Saturday, February 16, 2013

Vigilantes fighting revenue-driven traffic enforcement.



Imagine the scene. Masked bikers riding through the streets of London in determined pursuit of their quarry. They have names such as Bald Eagle, Parking Warrior and Coco and cover their faces with V For Vigilante masks and communicate via on walkie-talkies. But don't be afraid, they're on your side – and if you drive a car, they may have already saved you a £130 fine.
Meet the NoTo Mob, a group dedicated to fighting what they see as unfair parking tickets and charges. During the week they're normal blokes (and the odd woman). Steve Baker, aka Bald Eagle, is a legal adviser from north London. Graeme Jones, aka Parking Warrior, is an auditor from south London.
But on Saturdays they come together for a common cause. They follow council CCTV cars, or "spy cars", then stand nearby holding signs to warn drivers about the presence of a CCTV vehicle and potential fine if they break the rules.
Motorists pull over, wave or give the thumbs up in gratitude. Complete strangers have been known to hug them in support.
"There are 22 mobile enforcement vehicles within four miles of Charing Cross," says Graeme. "We know where they go, they're creatures of habit."

So what about Regent Street? Why is this so different to other parts of the Capital?

Why is it that most nights Westminster City council deploy a camera car to Zuma, a restaurant in a small side street in knightsbridge, where Taxis wait for customers?
Why do Wardens walk past PHV touts parked on the Taxi ranks at Berkeley Street, Charing Cross Road, Conduit Street, Argyle Street and the Strand?
How come hoards of wardens patrol the West End, ticketing Taxis and Private cars, yet seem to be oblivious of Private Hire vehicles illegally parked in Regent Street's bus lanes?
Why do Westminster surveillance CCTV cameras pick out and ticket Taxis, being paid off at the Cumberland hotel and yet are turn away at the junction of Virgo and Regent?
Why are wardens refusing to move on or ticket the touts at Swallow Street?

The solution is simple
A camera car at Regent and Swallow would ensure smooth passage for both buses and other traffic. No congestion, no pinch point, no problem.

So what is your problem Westminster?

Legal Action concerning HALT & HALTS

Documents have been served on the existing directors of Heathrow Airport Licensed Taxi Society (HALTS), a private company that manages the Taxi Desk system at Heathrow and enjoys a percentage of the feeder park fee that drivers are compelled to pay to rank at the airport.

Formerly these functions (Taxi Desks etc.) was discharged by a Friendly Society known as Heathrow Airport Licensed Taxis (HALT) owned by Taxi Drivers for the benefit of all.

RMT members sought assistance from the National Union as they had concerns about the application of funds, lack of transparency, accountability and how friendly societies assets had managed to be transferred to a private company without proper reference to that friendly societies membership.

The RMT engaged specialist leading Counsel (QC) to advise on, what is a complex matter, this has led to the action outlined above where the High Court will examine the issues.

The RMT will not hesitate to use its full resources both financially and legally to uphold the rights of its members.

UNITY is STRENGTH Join us!


Owing to the ongoing legal action concerning these matters. no comments will be allowed

Friday, February 15, 2013

Just When You Thought It Couldn't Get Any Worse TfL introduce Licensed Minicab Bikes


TfL to work to introduce formal licensing of motorcycles as Private Hire Vehicles

Three London private hire operators have provided motorcycle private hire services in London since the 1990s with up to 17 motorcycles used for passenger transport.
Although the scope of the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 includes motorcycles, the vehicle regulations made in 2004 restricted licensing to vehicles with 4 road wheels.
As a result, during the transitional arrangements put in place when licensing was introduced, temporary permits authorised by the Department for Transport (DfT) were issued for the existing motorcycles to allow them to continue to provide these services until such time as a decision of formal licensing was made.

These permits have been replaced subsequently on a like-for-like basis and the operators and riders are licensed as for other private hire services.

These operators have high standards for riders and vehicles and very good safety records.
TfL conducted a consultation in 2009 in order to inform a decision whether to formally license motorcycles or revoke the existing temporary permits.

The proposals for licensing gained support from many respondents but also drew some opposition. At the time TfL felt that it was appropriate for the Government to make a decision on this issue as it was a national rather than regional one.

In July 2012, the DfT published guidance on whether and how to license motorcycle PHVs. The Department urges licensing authorities such as TfL to license as wide a range of vehicles as possible consistent with safety, and does not consider that there is a compelling case for ruling out motorcycle PHVs on safety grounds.

TfL has now reviewed the DfT guidance, the responses to the previous consultation and the experience of the existing operations and has decided to bring these operations fully within the licensing regime.

The relevant regulations will now be changed to allow the licensing of two-wheel motorcycle PHVs and there will be specific requirements on licences for operators using motorcycle PHVs services and for motorcycle PHV riders to ensure that safety standards are maintained.

