Saturday, February 23, 2013

Japan's Electric Taxis Falling Out Of Favor With Drivers

Two years ago, in February 2011, the city of Osaka introduced a fleet of fifty Nissan Leaf taxis. The deal was a cooperative arrangement between Nissan, 30 taxi firms, and the government--each was being subsidized to the tune of 1,780,000 Yen--over $21,000 at the time.

The car's would clean up Japan's clogged streets, an improvement on the ubiquitous, square-jawed Toyota Crown taxis used throughout Japanese cities.

Like many countries, the incumbent taxis are often chosen for their reliability and simplicity, rather than their comfort or driving characteristics. That's why New York is full of hardy Crown Vics, London's streets are crowded with rattling diesel black cabs, and Mexico only recently relinquished the ubiquitous VW Bug.

Would an electric Nissan really feel like the future to the average taxi driver.



Turning tide?
However, problems have begun to emerge.
The first came in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, following 2011's earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

As we reported at the time, many people were worried that electric cars would be giving off the wrong image--conspicuous consumption of electricity at a time when power was in high demand and very short supply. Electricity is no longer seen as the clean, safe option it once was.

There are other issues too--the cars themselves.

While reliable, comfortable and smooth as ever, high-mileage drivers are finding degredation of the battery packs to be an issue.

Where a 60-mile range was once common in regular use, some are finding that cut to as low as 30 miles--and to save energy as much as possible, some drivers are shunning the car's heater in favor of chemical pocket warmers, and even blankets.

Degredation of the battery pack has also had an effect on the battery's ability to take a quick charge. A 15-minute charge has turned into a 40-minute one for many drivers. They can't travel as far, and they can't spend as much time on the road--and it's ruining business, for some. Customers requesting longer trips are even being turned down.

There's no get-out for the drivers, either. To qualify for the government's subsidy, the electric cars must be run for a minimum of three years. That's a year too long for some--“I’m getting out of this business,” said one driver, “This is no way to earn a living.”

Perspective

Osaka's electric taxi drivers aren't facing unheard-of problems, but nor can their experiences be considered the norm--either for electric car owners, or electric taxi drivers.

Climate, driving routes and charging habits all make a difference to how well a car lasts, and the life of a taxi is never an easy one.

The main issue for Leaf batteries is still excessive heat, rather than cold (though cold climates do reduce the car's range). And as a recent survey showed, frequency of quick charging seems to have little bearing on a battery's life or health.

What it does suggest is that in some localities, electric vehicles aren't yet ready for heavy-duty tasks like taxi work.

While that's no consolation to the drivers losing business through degrading vehicles, progress can only be made by analysing these kind of trials--and it'll make electric taxis of the future much better suited to the task at hand.

Source: http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1082483_japans-electric-taxis-falling-out-of-favor-with-drivers

Friday, February 22, 2013

Exclusive: Fraud Scandal at LTPH. By Taxi Leaks Roving Reporter.

A member of staff at LTPH has recently been dismissed for accepting cash for licence renewals. It is alleged some 50 drivers may have been approached over a 3-5 month period. The person concerned has been arrested but is yet to appear before the courts.

Senior GLA members have been asking questions about the robustness of the auditing systems at Palestra. Also, just how safe is your personal data kept by LTPH?

'Cloned' Bills', Forged Identifiers, Phantom SGS PH Test Certificates etc. etc. all leads to great concern as to the competence and security of the LTPH licensing regime and the safety of the public.

Are TfL and LTPH up to the task? It sure doesn't appear that way.

After massive staffing cuts, can they cope with the thousands of PH applications and give them proper scrutiny?

Touting and illegal Plying for Hire continue without anything much in the way of enforcement, Safer Travel Officer at the Met manage one arrest per officer per year (Arrests not convictions).

The few LTPH Licensing prosecutions that do happen fall because they target the operators (who come and go like smoke) and not the activities of the drivers.

Operators in contravention of the law get brief suspensions, in some cases just days and continue much the same as before and thousands of pounds of our money is wasted on legal fees.

Of course, every barrel has a few bad apples and LTPH like the Cab trade has a few as well of course as good ones.

The question we ask and so should you, your MP, the GLA, Travelling Public, The Mayor and yes even the non effective UTG be asking today is:

Does it matter about any of the apples, if the barrel that is meant to contain them is rotten?

P.S.

Leon 'Olympic Lanes' Daniels of TfL recently told the London Cab Drivers Club that the London Cab Trade needed to 'get its act together', Can we suggest Leon that a visit from you to Palestra might be a better use of your very expensive time and might result in a safer city!

