Saturday, January 19, 2013

Just in case you missed it: Parking Mad

IMPORTANT Public Consultation From 2006: how come no one asked us?

Work has started on a completely new concept for the Euston underpass junction. There appeared to be a public consultation in 2006. Below is an excerpt from that consultation.



Euston Road and Tottenham Court Road Improvements

Dear Sir or Madam
Camden Council and Transport for London are asking local groups and directly affected residents and businesses for their views on:

• Improving the Euston Road/Tottenham Court Road/Hampstead Road junction
• Introducing two-way traffic on parts of Tottenham Court Road and Grafton Way
• And, the principle of introducing two-way traffic on the whole of Tottenham Court Road and
Gower Street, as a second stage of the project.

This booklet describes the proposals and the impacts. We are still working to find funding for them. Enclosed is a separate questionnaire for you to complete so that we can gauge support for the project. If there is sufficient support, there will be further opportunities to comment on the details. We believe these proposals would greatly improve the Euston and Bloomsbury area for all.

Background
The Council and Transport for London believe that the junction of Euston Road and Tottenham Court Road is an important place and the improvement of Euston Road and the surrounding area has been identified as a key objective. The site serves a number of functions. As well as carrying a great deal of traffic, it provides access to and from major employment, retail and residential areas, two tube stations and a major hospital. Such a significant site in central London should be a safe and pleasant environment for everyone who uses it.

The proposals for this consultation result from discussions with architects, urban designers, London boroughs, local landowners and stakeholders, the Greater London Authority and Transport for London. They are about giving space back to pedestrians and creating new public spaces, and are the first stage in meeting the objective to make the most of Euston Road and the surrounding area, making it a more pleasant place to live, work and visit. They help to change the main junction from an unfriendly place where it is difficult to cross, to a junction that is easy and simple to cross, and where traffic no longer dominates.

Proposals
Euston Road/Tottenham Court Road/Hampstead Road junction
• Covering part of the underpass to create new public space above the road with possible room for shops and exhibition areas.
• Using some of the space taken back from traffic, to plant trees.
• Making it easier to cross Euston Road by reducing the complexity of the junction from
thirteen individual crossings to just eight.
• New paving at the junction and in the surrounding area.

Euston Road pedestrian crossings
• New crossing across Euston Road at Fitzroy Street.
• New crossing across Euston Road at Gower Street.
Introducing two-way traffic
• Making Tottenham Court Road two-way between the junction with Euston Road and Grafton Way.
• Making Grafton Way two-way between Gower Street and Tottenham Court Road.
• Improvements to the bus network, reducing journey times and increasing reliability.

The introduction of two-way traffic helps to make the junctions simpler to use, but also opens up the possibility of introducing two-way traffic on all or part of Tottenham Court Road and Gower Street/Bloomsbury Street. Although this has not yet been designed, this consultation also asks for your views on whether you would support this further stage, in principle. Camden and Transport for London believe that this would have significant benefits.

If the work proceeds there will be additional consultation on this proposal. However, we would welcome your comments at this stage.

Source: public consultation 2006:
To see the whole of the consultation booklet please click here

Big Brother Will Soon Be Watching You, Even Closer.

We have heard, that a new form of ID badge will be issued to all of London's Taxis, later this year. But will it be the business, or just another waste of license fee money.


A few years ago, there was a serious accident in Victoria Street, where three elderly passengers had to be cut out of a Licensed Taxi, as it laid on its side. Alarm bells started ringing when it was revealed the driver had absconded from the scene. On investigation, the Taxi was found to be a fleet cab and the garage was in possession of the drivers copy Bill.
(A Taxi drivers license is commonly referred to as a Bill, because it used to be issued by the Met and not the DVLA)

The Bill turned out to be part of a batch that had allegedly "gone missing" during the move from the PCO in Penton Street to the new Palestra building in Blackfriars. Despite requests, no information about the accident has ever been released by either the police or LTPH. There followed a major security issue as more of the the missing Bills started showing up.