Key elements of the regulations will be:
• Only two-wheeled motorcycles will be licensed, with a minimum engine size (to ensure a large, stable vehicle), anti-lock brakes and capability to carry passengers with luggage. Three-wheeled or four-wheeled motorcycles will not be licensed;
• Motorcycle PHVs must be no more than two years old at first licensing and will not be re-licensed when they are over five years old, to ensure that the vehicles are modern and in good condition;
• Riders must have an advanced rider qualification and experience in riding motorcycles;
• Operators will be required to provide suitable safety equipment for the passenger including a properly-fitting helmet with intercom between driver and passenger, and hygienic liners if necessary;
• Operators and riders must ensure there is no reason why the passenger cannot be safety carried (because of impairments, age, weight, luggage, use of alcohol or drugs, or any other reason), and offer alternative transport if needed;
• Motorcycle PHVs, like other PHVs, must be booked before the journey commences and cannot ply for hire.

Other licensing requirements and processes will be similar to those for PHV cars and the fees applied will reflect the cost of establishing and delivering licensing.

Existing licensed drivers or operators that want to use motorcycle PHVs will have to meet the additional criteria for motorcycle operators or riders and apply for variations to their licences.
It is intended to have the licensing regime and associated processes in place by early 2014. TfL will now engage with relevant stakeholders and work to introduce the new licensing regime.

Current transitional provisions will remain in force for a short period after licensing is introduced to allow existing operators and riders to make the necessary changes to comply with the new regulations.

John Mason
15 February 2013 Director Taxi and Private Hire

ANOTHER ELECTRIC TAXI PLAN WHICH DIDN’T TAKE OFF.

Upon first hearing that the San Francisco initiative to add a line of clean-energy electric taxis has hit the breaks–or rammed into a brick wall, depending on how you look at it–your first reaction might be disappointed.

That is until you learn the company that was supposed to receive the 61 electric cabs was never gung-ho on the project to begin with.

In addition to reporting that the $7 million initiative has crumbled, Yellow Cab, the company chosen to launch the electric taxi line, was never really on board with the plan to begin with. Jim Gillespie, a manager at Yellow Cab, told the Examiner:

“We were never really over-hyped about this. We just wanted to show our public support for the plan.”



Dang. Ye of little faith.

Start-up company Better Place was supposed to pair with SFMTA to install charging stations and finding manufacturers to make the 61 electric taxis. However, after years of struggling to find funding for the initiative, Better Place decided to abandon the project, scale down their work in California and focus more on Israel and Denmark.

None of the $7 million federal grant has been spent thus far.
As for now, Metropolitan Transportation Commission will get to keep $1 million “to pursue other clean-energy initiatives.” However, they will have to submit a new proposal within the next few months if they want to keep the remaining $6 million.

But even with a several-month block to come up with a new proposal, Gillespie still doesn’t sound very optimistic. He told the Examiner:

“The technology just isn’t there yet for this to be practical.”

He added that an electric taxi would need to be able to travel at least 200 miles before recharging for the venture to be successful. As of late, these cars can only go 75 miles before needing to be recharged.


Source: SFBay (http://s.tt/1zNPq)

Comment
Boris, it's simple, just insist that every new Taxi Cab has a hybrid engine. Now there's a technology that's tried and tested and best of all, it works (unlike DPF filters and FEVs).
There's no such word in engineering terms as can't. Just tell Mercedes and Geely what you will or won't allow as an engine in a Taxi and let them go away and do it.
Or is there no money in doing this way?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Electric Taxi Clocks Up 55,000kms in Dublin's Fair City

A Dublin taxi driver has clocked up 55,000kms in his Nissan LEAF electric car and made a saving of approximately €6,500 over the last 18 months.

The 100 per cent electric Nissan LEAF which has been part of a trial between ESB ecars and National Radio Cabs (NRC) has clocked up more than 55,000kms on Dublin roads. The trial, to evaluate electric vehicles as part of the taxi industry, has been deemed so successful that it will be extended for another year.

(How would it cope with 5 passengers on cold wet nights with heaters, wipers, headlights and radio?)

Analysis shows that savings of up to 12.9 cent per km can be achieved by driving an electric vehicle, powered by night rate electricity, in comparison with a conventional car. For 55,000kms, this would equate to fuel savings of some €6,500 and a net reduction in more than four tonnes of CO2 emissions.

(Our Mayor now doesn't believe Carbon emissions to be such a problem as he once thought they were. Minister for climate change Chris Huhne, an honourable man who's words should be reliable, had 3 points to bring up on this subject, but unfortunately gave them to his wife. According to QI, having a medium sized family dog is responsible for more Carbon emissions than running Mitsubishi shogun)

In addition to the fuel and emission savings, electric vehicles also benefit by availing of a government grant of up to €5,000 on the purchase price, qualifying for the lowest band of road tax (€120), and from significantly lower maintenance and service costs. Over the 18 months, services costs experienced by the e-Taxi were minimal.

(Ah, EEC subsidies and government grants, FOLLOW THE MONEY.)

The ecar can be recharged at night at the taxi driver’s home through a dedicated home charge-point, allowing him/her to avail of low night rate electricity tariffs. He/she can also easily charge during the day at any of the on-street charge-points around Dublin city which have been installed by ESB.

