as he left, the doorman put him in a car. On the way to his apartment he asked the driver to stop at a 24 hour shop to but cigarettes. My friend left a bag in the car and went into the shop. As he turned his back to make a purchase, the car sped off, taking his bag containing over £2,000 in currency. It also contained a few expensive personal items."

The young man told me this seems to be a regular trend in bars in this area, where customers have been robbed. Another problem in this respect, is drivers asking for money up front and driving off after being asked to stop briefly.

But most worrying of all is the story's he's heard from young female customers who have been victims of unwarranted sexual advances and even actual assaults. He said because of the nationality and profession of these young ladies, they are very hesitant to report the matter to police who, in his words, "Treat them like cheap whores".

It's time matters of this mature were dealt with properly by the authorities. It's time an official rank was implemented outside the restaurant, on the same lines as the one outside Nobu. This is a moving rank and a lot of work comes out of this venue. Both the management and customers would welcome an official rank, which would help combat the ever growing problem from sexual predators hiding in the lines of illegally plying for hire minicab touts who infest this area.

We have proved that ranks outside this type of establishment work and work well. Nobu, Q's, Zuma, Sketch, Movida and Swallow street all work well. When ranks are badly place they don't work as can be seen at Babble and Mahiki's.

It has to be made a requirement that before a new establishment can be given a satellite office license for private hire pick up, there has to be a rank for licensed Taxis outside with a point cab directly outside the exit. Both the licensing authority (LTPH) and the local council must put a stop to the practise of minicab touts waiting outside these premises to become hired. This is not allowed under present legislation and encourages sexual predators.

Don't spend your night driving round endlessly in circles, find a rank and work smart. Remember the cabby's etiquette:
Don't overtake a Taxi with its for-hire light on and don't pick up beside a rank with cabs on.
Don't let them turn us against each other and keep up our high standards.
Lets take our work back.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Human trafficking campaign targets Thanet taxi drivers

TAXI drivers in Thanet are being warned to look out for a new kind of traffic.

The Taxis Against Trafficking campaign aims to raise awareness about people trafficking with questionnaires and bumper stickers.

Active Communities against Trafficking (ACT) are groups of people that raise awareness about trafficking, how to safeguard yourself and others and what you can do about it.

Thanet ACT leader Rebecca Rubanik said: “We’ve decided to make it a regular event and will keep working with taxi drivers until every taxi in Thanet has a sticker and every driver is aware about the issue of human trafficking."

Cabbie Sachdera Narinder said: “All the taxi drivers need this help. We would be happy to talk to people like Thanet ACT group who will listen. Human trafficking is a real issue."

Human trafficking leads to the exploitation of vulnerable people in the sex industry, forced labour, domestic servitude, street crime, cannabis cultivation, benefit fraud and other types of abuse.

An estimated 9.1 million men, women and children are trafficked across borders and within their own country at any given moment in time.

It is the world's fastest growing crime, second to drug smuggling.