After reports that it had become common practise for many suburban drivers to work in central London using Sat-Nav technology, it was decided to introduce green and yellow ID badges. Soon counterfeit ID badges were appearing in the pubs alongside the stolen Bills.

TfLs answer to the stolen bills issue, was to change the design of the document and hope that the problem would disappear over a 3 year period. As for the copycat ID badges, LTPH stepped up document checks at major Taxi ranks around the capital.

TfL have used immense resources in dealing with the issue of Cloned Badges and Bills, but on the other hand, there has been hardly any reaction to the news that many PHV drivers have been illegally purchasing their vehicle license for cash from SGS. It emerged that batches of PH license roundels were found in a west London minicab office. Met police officers investigated the matter and two senior employees of SGS have been arrested.

We have been unable to determine if all the vehicles dealt with by the two employees involved, have been recalled and re-checked to see if the were indeed fit for service. This could involve many thousands of private hire vehicles that could be driving the public around London in a dangerous condition.

LTPH took no time in suspending the licenses of hundreds of LTC TX4 taxis involved in the steering box saga, but seem to be dragging their feet with any issues appertaining to private hire.

TfL and LTPH seem to be very tight lipped about the whole issue surrounded the roundels for cash case, but then again, going on the bias treatment we normally have to put up with from LTPH, we wouldn't expect anything else.


Earlham Street Experimental Road Closure, Seven Dials, Covent Garden

Camden is working with the Seven Dials’ Trust to make the Seven Dials area more attractive for residents and businesses as well as encouraging more people to walk and cycle.

Taxis and other vehicles use Monmouth Street, Earlham Street and Shorts Gardens as a short cut to avoid traffic queues on Shaftesbury Avenue. Therefore these streets are often busy with traffic which makes the area less pleasant for residents and businesses.

The Council would like to undertake a trial closure of Earlham Street at the junction with Shaftesbury Avenue (the closure would not apply to cyclists). In addition, it is proposed to change the direction of traffic in Tower Street to one-way eastbound (from Earlham Street to Monmouth Street). Therefore, traffic on Earlham Street would be able to exit Seven Dials via Tower Street and Monmouth Street (south). Traffic would also be able to access Shaftesbury Avenue via Mercer Street (west).

The closure would reduce traffic on Earlham Street and Monmouth Street (north) making these streets more attractive as well as encouraging people to walk and cycle. The closure is likely to lead to an increase in traffic on Mercer Street (west); however this route may not be as attractive to use as a short cut. The closure should also help to reduce congestion on Shaftesbury Avenue as currently vehicles turning out of Earlham Street block other traffic approaching the traffic lights.

The closure of Earlham Street at the junction with Shaftesbury Avenue will be on a trail basis for 6 months. During the trial, traffic surveys will be undertaken to assess the impacts of the closure. After the 6 month period Camden will make a decision on whether to make the closure permanent or not.

The following changes are proposed for a minimum of 6 months:
A. Close the exit of Earlham Street onto Shaftesbury Avenue to all motor traffic, except cyclists.

B. Change the direction of traffic in Tower Street to one-way eastbound (from Earlham Street to Monmouth Street).

C. Relocate 1 x residents’ parking space from outside 2 Tower Street to 1-5 Earlham Street. Parking and loading would then be banned outside 2 Tower Street to allow vehicles to safely turn into Tower Street.

D. Relocate 2 x Pay and Display parking spaces from Earlham Street to outside 31 Shelton Street. Parking and loading would then be banned in this small section of Earlham Street to help provide safe access for market trader vehicles to the closed end of Earlham Street.
The market trader’s pitches will also be standardised to a slightly larger size (4 metres x 2 metres) by extending them onto vacant pitches.

Source: Public Consultation November 2012.

We would be very interested to see the Joint Ranks committee and the United Trade Groups response to this consultation, if such a thing exists. We would be only too happy to post on this blog. M Holder.

Friday, January 18, 2013

North West Taxis, 100% First Time Pass Record For My Taxi Still Stands.

Again North West Taxis have done me proud.