(What if the driver lives in a tower block, or serviced apartments. Would you, as a neighbour, want cables outside your door?)

Manager of ESB ecars, Dermot McArdle, said: “Ireland’s first e-Taxi trial has been a huge success and we are delighted, in conjunction with our partners, NRC Taxis, to extend it by another year. The long term trial in a real life environment endorses the suitability of electric vehicles as both taxis and for the general public. To support electric vehicles, ESB is continuing to roll out a growing network of public charging infrastructure. In Dublin alone, there are over 120 public charge-points including 10 fast chargers.”

(Wonder if they would still paint such a rosy picture, if NRC Taxis had to pay the £28,000 for the vehicle. The NV200 will allegedly retail for around £30k. If this vehicle is developed as a fully electric Taxi, we can expect the price to rise another £10-12k)

“The e-Taxi has proved really popular with passengers,” said Padraig Daly of NRC Taxis. He added,“Most are pleasantly surprised at how well it performs in comparison to petrol-or diesel-fuelled cars, and how quiet it is.”

Liam Brady, managing director of NRC Taxis, said: “NRC Taxis are honoured to be associated with the ESB and the e-Taxi over the past two years. It has been enlightening for us as a company, to engage with such an initiative; which not only is good for the environment but also beneficial as a cost saving measure in running a taxi. We would expect more drivers to take up the electric option in the coming years and NRC look forward to being a part of that e-Taxi future.”

(Personally, in the present financial climate of the Dublin's deregulated Taxi industry, which we are constantly told is in dire straights, at £28k a pop, I wouldn't hold my breath for drivers queuing up to buy one)

Source: Galway Advertiser.

Comment:

The original article resisted to tell us is the retail price of this vehicle, if the driver worked daylight hours or if he lives in a house with a car port.

This small vehicle costs £10,000 more than its petrol counterpart, coming in at a wrapping £28,000. If Nissan are aiming to produce the NV200 as a fully electric vehicle, it will enter the market around the same price as the 6 sweater Mercedes Vito, dearer that the TX4-5.

It's closest revival the electric petrol hybrid Prius comes in at a more reasonable £19-22,000.
I would love to know the range of this vehicle, working nights in a freezing London with the heater full on, wipers blades swishing away, plus dipped headlights and radio constantly on.

Also what if the driver lives in a tower block, how would the vehicle be charged. It's bad enough if the vehicle is parked in a street full of terraced houses, with a cable running across the pavement, an accident waiting to happen. I can just imagine the TV commercial "Tripped over a cable? Try our no fault no win no pay service".

This technology is nowhere near ready for fully electric vehicles and is not the answer to better air quality in London. There are already tried and tested off the shelf measures that can help bring down the nitrogen and carcinogenic particle emissions, but our Mayor stubbornly refuses to help finance there introduction. He seriously expects the Taxi trade to become part of a massive electrified commercial experiment, at our own cost.

Everyone will have their finger in the pie just like always, FOLLOW THE MONEY.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

We Definitely Got The Knowledge And They Don't Like It.

Recently we have seen a plethora of items appearing in the press, trying desperately to put down the London License Taxi trade and its drivers.
Alex Jones, the skinny Welsh bird from the One Show, wants to put us in room 101, for apparently "not knowing where we are going and constantly talking dribble". So unlike her preferred BBC minicab drivers who rarely speak as they concentrate on their Sat Navs, oblivious to the surrounding traffic conditions and dangers.

Our driving is constantly criticised on Talk Radio, mainly by minicab drivers who are jealous of our ability to turn on a sixpence. Our casual dress code is also come under fire from Private Hire drivers in their £20 Primark suits and nylon shirts. The ones which cause passengers to open the windows, even in the middle of winter. God knows what some of these Ford Galaxies smell like in the height of summer. It's definitely not the Lynx affect.

Even our own licensing authority choses to criticises the Licensed Taxi trade. Top of the knockers being TfL's Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy who once stated at a Transport committee meeting:
"Most Taxi drivers take their money by 9pm and go home before it gets busy".
He also added, "when you leave the Grosvenor House after midnight, you can never find a Taxi" and "they should stop moaning-work longer hours and get out more often". Thank you for the vote of confidence Mr Hendy.

Following closely is MD of TfL surface transport Mr Leon Daniels, who was reported in the Badge Taxi paper as saying, the Taxi trade need to get its act together.

This is the man who hid Taxi ranks away from spectators at the Olympic venues, so as not to upset the Games sponsors, mainly because of advertising liveries on some cabs seen as not part of the Olympic family. For the same reason he wouldn't allow Taxis (the only fully wheelchair accessible vehicles in London's transport) anywhere near the Paralympics venue exits.