Hailo: Fixed Prices To Airports

UPDATE: As mentioned in January, Hailo have been testing a new Fixed Prices To London Airports feature with passengers. The results have been very positive and so they will be offering the feature to most Hailo passengers starting from Friday, February 22nd.

Over the coming weeks, as more and more passengers get the latest version of the app, they will be able to access this great new feature. Hailo will also be actively promoting Fixed Prices to passengers from late February.

Please Note: to comply with regulations, you still need to turn on your meter for these trips but the Fixed Price amount (and any pre-set tip) will appear automatically in the app at your airport destination.

Hailo Fixed Prices

The new Airport Fixed Fares will give Hailo drivers a real competitive edge on these high-value jobs and help win back even more work for the Trade.

As you might expect, they have not used blunt, inaccurate 'zones' or post codes to determine their flat rates but applied precise GPS pinpoints that are much more fair (if you'll pardon the pun) and reflect the actual meter/distance travelled.

Please note that the amount paid to drivers is the fixed fare plus tip less the Hailo commission.

Fixed Prices: Top Questions

We hope that Hailo Fixed Prices are a welcome development for our drivers, but no doubt you also have a lot of questions as well.

Please consult the Driver Help Centre on our website where you can find answers to frequently asked questions concerning London airports and airport jobs.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Las Vegas Strip Shooting, Death Crash: Taxi Driver and Passenger Burned To Death.

LAS VEGAS - Police believe a deadly car-to-car shooting in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip Thursday morning was prompted by an earlier altercation at a hotel.

The shooting occurred at Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road, the site of several major hotel-casinos, when someone in a black Range Rover opened fire on a Maserati at a stoplight, sending it into a taxi that burst into flames, leaving three people dead and at least six injured.
"This doesn't happen where we come from, not on this scale," said Mark Thompson, who was visiting from Manchester, England, with his wife. "We get stabbings, and gang violence, but this is like something out of a movie. Like `Die Hard' or something."


Police said they were contacting authorities in three neighboring states about the Range Rover Sport with tinted windows and paper dealer ads in place of license plates that fled the scene about 4:30 a.m.

In Southern California, the California Highway Patrol alerted officers in at least three counties to be on the lookout for the Range Rover with custom wheels, authorities said.

Police said the Maserati hit the taxi cab, which went up in flames, and the driver and passenger were killed.
The male driver of the Maserati also died, and his passenger was shot.

Las Vegas Police Sgt. John Sheahan said the attack was not a rolling gun battle as previously described. The cars were stopped at a light when at least one person in the Range Rover opened fire. Several people were inside the vehicle.

Six other vehicles were involved in the crash that followed, including the taxi and Maserati. The taxi was affiliated with Desert Cab company, according to general manager Sandy Shaver. He declined to comment further.

The taxi might have been propane-powered.

Sheahan said police have video from traffic cameras at the intersection where the shooting occurred on Thursday.

"We have a lot of pieces to put together to establish a timeline as to why this confrontation occurred," Sheahan said.

Could have been even worse had the Cab been a hydrogen cell unit.

Terrorist Bomb Plot: Three Men Convicted.

Three men have been found guilty of leading a terrorist bomb plot that could have been bigger than the July 7 atrocities.


Irfan Naseer, 31, Irfan Khalid, 27, and Ashik Ali, 27, all unemployed, and from Birmingham, wanted up to eight suicide bombers to detonate rucksacks packed with explosives in crowded places.

"They were deadly serious and they were hell bent because of the training they'd had and the things they said", said Detective Inspector Adam Gough, from West Midlands Police.

"On committing these acts there's no doubt whatsoever they were going to build bombs and martyr themselves and kill as many people as they could."

Naseer, known as 'Chubbs' or 'Big Irfan', and Khalid, nicknamed 'Little Irfan' both spent a total of 15 months, during two trips, in terror training camps in Pakistan, and made martyrdom videos.

As police in London turn a blind eye to illegally parked minicabs outside night venues, how long before these people realise just how easy it would be to leave a minicab filled with explosive outside a crowded night club or bar. It's been done before and it's only a matter of time before it happens again.

At Last, The Trade Fights Back.

Over the passed decade, the London Taxi Trade has been under attack from an advancing army of private hire operators. As their numbers heavily increase, they have resulted to unfair, unlawful tactics to supply their drivers with enough work.