Over the 11 years I've been going to them, I have had a 100% 1st time pass rate, when my Taxi has been presented for its yearly overhaul. And today was no different.

North West even paid the cost of certain warranty work that had been reported earlier in the year, but advised to wait for overhaul. LTC are paying for some warranty work under a so called good will policy, but it comes with strict guidelines. Many items that you would expect to be covered are considered as cosmetic and not essential.

However, when I picked my Taxi up I was amazed to see that it hadn't even been washed, let alone polished. The windows were stained with rain drops and there was splash residue on all side panels. Why have the standards of fitness dropped since SGS took over from the PCO.

The hose pipe ban has been lifted, but when was the last time you heard of a Taxi getting a stop note for being too dirty?

I remember in 84, having to re-polish a cab I'd spent a whole day valeting, because it had rained overnight and I had leathered it off. Steve from Kings Cross arches who was presenting my Cab to the PCO said we've got to give it another quick polish or they'll knock it back.

The PCO would fail Cabs that had dust on any surface in the interior.

Can't believe I have to now go to the car wash before I can comfortably pick up the public after being plated at SGS.

With major Taxi garages doing their own MoTs from March, will we be putting our lives at risk, renting a spare cab from a garage?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Yet More Incompetence From LT&PH.

Below is the response from London Taxi & Private Hire, regarding a complaint made against an All London Driver recently who claimed that a suburban driver had no right to accept a hiring from the Hilton Hotel Heathrow.

He then took the passenger out of the suburban drivers taxi and in the process gave him (the Suburban driver) a load of verbal in front of the passenger.

So what is the point of John Mason and Helen Chapman telling Suburban drivers to report these incidents if they have no power to investigate?

We now appear to need to rely on the Police and/or the Courts to inform London Taxi & Private Hire before they can take any steps to bring the taxi driver in question to task.

Why employ someone just to pass the information sent to them back to the sender and tell them to contact the Police.

Why not tell the complainant to go direct to the Police in the first place.

Yet more incompetents from London Taxi & Private Hire.


Dear Mr Xxxxx,

Thank you for your recent email regarding the conduct of a licensed taxi driver. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you.

Unfortunately, London Taxi & Private Hire (LTPH) have no legislative power to investigate criminal offences including racial incidents. These complaints are investigated by the police, as they are the only UK authority with the legislative power to investigate complaints of this nature. I note that a number of witnesses can verify the racial abuse you experienced, and I would therefore encourage you to contact the Metropolitan Police at http://content.met.police.uk/Site/ContactUs.

If, following a successful police investigation and prosecution, the driver is convicted of racial abuse, PCO will be notified. This is highly likely to result in his fitness to practice being reviewed by the Licensing Authority.

I am sorry that I could not be of further assistance, however, thank you again for bringing this matter to our attention.

Yours sincerely,

Claire Alabdalla
London Taxi & Private Hire
Transport for London

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Exclusive News Flash: Nissan London Taxi Presented For Passing.

Unconfirmed reports have reached Taxi Leaks, that a Nissan NV200 Taxi was presented for licensing as a London Taxi at an SGS testing centre today.

It has been alleged that the vehicle presented, did not conform to the conditions of fitness as the door openings were not of the required width. It was felt that the doors were too small to receive certain types of wheelchairs.

This could be quite a substantial set back to the company who are planning to make the model generally available to the trade by October 2013.

Originally Nissan hoped to launch the NV200 London Taxi earlier in 2013 but put back the launch date to October so the front end could be redesigned to look more Taxi like for the London market.

The Last Remaining Morris Taxi Goes To Auction.

Having survived the Blitz as well as the addition of ballast in the form of an unexploded bomb, a car thought to be the sole surviving Morris London Taxi will make the journey to Brooklands for Historics’ spring auction on Saturday, March 9.



Originally an export model called the Empire Oxford and designed to boost overseas sales, poor demand from abroad meant many of the 1,700 vehicles manufactured were returned to the UK, with 840 re-commissioned for commercial use.