Even our Mayor, Boris Johnson, the man the Taxi trade helped get elected, has never once congratulated the trade for continuing to work through hazardous conditions, after snow bought London Transport's network of trains and buses to a halt. While minicabs took advantage and charged 3 times the meter fare, London's Taxis carried on at the same daily rates regardless.
Also, not one word from the Mayor or TfL, for a trade that volunteers to get veterans to and from the services on Remembrance Day. A day when TfL choose to close neighbouring underground stations for maintenance.

But it's not all gloom and abuse!
Elsewhere, London's Licensed Taxi Trade is seen as the best in the world.
Below is an article taken from a Yahoo News online, written by Laurie Jo Miller Farr. It explains how other counties see the London Taxi trade.

Best of Great Britain.

Londoners are spoiled. Taxis are spacious, drivers are courteous, English is spoken, baby strollers and wheelchairs are welcome, and London taxi drivers know where they're going. Boy, do they ever!

This makes them some of London’s best tour guides as well as drivers. In fact, some taxis, such as London Black Taxi Tours, London Taxi Tours, London Cab Tours and London Tours by Taxi, focus on giving guided tours of city sights. If you know the rigorous steps to becoming a London taxi drive, you’ll see why their knowledge of the city is unparalleled.

Got a question?

What's the best way to Alexandra Palace when traffic on the North Circular is at a dead halt? Where is the unmarked stage door for the Royal Court Theatre? Taxi drivers know which airlines fly from which terminals and the days and times for changing the guard at Buckingham Palace. They know where to find the Courts of Justice, where Sir Paul and Sir Elton live, and that the Adam & Eve pub is not in Adam & Eve Mews.

A London cabbie may need to get a confused passenger to Victoria Embankment, Victoria Mews, Victoria Crescent, Victoria Square, Victoria Terrace, Victoria Lane, Victoria Gardens, or Victoria...There are 77 variations on Victoria in the London Streetfinder, and they're spread all over the map.

In the know

Licensed taxi drivers’ All-London Knowledge test is encyclopedic and dates back to the days before GPS and Google searches. In order to pass the test, a driver must know 320 different routes covering almost every square inch in the 113 square miles within a 6-mile radius of Charing Cross Station.

Those routes can take you to 20,000 places including shops, restaurants, offices, schools, churches and 25,000 streets. Applicants can’t pass the license test unless they know the absolute shortest routes to destinations, and that means smack to the front door. A typical exam question at an oral appearance: “Describe the way from Highbury Vale Police Station to the British Medical Association” — without any street addresses.

Big investment

Given that London is a sprawling city of 241 square miles, studying for the exam typically takes two to four years. Compare that city size to Manhattan at 23 square miles or San Francisco at 47 square miles. Most of the 25,000 taxi drivers who have passed the All-London Knowledge have studied by investing in a course at a knowledge school — a scooter for months of buzzing around London cramming as they go.

Drivers must pass the practical driving and written exams. In addition, a London taxi driver must acquire the skills for mounting and dismounting wheelchairs, ensuring passenger comfort, maintaining their cars and keeping passengers safe. They also learn the Highway Code, the rules of the road for drivers on British roads.

Drivers must renew the All-London, also called the Green Badge, license every three years. Those who want the Yellow Badge to drive in the suburbs must learn at least one of the nine surrounding sectors and then drive only within its borders. The good news is that drivers get to be their own bosses and set their own hours.

Noteworthy knowledge

About 700 to 1,000 drivers pass the exam every year, although 7,000 register as students during that period, according to Transport for London. The London licensing requirements, which have been around since 1851, are so entirely different from other major world cities that one of the knowledge schools indicates it’s been covered by "The Apprentice," The Discovery Channel, National Geographic, the BBC, The London Times and other television and print media. No wonder, could "The Knowledge" be a new alternative to college?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Heathrow cab war: Tout 'threatened to kill licensed taxi driver'

Police are investigating attacks on black cabs amid tensions between licensed taxi drivers and minicab touts over lucrative routes from Heathrow.
Three men were arrested after taxi drivers were allegedly followed home from the terminal and had their vehicles damaged. About 6,000 licensed London taxis work from Heathrow each day.

They are the only vehicles that airport operator BAA permits to pick up fares.

A BAA “tout squad” works with plain clothes detectives to catch those plying for trade illegally. But confrontations have been reported between legitimate cabbies and unlicensed drivers “trying their luck” at the arrivals gate.

One licensed driver, who asked not to be named, said: “I’ve been targeted several times. It started last year when I caught this guy nicking our work. I challenged him and escorted the passenger back to the rank.


“The next day his brother was waiting for me. He followed me from Terminal 1 to Enfield.

“I called 999 but before the police arrived he boxed me in and was threatening to kill me. He was arrested and given a restraining order and community service.” Cabs have been daubed with graffiti and one driver alleged that his brakes were cut.

A journey from Terminal 1 to Oxford Circus costs between £60 and £80, depending on whether or not the journey is pre-booked with the official airport agent.

Grant Davis, chairman of the London Cab Drivers Club, said an equivalent trip with an unlicensed driver would start at £100, with reports of passengers paying more. He said: “We’ve had marshals assaulted, followed home and run off the road.