Secret deals have been struck with the bigger PH companies as they inched their way into working alongside Licensed Taxi radio circuits. Not content with just feeding them the jobs they couldn't cover, greedy boards resorted to selling prime pre-booked work. Early morning pre-booked airports have been sold off wholesale to PH for as little the price of a Mars Bar.

The largest radio Taxi fleet has been taken over lock stock and barrel, by one of Europe's biggest PH and transport providers. The massive investment of over 30 years from licensed Taxi drivers, lost forever.


Not content with syphoning off radio bookings, the ever increasing hoards of PH drivers then decided they also wanted to cream off large amounts of work which has come as a result of an ever expanding night-life scene in London's West End and City areas. Their plan, (as they can't openly drive round plying for hire) is quite simple, they would intercept the work before it gets to the gutter. And so, impromptu ranks have sprang up outside clubs, bars, restaurants and hotels. Back handers are paid to sweeten up door security staff, with Taxis virtually shut out of the equation.

The trade has fought back on many occasions, but without support from our licensing authority, local councils and the police, it's been impossible to make a dent in the touts modus operandi.

UNTILL NOW.

The invention of the smartphone app has revolutionised the way the public can now hail a Taxi. No more standing on street corners in the dark, in the cold, in the rain. Just click on the phone and within minutes a Taxi is knocking on the door. With a reputed 12-13,000 drivers signed up to these apps the Taxi trade is competing with and beating private hire hands down. Make no mistake, these apps have hit the PH trade for six, as now it is just as easy to order a Hailo or Get Taxi cab, as it is a local minicab and in the majority of cases we beat them on price. Large accounts thought lost to PH for good, are being won back on a daily basis.

Rumour has it, that a certain very large minicab operator has cancelled its fleets upgrade until further notice, solely because of the amount of work the company has lost to the apps.

This is an ongoing battle and we are winning big time.

NOW FOR THE NON BELIEVERS.
Some drivers don't want to get involved with online booking apps under any circumstances. That's their prerogative and we must respect that.
But if this trade is to survive the assault from PH, even they have to a change the way they work.

WORK CLEVER.
Because of the incredible amount of work PH operators have lost to online apps and in order to keep their earnings potential up, their drivers are fortifying the lines of illegally parked minicabs, unlawfully plying for hire outside venues all over the capital.

LTPH seem only too please to collect the extra revenue from the massive increase in PH drivers and satellite offices, but seem to drag their feet when it comes to enforcement of the conditions of licensing.

THE TAG HIT SQUAD LEAD THE FIGHT BACK.
Just before Christmas, the drivers of the Tag Hit Squad reformed and once again, are showing the way forward. Volunteers are taking huge chunks of work back, right under the noses of touts at Swallow Street, Novikov's, Abacus and Mincing Lane. Even at Dover Street, we are pushing the touts off the wine bar rank. Soon this group will have enough drivers to expand to other clubs and bars and provide regular, reliable service.

The Hit Squads actions have shown, if you put yourselves in full view at the exits, the public will (nine times out of ten) take a real taxi in preference to an overpriced scab.

Rather than drive round in circles, wasting fuel, moaning that there's no work, come and join in the fun and put on a rolling rank for a few minutes. You'll be surprised at the quality of work that comes out of these bars and restaurants.

Over the years, we have been given a false impression of the type of work available at many of the most heavily touted venues, because all the drunk, drugged up zombies are broomed by the touts and put into passing Taxis. This had the added affect of putting Taxi drivers off working certain areas, leaving the scabs to clear up. But the zombies are very tiny proportion of the jobs available at these venues. Quality work is there, it's just a matter of adjusting the way you work slightly and taking it back. Let them fight over our scraps, not the other way round.

We are beating these touts at their own game and pushing them back, away from the exits. This is where the work is, this is where we will have our victories. All you have to do, is go out there and take it back.

Using these ranks again can only add to the success's we've already seen at Nobu's, Coventry Street and Charing Cross Road.

Drivers using online apps have seen their takings dramatically improve.
Now with the help of the Tag hit Squad, so could you.

If you have a smartphone go on Twitter and follow @The_Hit_Squad

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Your Chance To Talk Directly With The Commissioner Of The Met,

The Commissioner of the Met Police will be taking questions from the public during his next live webchat, which for the first time has a counter terrorism theme #AskMetBoss

To support the: 'It's probably nothing, but...' counter terrorism publicity campaign, the Commissioner will be joined by Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick on Thursday 21 February at 11am to take questions from Londoners.

The campaign message is: "It's probably nothing, but … if you see or hear anything that could be terrorist related, trust your instincts and call the confidential Anti-Terrorist Hotline. Our specially trained officers will take it from there. 0800 789 321 Your call could save lives."