Built in 1929, UL8563, nicknamed Uncle Lima, saw 10 years of service accruing fares in the capital, before it was purchased by a farmer and adapted for use as a tractor to support the war effort.

During routine army maneuvers the hay rake it was pulling collected some scrap iron, which the farmer opted to add to the back of the vehicle to give greater stability, but when Uncle Lima was put up for sale postwar, the scrap iron was removed and discovered to be two unexploded mortar bombs and an anti-tank rocket.

Following restoration and a return to its former guise, Uncle Lima made a public appearance at the 1975 Commercial London to Brighton run, and has been in constant use since, competing at numerous rallies and events, as well as being put to good use as a family wedding car.

Featured in a book by Bill Munroe titled A Century of London Taxis, the car also appears in a 1933 motoring magazine advertisement used to paint a picture of typical London lifestyle, perfectly illustrating the historical significance of the last remaining Morris London Taxi.

Although based largely on the Morris Oxford, scaled up to fit a modified 13cwt lorry chassis and running gear, most of the Empire parts were retained and incorporated into the new cab, including the 15.9hp engine (2513cc), the four-speed gearbox and an overhead worm drive rear axle.

Strict regulations set by the Public Carriage Office led to a number of design peculiarities, with all cabs required to carry hay and water for a horse. Uncle Lima accommodating the hay in a box on the running board and water in the radiator.

Granting privacy to passengers, the car was prohibited from having a rear view mirror, while the folding rear hood was designed as a safety feature, allowing swift escape in the event of an accident, and the door handles were recessed to prevent injury in the event of a door slamming shut.

With Morris celebrating a century since the introduction of its first car, the Morris Oxford “Bullnose,” this unique car comes to auction with a comprehensive history file and a full MOT. With plenty of life to live and potential fares to take, Historics is anticipating strong interest and estimates offers in the region of £25,000 to £30,000.

For more information call 0800 988 3838, e-mail: auctions@historics.co.uk, or see the website, www.historics.co.uk.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Enforcement...What Enforcement?... By Jim Thomas

It's got to be the worst value for money, in the history of the taxi trade. A one million pound contribution from license fees to be set aside annually and used towards Cab Enforcement.

The present annual operating costs of the Cab Enforcement Unit are £4.1m. £1m comes from LTPH licence fees. Surely part of this enforcement should be used to protect the public. It's a known fact that sexual predators use illegal ranks outside night venues to source victims.

The lines of illegally plying for hire minicabs have escalated like a virus. Even at venues where sexual predators have violently raped passengers (Egg, Swallow Street, Spearmint Rhino, Fabrics), the lines of touts are treated as if completely legal by Police, LTPH, Cab Enforcement and local council wardens.
And yet Taxis, find themselves ticketed or moved on at every opportunity. The touts are left alone to get on with illegal practises and are given carte blanche to form illegal ranks, wherever they please.



No Response From Westminster's MP STC SNT.
Drivers are now reporting, no one is answering the landline advertised on Westminster Safer Transport teams website. Also after numerous messages left on the mobile line voice mail, not one driver has received a follow up call. This is a disgusting state of affaires when an obvious blind eye is being turned towards licensed Taxi driver and their concerns. This behaviour is leading to serious sexual assaults taking place on unsuspecting members of the public.


The Mets Westminster's Borough Commander, Alison Newcomb has some explaining to do. Perhaps every Taxi driver should contact their MP, to ask her why Westminster's Safer Transport Command and Safer Neighbourhood Teams are not responding to calls for enforcement and why they are turning a blind eye to the concerns of the licensed Taxi trade.

While a recent late night Tag Squad hit was taking place at the junction of Regent and Swallow Street, one of our more active drivers dropping a passenger in Kingsley Street, noticed a line of minicabs illegally forming a rank.

He approached to ascertain the situation and was immediately tackled by a compliance team from LTPH. After complaining and asking the officers to move these PHVs on, he was told that it is quite legal for the cars to wait, as a controller inside the venue, was dispatching jobs to the waiting cars. The compliance team then subjected him to a full documentation Badge and Bill check.