“[Touts] are putting not only drivers but passengers at risk.” Police are investigating reports of criminal damage to a cab in Northolt on New Year’s Eve. The Met have linked the attack to another incident on the same day in Walworth. Three men have been arrested and bailed until next month.

BAA said: “We work hard to clamp down on illegal taxi touts. A ‘tout squad’ including taxi marshals patrols the airport looking for known offenders and we work closely with CID. We encourage passengers to use the Heathrow Express, Piccadilly line or black cabs from our ranks.”

New Design Licences and Identifiers To Be Issued By March 31st

As predicted by Taxi Leaks last year, TfL will now commence issuing replacement licences and area identifiers to all licensed London taxi drivers. The new licences and area identifiers will be of a similar design to existing ones
but will contain a number of new security features.

Following feedback from the trade, the new suburban area identifiers will have a larger space to show the areas for which a driver is licensed to ply for hire. One of the key reasons for replacing all taxi driver licences (Bill) and area identifiers is to combat fraudulent licences.

Drivers Bills should have been replaced two years ago when LTPH first discovered that a large number of documents had fallen into the wrong hands and were being sold openly in some London garages and pubs. Instead, LTPH decided to concentrated huge resources in the inspection of Badge and Bills by compliance teams, all over London. Sometimes its the simple common sense solutions that are the best.

Between March and December 2012 some 27 arrests have been made by the police for the use of fraudulent documentation. Of these, a number were completely unlicensed drivers that had received no character and medical checks or undertaken the Knowledge of London. These drivers are putting the public at risk and also damaging the earnings and reputation of legitimate taxi drivers. Still not one word about the fraudulent roundels sold by employees of SGS to PHV drivers for cash. Also no word about re-presentation of vehicles, dealt with by the staff arrested by the police, for re-inspected. At present it is not known how many unsafe, dangerous PHVs are affected.

Accompanying the new documents will be instructions advising how to return existing documents to TfL. You will not be trusted to keep or destroy the old licenses/identifiers.

Any driver who has not received his or her replacement licence and area identifiers by 31 March 2013 should contact us via support@tph.tfl.gov.uk or 0845 602 7000.

Please check the new documents carefully as it has been reported that a number of new license have already been sent to drivers containing the wrong photo. Source LTDF.

In order to facilitate this change, a number of drivers were recently asked to submit passport size photographs, which will allow a digital version to be reproduced on their licence. Any driver who has not yet responded to this request is urged to do so without further delay.

Until a new photograph is provided we will be unable to issue the replacement licence and identifiers. Any driver not displaying new style identifiers will be liable to compliance action, therefore it is imperative that drivers provide a photograph as requested.

Photographs can be emailed to TPHphotos@tfl.gov.uk or posted to:
Taxi Driver Photographs 4th Floor, Green Zone Palestra
197 Blackfriars Road London SE1 8NJ
After 31 March 2013

Through the issue of the new licences and area identifiers which contain additional security features, along with continuing to undertake regular compliance checks, we will be able to safeguard the public from rogue drivers and protect the reputation and the earnings of the taxi trade.

It was hoped that now a solution has been found to the fraudulent use of Taxi driver documentation, LTPH would be able to concentrate on the bigger problem of PH touting and illegally plying for hire and protect the public from violence, robbery and sexual predators, but that still looks very unlikely.

Monday, February 11, 2013

£23m of Parking Fines 'May Have Been Unlawful'

Almost 350,000 parking fines - totalling an estimated £23m - may have been unlawfully issued to motorists in London, a BBC investigation has found.

In 2010 a ticket issued in a suspended parking bay was ruled unlawful because Camden Council did not have authorisation for its signage.

Now the BBC has learned 16 councils still have no authorisation for these signs, while others went years without.


Some boroughs insist a later judgement made tickets enforceable.

A typical inner London council suspends more than 1,500 parking bays a month, often so building works can take place.

The Department for Transport (DfT) designs road signs for most situations, which authorities must follow closely.

But it has never produced a template for a suspended parking bay sign.

If no sign is set out by the DfT, the law says councils must ask the transport secretary to authorise their own creations.*

Otherwise they would be effectively licensed to invent road signs at will.

In January 2010, motorist Suzanne Campbell defeated Camden Council at a Parking and Traffic Appeals Service (Patas) hearing after being ticketed in a suspended parking bay.

Adjudicator Edward Houghton ruled: "In the absence of a compliant sign the vehicle was not in contravention and the appeal must be allowed.

"No doubt the council will give consideration to obtaining the secretary of state's authorisation."

Shortly afterwards there was a rush of applications for authorisation from London councils. Some 14 received it by 2012.

But all these councils had been issuing tickets in suspended parking bays for years previously.

According to the DfT, another 16 councils still have no authorisation.

Neil Davies, a motoring solicitor at Caddick Davies, said: "From a legal perspective councils are on very shaky ground, because the signage they used is effectively made up.

