Saturday, May 11, 2013

Not Fit as Taxis but OK for TfL Contractor to Ferry Their Staff AroundLondon...By SuperCabby

Recently most of the beloved Fairway London Taxis that have plyed for hire on the streets of London from the original FX4 to the last Fairway in 1997 have been slowly disappearing from our streets due to the Mayor of London’s Air Quality Strategy where he introduced an age limit for Taxis on the basis that older vehicles were polluting London. 
So we find it quite amazing that one of TfL’s contractors are continuing to use these “unfit” Taxis to ferry their staff around London, yes the same taxis that the Mayor of London states are no longer fit to be used as Licensed London Taxis.

The company in question is Arriva who operate bus services on behalf of TfL, they have been using old taxis to ferry bus drivers and staff around for a number of years but did not advertise the fact that they operated the taxis as they were kept just plain black with no advertising or company name on them.

Recently Arriva have come out of the closet and seem to be proud of the fact that they are using ex London Taxis that were taken off the road for being too polluting by re-painting them Red and adding their name to the front doors of the Taxis

As you can see the Taxis are extremely bold and Arriva have stuck a rather large logo on the front doors of the Taxis which makes them stand out.
Effectively these Taxis are being used to transport staff around who are working on behalf of TfL by one of their contractors, taxis that we were told we are no longer allowed to use, taxis that Arriva purchased at knocked down prices due to the Mayor;s air Quality strategy making them of no use in London therefore decreasing their value.
Most of the Taxi’s are in very bad condition with dents all over them, no wheel trims and bumper end caps missing as the above pictures can confirm.

So how can it be right that Taxis that we have been told are no longer fit to be licensed due to their age and pollution figures can now be used to transport staff around who are working on behalf of TfL albeit for one of their contractors and the contractor seems to be quite blasé about the whole thing and this is all happening right under TfLs noses?
Just seems to be a case of don’t do as I do, but merely do as you are told on the part of TfL.
And it appears that London is not the only area that Arriva are using Taxis that no longer meet licensing requirements to transport staff around!

Friday, May 10, 2013

OUR RANKS, NOT FOR SALE...Another Administrational Cock Up From the Directorate of Jim Thomas

Early yesterday evening it became evident that something was not Kosher on the Hilton Park Lane Taxi rank.

Drivers, expelled from one of the busiest working Taxi ranks in Central London, watched in disbelief as a plinth was erected on the point of our rank to display the prise of a commercial RAFFLE.

A notice of suspension was attached to the Taxi post and the whole of rank 4762 was coned off.

In the same disgraceful spirit of the Olympic, where we saw Taxi ranks moved away from venues at the bequest of commercial sponsors, we were informed we would have to use the rank in Hamilton Place.

In the past months we have seen (with the full blessing of LTPH) "Free Private Hire Taxi ranks" operated in Central London by commercial companies plus main Taxi rank suspensions at places like the Dorchester, Grosvenor House and the Victoria and Albert museum, in order to facilitate certain private hire companies use of our ranks.

We even saw LTPH suspend the rank at the Roof Garden restaurant for a private party where later in the evening the doorman was arrested by Cab enforcement, as a private hire company used the rank in order for their vehicles to tout business.

This practise must be stamped out, before it becomes the norm.

A group of concerned RMT drivers complained to their trade representative (who was on the scene in minutes) and a call was made to the new temporary General Manager of LTPH to ascertain exactly what was going on. 

Helen Chapman stated that LTPH had been approached by a commercial company to suspend the main rank outside the Hilton in order for a raffle prise to be displayed. She said she felt obliged to accommodate the request, otherwise the company might be unhappy in choosing the Hilton on subsequent occasions. 

The RMT rep pointed out, it is not the place of LTPH to accommodate private commercial enterprise and her first responsibility should be towards the the trade that her department license. It is the license fees of hard working Taxi drivers who pay for the administration of this rank and not a commercial company. 