The driver has since complained and been told that the officer concerned, denies this allegation. We believe an investigation is to be carried out by LTPH.

Document checks by LTPH compliance teams, have been completely bias against Licensed Taxis, when compared to Private Hire vehicles. In one example recently posted, in the month of March, 373 Taxis had their documentation checked, as opposed to only 90 private hire vehicles. And yet there are well over three times as many private hire vehicles as there are Taxis.

So where has this enforcement money been spent.

Also, just a word to the board of TfL:
To charge enforcement fees to Licence fee payers is illegal and contrary to European Law.

As far as I'm concerned, I want the £35 from my license fee back and I believe LTPH should be charged with misappropriation of funds.


TRANSPORT FOR LONDON BOARD

SUBJECT: TAXI AND PRIVATE HIRE LICENCE FEES
DATE: 2 FEBRUARY 2012


1 PURPOSE AND DECISIONS REQUIRED
1.1 The purpose of this paper is to ask that the Board note the annual taxi and private hire licence fee review, which is proposed to take effect from 2 April 2012.
1.2 The Finance and Policy Committee considered a similar paper at its meeting on 19 January 2012 and endorsed the recommendation.

2 BACKGROUND
2.1 The Metropolitan Public Carriage Act 1869, as amended by the Greater London Authority Act 1999, enables the licensing authority (TfL) to charge for taxi driver licence and taxi licence applications, and for licensing application tests and re-tests as well as charging for driver and vehicle licences. Changes to taxi driver and taxi licence fees do not require a regulatory change and may be changed by the Managing Director, Surface Transport. Since 2000, changes have been introduced to reflect the principle that licence holders and applicants alike should pay for the costs of the licensing resources they
use.
2.2 Licence fees are reviewed every year. The principle behind fee setting is to reflect the cost of carrying out each licensing activity without cross subsidy from one activity to another.
2.3 In accordance with previous practice, the Board will be asked to note a price freeze on all taxi and private hire application and licence fees.

3 LICENCE FEES
3.1 A review of licensing fees for 2012/13 has been undertaken based on the quarter 2 forecast for taxi and private hire licensing costs for the five year period to 2016/2017.

4 POLICING COSTS
4.1 The annual operating costs of the Cab Enforcement Unit are £4.1m. £1m of this came from TPH licence fees in 2011/12 and will again in 2012/13. While there may be scope in the future to increase the contribution made through licence fees towards the costs of operating the Cab Enforcement Unit, no further increases to the current £1m per annum contribution are proposed at this time.
4.2 Licence fees can only be used to offset the cost of policing where it can be clearly shown that the enforcement activity is enforcing taxi or private hire legislation.

5 PROPOSED FEES
5.1 It is proposed that a price freeze will apply for all taxi and private hire application and licence fees. This will be the third consecutive year that driver fees have been subject to a freeze and the second consecutive year for vehicle licence fees.
5.2 Over the past year, TfL has held several workshops with the taxi trade focussing on the Knowledge of London. These workshops were established to discuss ideas and initiatives for further improving the quality of service provided to candidates and to discuss different charging options for the process. The cost of administering the Knowledge of London process is currently subsidised by licensed taxi drivers by approximately £430,000 per annum. Through these workshops, feedback was received that increasing the fees for Knowledge applicants to reflect fully the cost of administering the process would not be desirable at this time as it would deter potential applicants. Consequently, it is proposed that these fees will not be increased at this time. However, TfL will continue to work with the trade on possible alternative charging structures in the coming year.

6 CRIME AND DISORDER
6.1 There would be Crime and Disorder impacts if the Cab Enforcement Unit is not adequately funded. The ongoing £1m contribution from moneys collected as licence fees will help ensure that the Cab Enforcement Unit can continue to carry out its valuable work.

7 FINANCIAL
7.1 The proposed freeze on licence fees, together with ongoing savings from efficiencies, should ensure that taxi and private hire licensing costs are met from fee income, as allowed by relevant legislation, without incurring a net cost to TfL.