'Ignore the laws'
"It's difficult to explain the actions of councils who haven't sought authorisation - they may be relying on the fact many people don't challenge parking notices."

Richard Bentley, an ex-police officer and signing consultant, said: "Each council is fully aware they have to apply to the secretary of state if they want to use signing that isn't set out within the regulations.

"It is astounding authorities ignore the very laws there to help them."

The BBC sent Freedom of Information requests to all 28 councils which had no authorisation prior to 2012 to find out how many potentially-unlawful tickets were issued.

Some councils provided a decade's statistics, others just two years.

Neil Davies contradicts London Councils' claim that the fines were lawful
But the BBC has traced a minimum of 343,956 tickets issued under unauthorised signs. The real number is probably far higher.

According to a Westminster City Council report, London boroughs make £67 per parking ticket - a total revenue more than £23m.

Mr Davies warned motorists fined years ago might find it hard to claw money back - as there is a time limit of 28 days to make an appeal.

But he said both councils and Patas could use their discretion to hear historic appeals.

He added: "There's certainly a strong moral argument for councils to refund those monies."

Local Transport Minister Norman Baker said: "The department provides clear guidelines to councils to help them produce signs that comply with regulations.

A technical failure to comply with regulations does not invalidate signage so long as the signs are clear and motorists are not misled”

London Councils spokeswoman
"These are there to protect motorists.

"It's not for government to police signs - this role falls to local politicians who are accountable to their residents."

The BBC's Inside Out programme contacted all 28 councils. None was able to provide an authorisation predating 2010.

However several authorities claimed a subsequent test case, a 2011 Court of Appeal judgement, meant their signage was nonetheless lawful.

That case established the legal principle that trivial failures to adhere to signage laws are not grounds to cancel a ticket if the sign is clear.

A London Councils spokeswoman said: "The Campbell case pre-dates an important decision in the Court of Appeal last year, where the court ruled a technical failure to comply with Traffic Signs Regulations does not invalidate signage so long as signs are clear and motorists are not misled.

A typical London borough suspends 1,500 bays a month or more
"This ruling has effectively prevented further successful appeals on the grounds of a technical failure to comply with the regulations where no harm can be shown."

But Mr Davies said inventing a sign without authorisation amounts to more than a "trivial" or "technical" failure to follow the law.

He pointed out that 12 councils sought authorisation even after the 2011 judgement, suggesting they knew it was still required.

Mr Davies added: "Parliament makes rules for a reason - to protect the public.

"For local authorities to ignore such rules is to deny the public protection."

Find out more on BBC Inside Out, on BBC One in the London region on Monday, 11 February at 19:30 GMT and nationwide on the iPlayer for seven days following transmission.

Source BBC News.

*SUSPENDED PARKING BAY AUTHORISATION
The following councils still have no DfT authorisation for their signs: Greenwich, Southwark, Westminster, Barnet, Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Ealing, Enfield, Hillingdon, Kingston-upon-Thames, Merton, Redbridge, Sutton and Waltham Forest.

The following councils received authorisation in 2010 or after: Camden, Hackney, Lambeth, Harrow, Wandsworth, Havering, Barking and Dagenham, Brent, Newham, Hounslow, Lewisham and Haringey.

At the time of research Richmond-upon-Thames was applying for authorisation but did not yet have it. Source: DfT

Doubting if Tomorrow Will Ever Come, for Tomorrows Taxi.

New York City’s attempt to reimagine its taxicab experience, perhaps the least divisive of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s legacy-making transportation efforts, now appears to be the most at risk.

One measure, creating a vibrant street hail network of livery cabs outside Manhattan, has been mired in court since last June, delaying its implementation indefinitely.

Another, allowing New Yorkers to hail yellow taxis using smartphone apps, was watered down amid heavy lobbying from the livery and black car industries — and will most likely face a legal challenge

Then there was the crown jewel, cast in yellow: the so-called Taxi of Tomorrow, a nearly complete redesign of the modern taxi, the first since the age of the Checker cab. Now, that, too, is imperiled.

A recent suit filed by the Greater New York Taxi Association challenges that the Taxi of Tomorrow plan violates a little-known section of the city’s administrative code because the vehicle, a Nissan NV200, is not a hybrid.


According to the provision, the city “shall approve one or more hybrid electric vehicle models for use as a taxicab” and any approved model “shall be eligible for immediate use by all current and future medallion owners.”

And it is not as though there will be other models to choose from: Nissan’s 10-year contract with the city, worth an estimated $1 billion, stipulated that it would be the sole manufacturer for virtually all of the city’s 13,000 cabs. (A small number of existing hybrid medallion owners are exempt from the mandate to purchase a Nissan.)

Amid the assorted blows to the mayor’s taxi policy, other major items on his transportation agenda — the creation of bicycle lanes and pedestrian plazas — have prospered despite legal challenges and some opposition.

More than three years of work have gone into the Taxi of Tomorrow, for which the city issued a request for proposals in December 2009. The result was a vehicle with distinctive features: transparent roof panels and “lower-annoyance” horns, a special exterior light that flashes when a driver honks and seats “as strong and cleanable as vinyl with the comfort of leather,” according to the commission.