She was then asked if LTPH had received any remuneration for this suspension, to which she replied LTPH seek no financial gain from rank suspensions. Not quite the answer to the question asked!

So we ask again:
There must be a cost involved, so who picks up the tab...does that come out of our license fees too. 

Incensed drivers then took direct action against the rank revocation and the cones were removed accessing just two of the normal four spaces, but at least a presence would be available to guests attending the evenings functions at the hotel, surely guests leaving the hotel have a right to expect Taxis to be found outside, not a raffle prise.

By now members of the United Cabbies Group were on site and a mass demonstration was quickly arranged for midnight. Drivers felt strongly that their working rights were being abused by LTPH, who had bent over backwards to accommodate the Raffle company . 

On the stroke of midnight the Hotel was embargoed and the whole area was blocked by protesting Taxis. 

A hurried meeting was soon arranged by the hotel management who were very apologetic and surprised as no previous objection had been formally offered by the trade. They ordered the raffle company to immediately remove the car and dismantle the plinth. This was then carried out ahead of schedule and the rank returned to normal working, hours before the planned 2am finish of the main function.

It also emerged on Twitter that the United Trade Group (LTDA, LCDC and Unite) had been informed about the intended revocation and by their action of not objecting, sanctioned the ranks suspension. Also we found out, the suspension was apparently advertised, not in the main stream Taxi media, not by TfL notice or even on their @TfLTPH twitter account, but on Unite's CTN blog. 


What next?
Will we see ranks sold off at other hotels and main line stations?....Will we see more complementary   private hire Taxi services?

Unity is strength. 
Well done to those who turned up to protest. Sometimes you have to stand back and look at the bigger picture. Although some drivers were annoyed that their night was interrupted  for an hour, the hotel will in future, think twice about suspending this busy rank for something as petty as a raffle prise.

 We have shown that we will not sit back or roll over, as our ranks are sold off to the highest bidder by LTPH. Not a great start for the new General Manager of Taxis and Private Hire. 

Thursday, May 09, 2013

'Help find the cabbie whose Knowledge saved my sick baby'

A mother whose baby suffered an extreme allergic reaction today asked for help tracing the black cab driver who helped save the boy’s life and refused to take a fare.

Kate Moore said the driver used the Knowledge to navigate back streets she never knew existed to get her boy Algie to A&E within minutes.

Mrs Moore said his actions “restored my faith in mankind”. It happened as she fed Algie, eight months, his first piece of egg and he went into potentially fatal anaphylactic shock. His face swelled and he came out in hives.

Mrs Moore, 38, an advertising executive, said: “The entire left-hand side of his face and his lips had swollen up, he was red and blotchy, had a rash around his mouth and was rasping for breath.

“We live very close to St Thomas’s paediatric A&E on the South Bank so I reckoned it was faster to grab a cab than wait for an ambulance. I put him in his buggy and ran into Lupus Street to find help, I was in a bit of a tizzy.” Mrs Moore saw a black cab driver chatting outside a shop. She said: “I dashed over and he did not see me as his back was to us. I asked him if he was working, he said, ‘Sorry love I’m off home’ then he properly turned around, seeing me burst into tears and my son with hives all over his face. Within seconds he had bundled me, Algie and the buggy into the back of his cab.

“We didn’t break any laws but he took little side roads that I didn’t know existed.”

The streets around Mrs Moore’s house are known among cabbies as the “Pimlico Triangle”.

Mrs Moore said: “He nipped in and out and we were at the hospital in no time and the driver was calm and amazing throughout. “I had a £20 note in the buggy, which I shoved through the window and he shoved it back at me and said, ‘Go!’ He hadn’t even turned the meter on. When we got into A&E, Algie was seen straight away by an amazing team. Within 15 minutes of being given the medication he was better.” 

Do you know the cabbie? Call the Standard newsdesk on 020 3615 2500.

Source: The Evening Standard. 

All restrictions are to be removed on the number of licensed taxis allowed on ranks in Windsor and Maidenhead.