8 RECOMMENDATION
8.1 The Board is asked to NOTE the paper and a price freeze on all taxi and private hire application and licence fees as detailed in this paper and a £1m per annum contribution to Cab Enforcement costs to take effect from 2 April 2012.

9 CONTACT
John Mason, Director of Taxi and Private Hire, Surface Transport
9.1 Contact:
Number: 020 3054 1537
Email: JohnMason@tfl.gov.uk




Moneybox junction: The West London traffic light 'trap' that rakes in £2.7m a year

Cameras trained on the yellow box on the junction of Bagley's Lane and New King's Road, West London, catch more than 100 drivers every day
Observations of the junction found that at least one vehicle gets stuck inside the box every time the lights change
Many receive £65 fines, which rise to £130 if not paid within two weeks
Similar traps could spring up across the country if councils have their way



They probably generate more sheepish looks and furious hand signals than any other part of the road network.

But this particular box junction infuriates drivers more than most.
Angry motorists have dubbed the cross-hatched area the ‘Moneybox’ after it generated £2.7million in fines for the local council last year.

A total of 40,634 penalty notices were issued to motorists in 2011-2012 – an average of 111 a day.
This is nearly three times the number of motorists caught out in the previous 12 months and more than five times the amount two years earlier.



Suspicious drivers have accused Hammersmith and Fulham Council, in West London, of designing the junction to deliberately catch them out and create a cash cow.
As a result, many are receiving £65 fines, which rise to £130 if they are not paid within two weeks.

Similar traps could spring up across the country if councils outside London have their way and win the right to impose fines for a variety of highway offences.

Drivers should enter a box junction only if the exit road or lane is clear. They can wait inside it if they want to turn right and are stopped from doing so by oncoming traffic or other vehicles queuing to turn right. Motorists are getting caught as they wait to turn right into Bagley’s Lane from New King’s Road, because they are not being stopped from leaving the box by oncoming traffic.

Motorists argue that the Moneybox – at the junction of fashionable but heavily congested New King’s Road and Bagley’s Lane in Fulham – has two sets of traffic lights which allow more motorists to enter the controlled area than can leave it.

Victims include Susanne More, who lives in Twickenham, South-West London, and has been fined twice. She said: ‘There’s something fundamentally wrong with the number of fines issued to drivers going into this junction. It seems the council has decided this is a really good money-making scheme.
‘The yellow box is far too long. It doesn’t give you enough time to get out and the signalling is awful.’
Musician Jonathan Majin added: ‘Drivers are frequently lured into the yellow box and trapped there by traffic lights. It is a complex, confusing and unclear junction.’
Fines are being issued to drivers heading along New King’s Road towards Chelsea. As they enter the junction, another set of lights 110ft up the road remains red for between 25 and 40 seconds.
Only four cars can wait legally behind the first lights, leaving the rest at risk of being spotted on CCTV. Tickets are automatically sent to the vehicle owner.

A council spokesman said no one would be penalised if they ‘just stuck to the rules’, but Transport for London said it would consider improving the junction.
About 20 councils have asked to take over enforcement of 26 road offences from police, including those involving box junctions, U-turns and cycle lanes. Critics say they will be used to generate income.

A few years ago, Hammersmith and Fulham Council had to pay back millions of pounds worth of fines when the scheme was first laid out. It was found by a campaign group that the road marking were illegal as they did not conform to the legislation know as the 'Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions' (TSRGD) 2002. The council was ordered to stop issuing fines and had to pay back all the fines previously issued.

There are clear guidelines which this box junction was in serious breach of, however the council applied to the Secretary of State and received special planning permission for the lay out.

The actual fine is for being stationary in the box junction for a period of more than five seconds
So If you find yourself trapped with no where to go, just keep rolling backwards and forwards until eventually you can leave the box. When appealing asked to see the video evidence which must be kept by the council. A photo graph is not proof that you stopped for more than five seconds.

If you need any advice one PCNs please use the sight http://www.ticketfighter.co.uk