But the choice of the NV200 inspired the ire of advocates for the environment and proponents of accessibility. The vehicle is not wheelchair-accessible, but it can be retrofitted to become so. In December, John C. Liu, the city comptroller, rejected the Nissan contract, though it was unclear what practical effect the action would have.

With the latest suit, though, industry officials said Mr. Liu’s objective might be accomplished for him.

Nora C. Marino, a member of the taxi commission’s board who has opposed the Taxi of Tomorrow, predicted that the vehicle, in its current form, would never reach the road.

“Frankly, I agree with a lot of the allegations,” Ms. Marino said, referring to the suit filed by the Greater New York Taxi Association, which represents medallion owners of many hybrid and wheelchair-accessible taxis. “As an attorney, I think it’s a good complaint.”

The suit also argues that the city does not have the authority to mandate the purchase of a given vehicle.

The city’s Law Department and its Taxi and Limousine Commission would not address how they planned to proceed with the case, or whether the relevant section of the administrative code had been considered before the Taxi of Tomorrow plan was approved.

David S. Yassky, the city’s taxi commissioner, is familiar with the city’s administrative code requiring hybrids; as a city councilman, he supported the measure when it was adopted in 2005. He said in an interview that he believed the Taxi of Tomorrow would go forward as scheduled. But his predecessor, Matthew W. Daus, who was the city’s taxi commissioner when the Taxi of Tomorrow plan began but was not involved in the selection process, registered doubts.

“It’s a problem for the city,” said Mr. Daus, now a partner at the law firm Windels Marx Lane and Mittendorf, where his focus is transportation law. “This is a real, credible threat.”

He said that the administrative code had been written narrowly, explicitly calling for a “hybrid electric vehicle” option, not simply a fuel-efficient car. The city has argued that the yellow taxi fleet’s gas mileage will increase once the Taxi of Tomorrow is widely used.

An administration official, who requested anonymity because the city’s legal strategy had not been determined, suggested a possible counterargument: the code requires the commission to approve a hybrid vehicle “within 90 days after the enactment of this law,” which the administration did. Taken literally, the official said, the provision could be interpreted to apply only to the moment of the bill’s passage in 2005, even if hybrid alternatives would not be available once the Taxi of Tomorrow was fully implemented.

If such logic fails, it is unclear how the city might expect to circumvent the provision while keeping its exclusive commitment to Nissan. (The company would not comment on the lawsuit or its contract with the city.)

The City Council has the authority to amend the code, but seems unlikely to provide a solution. Last September, Councilman James Vacca and Christine C. Quinn, the Council speaker and a presumptive Democratic front-runner for mayor, wrote a letter to Mr. Yassky expressing concerns about “reducing the number of green taxis on our streets.”

The city has attracted myriad lawsuits over its taxi policy in recent years, facing attacks from well-financed corners of the yellow and the for-hire taxi industries. Last June, a State Supreme Court justice in Manhattan blocked the city’s all-borough taxi plan, passed by the State Legislature in 2011 after the administration had been rebuffed by the City Council. The judge rejected the city’s justification for the maneuver — that taxi policy is of state concern.

With taxi-hailing apps set to begin for yellow taxis as soon as this month, for-hire owners have retained the counsel of Randy M. Mastro, a former deputy mayor for operations under Rudolph W. Giuliani, in preparation for a possible suit. Livery and black-car operators, concerned about their business model, have protested that the apps violate the city’s longstanding ban on prearranged rides in yellow taxis.

“The taxi industry has now replaced social policy as the area where there’s the most court activity,” Mitchell Moss, the director of New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, said. “That litigation is now a part of taxi policy tells you how central this is to New York.”

Mr. Yassky said the city expected to overcome any suit against its app program, and to weather the all-borough taxi challenge in time to roll out the new “apple green” livery cabs before the administration’s time was up.

But he was careful to add a caveat.

“That’s not a certainty,” he said. “Nothing’s a certainty.”

Source: The New York Times

The night I was raped by a minicab driver

A woman who was raped by a minicab driver has told for the first time of her horrific ordeal.

The publishing assistant from east London has chosen to tell her story, saying: "It is difficult to go through it all again but I have no choice. I have got to tell people to stop it happening to other women.

She added: "I thought minicabs were safe, I thought I was strong and I thought it wouldn't happen to me - but it did.

Rebecca, 31, was raped by Mohammed Akhtar, an Afghan who posed as a minicab driver to lure women outside bars and nightclubs. He picked her up in the West End and drove her to a cemetery near his home in Hendon. There he attacked her after pretending his car had run out of petrol.

Seven weeks previously Akhtar, 28, who was granted asylum in 1999, picked up a Norwegian university student outside a bar in central London and drove her to Kensington, where he raped her in a side street.

The 21-year-old is too scarred by her attack to return to Britain, while Rebecca still has nightmares from which she wakes screaming, suffers loss of vision and has crying fits.