Last year the Royal Borough eased restrictions by allowing a maximum of five new licences a month, outraging existing taxi drivers who stormed out of a council meeting swearing at startled councillors.

But at a meeting of the authority’s Licensing Panel on Monday last week councillors voted to remove restrictions altogether.

They felt that the earlier increase in licences had led to a drop in crime and disorder by making more taxis available to take late night revellers home.

Cllr Carwyn Cox, cabinet member for environmental services, said that the Royal Borough was now in a minority of local authorities that still practised some form of restriction.

He said: “Anyone who wishes to engage in this trade who meets our strict safety requirements should be able to do so.“

The Royal Borough already plans to increase spaces at taxi ranks in Maidenhead at Grove Road, Shoppenhangers Road, King Street, Queen Street and Nicholsons Lane.

More are being looked at for Maidenhead town centre and for Ascot High Street.

The change does not mean that anyone will be able to take a taxi out though. The license application fee of £500 covers a wide range of requirements, including a medical examination and vehicle safety checks. It also ensures that drivers have ‘the knowledge’ of local streets and journeys.

Cllr Andrew Jenner, chairman of the licensing panel, added: “Passengers using a council-licensed and liveried hackney carriage are assured they are getting into a vehicle which has been checked out thoroughly and with a licensed driver.”


Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Is Northern Ireland A Forerunner Of What London Can Expect From The Law Commission?

All Licensed Taxis and Private Hire, will be able to pick up fares from September

At present only public hire taxis are allowed to pick up passengers on the street
A major change to how taxis operate in Northern Ireland will come into force in September.

From then, private-hire taxis will no longer have to be pre-booked and, like public-hire black cabs, will be allowed to pick passengers up off the street.

The change was due to come into force in April, but was delayed to allow the taxi industry to prepare for the move.

Environment Minister Alex Attwood said the change would provide the public with "more choice".

He said the introduction of a single-tier licensing system is designed to make it easier for the consumer to tell if the vehicle is a legal taxi and to give the customer greater choice as to the type of taxi they wish to use.

Its introduction will also allow drivers from outside Belfast to come into the city centre and work, increasing the supply of taxis in the city centre at peak times, particularly at weekends.

"I remain fully committed to providing a safe, fair and fit-for-purpose taxi industry in Northern Ireland. Single-tier licensing is a significant step which will help achieve this goal," he said.

"Having the ability to obtain any taxi without pre-booking will help to provide the public with more choice. It will also give those in the taxi industry more opportunities for business in these difficult economic times."

Mr Attwood said he was also temporarily de-regulating taxi meters and fares for Belfast public hire taxis to bring them into line with the rest of the taxi industry.

'Competitive market'

"This will establish a level and fair playing field as Belfast public hire taxis will be able to charge competitive rates to consumers and will not have to adhere to taxi fares set by law.

"I am also looking at a package of measures to enable public hire to develop and enhance their business opportunities, consistent with the taxis legislation.

"I believe this will help to create a competitive market and will bring about benefits for operators, drivers and passengers alike."

At present, only Belfast public-hire taxis are required by law to have meters installed.

Not all private-hire taxis in Northern Ireland have meters.

The department of environment said it will introduce a maximum fare structure for all taxis operating in Northern Ireland in 2014.

This will include the requirement that all taxis must have an approved taxi meter and receipt machine installed.

Within Belfast only wheelchair accessible vehicles will be permitted to stand at taxi ranks.

Source: BBC, Northern Ireland.

The State Opening Of Parliament: Nobody Does It Better.

The traditional ceremony of the State Opening of Parliament by Her Majesty The Queen will take place today, 8th May 2013. 

The ceremony in the House of Lords will be conducted in the presence of all members of Houses, senior judges and accredited members of the Diplomatic Corps. The event will be televised live.

The State Opening is the most colourful event of the Parliamentary year. It is also the most important, as it brings together the three elements of the legislature (the House of Commons, the House of Lords and The Queen). The ceremony represents the Crown in Parliament.