The campaign, launching next week, encourages the public to come forward with any information which could help police counter the terrorist threat which we continue to face.

Surely the fact that anyone can leave a vehicle with private hire roundels, outside any night club/bar or restaurant, has to be seen as a compromise of public safety. One only has to think about the two car bombs left in the Haymarket a few years ago. The police, TfLTPH and local councils, currently take absolutely no notice of vehicles even when illegally parked in bus lanes, this we witness every night of the week.
Surely the Commissioner should at least be made aware of this situation.

The Commissioner and AC Cressida Dick will be on hand to answer any questions the public may have and discuss how they can best support police.

The webchats are part of the Commissioner's commitment to speak directly with members of the public to answer their questions on policing and find out their views. Apart from taking questions about the counter terrorism campaign the Commissioner will still be answering questions on other subjects from members of the public.

If you can, please join the webchat on Thursday 21 February at 11am http://www.met.police.uk/askmetboss/
The more of us that bring up this subject the better.

For those unable to make the webchat you can pre-submit questions in advance via the comment box on the web page at
http://www.met.police.uk/askmetboss/

or on Twitter using the hashtag #AskMetBoss. Follow us on Twitter @MetpoliceUK for more information.

Sex Predator Who Raped Young Woman After Telling Her He Was A Minicab, Is Jailed.

An illegal immigrant who was twice refused asylum in Britain raped a woman before he could be deported, a court heard yesterday.

Atiq Rehman, 20, spotted his 22-year-old victim leaving a club and tricked her into thinking he was a minicab driver.

He then lured her into the back room of a corner shop and attacked her on a mattress for 45 minutes.

Yesterday the Pakistani national was jailed for six years after he pleaded guilty to two counts of rape.
Sentencing him, Judge Usha Karu said: ‘The fear she must have experienced simply can’t be imagined.’

Rehman had applied for asylum in the UK twice last year.
His initial asylum application and subsequent appeal were rejected by the Home Office.
After his rejection, he dropped under the radar of the authorities and may have used a fake name to avoid detection.

In the hours before the attack, his victim had spent the evening with friends at Infernos nightclub in Clapham, south London.

Within minutes of luring her into the shop, Rehman raped her.
He threatened to tie her up with duct tape if she did not stop crying.
He then raped her again before callously asking her how many children she wanted to have.
After the attack on April 29 he threw her out of the shop. The young woman stumbled to a friend’s house in nearby Balham and called the police.

Describing the attack, prosecutor Jeffrey Israel told Inner London Crown Court the victim met Rehman after becoming separated from her friends outside the club.
‘He approached her and she mistakenly thought he was offering a minicab service,’ Mr Israel said.
‘Mr Rehman had keys to open the metal shutters to the shop, and led her through to the back room.

There were two mattresses on the floor, and the woman began to cry. She was scared because she didn’t want to be in that room alone with the defendant.’
During the attack the woman was ‘shouting and crying’ and ‘physically trying to push him away from her’, he said.

‘Throughout, she was shouting at him to stop and trying to escape from him,’ Mr Israel said. ‘She told him she didn’t want to do this, and was begging him to stop.
Rather than stopping, he pushed her on to her back and pulled her arms. She was struggling to get away.’

The owner of the shop, Bilal Akbar, was initially arrested on suspicion of rape, but told detectives he had lent his keys to Rehman, who had fled to Manchester.
Rehman handed himself into police on May 26, but initially claimed a friend was responsible and he had been wrongly accused.

Later he changed his story and claimed he had consensual sex with the victim. Eventually he pleaded guilty to two counts of rape. However, even in court yesterday he continued to maintain the sex had been consensual.

Judge Karu said his crimes had been compounded by an ‘element of abduction’, the length of the ordeal, and the fact he took advantage of a woman who had been drinking.

The judge ordered Rehman, of Thornton Heath, South London, to be deported on his release from prison. Outside court, investigating officer Detective Constable Lisa Greedy, said: ‘This was an horrific attack by a man who had no qualms in exploiting a woman who he believed to be intoxicated.

‘The fact that he then threatened his victim with violence only added to her trauma.
‘I would like to pay tribute to the victim who showed strength and determination throughout the investigation.’


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Bisexual Asylum Seeker Taxi Driver, Jailed For Raping Men

A bisexual asylum seeker from Algeria has been jailed for seven years and ten months after pleading guilty to charges of rape.