The night that changed Rebecca's life began so promisingly. Recently having moved to London from Guildford, she had just begun an exciting new job in publishing and she had arranged to meet two girlfriends at a pub.

She said: "I was in a really good mood. I met the girls at about 9pm and we drank a couple of beers before moving on to the Metro nightclub. It was about 3am when we left. Then she waited for a bus on Tottenham Court Road. Rebecca said: "After an hour a bus arrived but the driver told me I was on the wrong side of the road. I crossed the road and went into a newsagent. As I was leaving a man came up to me and asked if I wanted a minicab. I was tired, so I said, 'Yes.'

Rebecca followed him to his car. "I didn't really know where I was, but he seemed to know where he was going. It was only an hour or so later that I realised we were nowhere near my flat.

In fact Rebecca was in Hendon. She thought he was taking her on a longer route to increase the fare and rang 999 in a bid to frighten him. Akhtar pulled the car to the side of the road and agreed when the operator asked to speak to him, telling her he was taking Rebecca home.

She said: "He didn't look annoyed at me for ringing 999. But 10 minutes after driving off he told me he had run out of petrol. By now it was 5am and I was tired and really pissed off. He told me to get out but I shouted at him to call me another taxi.

"He refused and pointed up the road and said the Tube was just over there.He marched off and I had no option but to follow.

In silence, Rebecca followed him across Sunny Hill Park and into a lane. She said: "Suddenly he grabbed my shoulders, pushing me backwards. It was as if he had snapped. I shouted, 'Get off me,' and tried to knee him in the balls but he held me back.

"I started crying and he said, 'Shut up or I'll kill you.' I believed him. He pulled my boots off, pulled my jeans down and raped me. I was terrified and just kept saying,'I want my mum.'

"The actual rape lasted maybe only a minute or two. He then said 'Now you can go and get your Tube.'Then he walked off.
As Rebecca pulled on her clothes she dialled 999 and sobbed: "I've been raped. After speaking to the police she was given a medical examination and an HIV test, for which she is still awaiting the results.

Akhtar was picked up two weeks later after he was identified on the newsagent's CCTV. He has been jailed for nine years after pleading guilty to both attacks at the Old Bailey. Judge Christopher Moss told him: "These were brutal and wicked offences and it appears your victims have been greatly affected.

"You used your illegal trade as an unlicensed minicab driver to obtain your victims. Attacks such as these on vulnerable and defenceless women will always attract a substantial sentence. Rebecca is relieved he is behind bars but wishes he had got life. "I hate him,'' she said.

She is determined to get on with her life but is still traumatised. "When men I don't know talk to me I go quiet and want them to leave me alone. But inside I am screaming.

Source: Mail online.
Names and some details have been changed. For advice on sexual offences visit the Met's website w w w.met.police.uk/sapphire

This article was written by HARRIET ARKELL, of the Evening Standard.

Edinburgh Airport to be serviced by Private Hire and Taxis.

A PRIVATE car hire firm has been awarded a £30 million contract to control Edinburgh Airport’s taxi rank in a joint venture set to guarantee a maximum five-minute wait for vehicles.

The five-year contract was yesterday awarded to Edinburgh City Private Hire, which will operate in partnership with black cab firm City Cabs starting from April 14.

Under the decision, airport passengers would be greeted by drivers wearing a single uniform, with taxis provided for each plane arrival.

Vehicles would have to be no older than five years old and each driver would be required to carry identification. Plans are in discussion for all vehicles on the rank to bear the same colours within a year.

The deal ends the existing five-year service run through a consortium between Central Taxis and City Cabs, as well as private hire firm Onward Travel.

Central Taxis – the largest cab operator in the Capital – submitted a tender for the contract, but was unsuccessful.

Central Taxis director Tony Kenmuir, left, said: “Our concern is that ECPH is a private hire company. They can only be pre-booked by telephone and they’re not taxis in the eyes of the law. Their drivers are not qualified taxi drivers. As far as we’re concerned, the minimum standard for a taxi driver is that you pass the Edinburgh City Council topographical test. That’s your basic entry level qualification to get behind the wheel and ply for hire.”

Mr Kenmuir denied his opposition was a case of “commercial sour grapes”, saying his company had been offered the chance to go into partnership with ECPH as part of the tender process, but had rejected the offer.

Neither the city council nor Lothian and Borders Police voiced concerns about the agreement when contacted by the Evening News yesterday.

An airport spokesman claimed the new contract would guarantee an improved level of service. He said: “Submissions were reviewed by an independent staff panel, with the tender process overseen by an independent external body.

We believe it will provide a step change service for passengers at Scotland’s capital city.”

ECPH director Kevin Woodburn said the firm intended to operate 24 hours out of the airport to meet requirements.

He defended the company, saying: “Every single driver, every single vehicle and this company is fully licensed, vetted and accredited through the local licensing authority.

“Any comments that other companies might like to make are not only way off the mark, but they’re factually incorrect.”