Elhadi Sakhri, 42, targeted men in the heart of Manchester’s Gay Village on Canal Street.
Manchester Crown Court heard Sakhri, a taxi driver, won indefinite leave to remain in Britain nine years ago after complaining that he faced persecution in Algeria because of his sexuality.

Now, after admitting two charges of rape, Sakhri, of Thorn Court, Pendleton, Salford, has been jailed for seven years and ten months.

He is expected to be deported on release because of the seriousness of his crimes.
Manchester Evening News reports that the first victim, an 18-year-old man, entered into Sakhri’s cab in the early hours of 27 June.

After driving past the man’s destination, Sakhri stopped in a car park opposite a student halls of residence, ordered the victim out of the vehicle and then attacked him.

In a separate incident on 12 July, Sakhri drove a 22-year-old man, who had been clubbing in Manchester’s Gay Village, away from his stated destination of Stretford, and raped him on Hulme Street.

Sakhri had claimed the encounters were consensual before pleading guilty on the day of trial at Manchester Crown Court.

Nicola Gatto, defending, said of Sakhri: “He tells me he came to this country because of intolerance to his sexuality. For many years he worked in the security industry along Canal Street – on a daily basis he was dealing with young gay men in a vulnerable condition because of alcohol and yet it seems he was highly regarded.”

Judge Martin Steiger QC said Sakhri had “taken advantage” of his position to commit the crimes.
Sakhri will now be on the Sex Offenders’ Register for life.

source: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/

Monday, February 18, 2013

Manchester City Council taxi review continues.

The public have been invited to assess new vehicles, which may be used as taxis in Manchester.

The vehicles will be available for taxi users during an event on Albert Square in the city on Wednesday February 20.

Previously, only PCO approved vehicles could be licensed as hackney carriages, but Manchester City Council started a review of the policy at the end of last year.

A 12 week consultation is currently being held as part of the review, seeking the views of people including cab drivers and owners as well as members of the public.
Taxi users, including disabled people, are invited to try out several different vehicles, during the event.

The City Council’s Licensing and Appeals Committee is expected to make a decision about any new vehicles later in the year.

Interim measures are in place while the review is carried out, any applications to license new vehicles will be considered on their own merits.

Cllr Nigel Murphy, Manchester City Council’s executive member for the environment, said: “Hackney carriages are an important means of getting around Manchester, transporting thousands of residents and visitors around the city, and it’s important we get this right and make sure our high standards, particularly regarding disabled access to these vehicles, are maintained.

“We’re holding this event to enable members of the public to see different vehicles for themselves and give us their views about whether they are of a good enough quality to be used as hackney carriages in Manchester.”

For more information about the consultation visit:
http://www.manchester.gov.uk/HCVpolicyreview

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Epsom's black cab drivers yearn for return to pole position

Black cab drivers are demanding to be allowed back outside Epsom Station – claiming the location of their current taxi rank is costing them a fortune.

Sheila Siggers and up to 50 other black cab drivers, used to be based right outside the Epsom station entrance before development work started on the site two years ago.
Last week they launched a petition opposing Surrey County Council’s (SCC) decision to keep them there even after the development work is finished.


Mrs Siggers, from Epsom, said the current rank, which is further up Station Approach, a few metres to the west of the pedestrian crossing, means people leaving the station cannot easily see the black cabs and are choosing to walk home or find a mini cab in the high street instead.
The 58-year-old said: “Just before Christmas I earned £33 in one day, and £20 of that was spent on petrol.

“People are thinking ‘we’re not going to walk up there’ and walk home instead.
“Why can’t Epsom be like all other stations and have a black cab rank right outside? People want to come out of the station and walk straight into their cab.
“I’ve lost my house in the last two years. I just couldn’t afford it anymore so I moved in with my mum.

“Drivers are having to work longer hours now because they have less jobs. I know the economic situation isn’t great and we expected trade to drop a bit, but we’re not really making anything.”
A SCC spokeswoman promised the public will be consulted on the decision.

She said: “This was raised as a concern at a meeting of our committee for Epsom and Ewell, and a working group was formed of a number of interested parties including affected taxi drivers.
“The group suggested a solution that would include 16 or 17 taxi spaces in Station Approach – a rank on the north side and a feeder on the south side. The proposal also includes space for buses, loading and kiss ‘n’ ride.

“Realising that many people, including local residents and commuters, will have an interest in this, the committee has decided to undertake public consultation.”

Mrs Siggers said each black cab driver has a petition in their cab which can be signed, and that 60 customers have signed her petition so far.

source: http://www.thisislocallondon.co.uk/