The event at the Palace of Westminster is preceded by two ceremonial processions from Buckingham Palace in State Coaches to the Palace of Westminster along the Royal Processional Route of The Mall, Horse Guards and Whitehall into the Palace of Westminster.

When the speech has been delivered the Royal Procession reforms and leaves the Lords Chamber, returning shortly afterwards in a carriage procession to Buckingham Palace.

There is a proportionate policing plan in place. It will however be necessary to close certain roads in and around the Palace of Westminster. The road closures are shown on the map below.

Road Closures will commence at 08.30 hrs
Roads will be reopened at approximately 14.00 hrs

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Bogus taxi driver attacked girl, 20

A man who pretended to be a taxi driver has been jailed for four years for sexually assaulting a girl in Hemel Hempstead.

Mashain Pitchei, 45, of Rosebery Way, Tring, was sentenced at St Albans Crown Court after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing.

The attack happened in the early hours of Sunday, October 21. Pitchei was parked in Marlowes when he offered a lift to a 20-year-old girl, who had been on a night out with friends. Believing it was a licensed taxi, she got in the vehicle and he drove off.

Pitchei then pulled over in Piccotts End Road where he sexually assaulted her.

The victim ran from the silver Ford Focus and flagged down a passing taxi who called police. Pitchei was arrested the same night.

He has been jailed for four years and will spend a further five years on licence and placesd on the sex offenders register.

Det Insp Justine Jenkins from the Dacorum local crime unit said: “We strongly believe Pitchei was deliberately preying on vulnerable women, using the guise of a licensed taxi. He presented a real danger.

“While there are a number of safeguards we put in place in the town to keep people safe, along with Dacorum Borough Council, this highlights the dangers of unlicensed taxis.

“As a constabulary we run regular campaigns highlighting the importance of taking care of yourself and your friends on a night out and I would like to reinforce this message.

“If you go out with a group of friends make sure you go home with them, too. Plan how you will get home before you go out and take the number of a reputable taxi company with you.

“I’d also reassure people that this type of incident doesn’t happen very often, and earlier this year we welcomed the introduction of the street wardens to the town. They are on hand in the town during weekend nights to provide help to anyone who may be vulnerable and need assistance.”

BREAKING NEWS: Cleveland Missing teens Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus Michelle Knight found alive

Cleveland Missing teens Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus Michelle Knight Cleveland police said missing teens Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and a third woman were found in a west side house on Monday. Two girls who went missing as teens found ALIVE after being kept in the basement of an Ohio house for a DECADE

Amanda Berry went missing in 2003 when she was 16-years-old
Gina DeJesus disappeared when she was 14-years-old in 2004
Michelle Knight disappeared in 2000 when she was 20-years-old
All three of the women were found alive in a Cleveland home and are now being treated at a local hospital
The 52-year-old man who owns the house has been arrested and is in police custody
The women had a girl with them, thought to be about 3-years-old

Hundreds of people gathered in the streets near 2207 Seymour Avenue in Cleveland, where the women were discovered. Cleveland police said Berry, DeJesus and Michelle Knight are alive, talking and appear to be OK.

The Women were found by neighbour Charles Ramsey

"I heard screaming... And I see this girl going nuts trying to get outside," said Charles, a neighbor would found the women. "I go on the porch and she said 'Help me get out. I've been here a long time.' I figure it was domestic violence dispute."

"She comes out with a little girl and says 'Call 911, my name is Amanda Berry'... When she told me, it didn't register." He said he made the call and gave Berry the phone. When police arrived, officers asked him if he knew who he rescued.

A witness who spoke Spanish told NewsChannel5's Stephanie Ramirez that he helped break down the door. He said there was a child who was about 4 or 5 years old with Berry, as well as other children inside the house. He said he recognized Berry from posters.

Officers have a suspect in custody. There will be a media briefing Tuesday morning.

Berry was last seen in 2003 when she was called her sister to say she was getting a ride home from work at the Burger King on West 110th Street and Lorain Avenue. She was set to turn 17 the day after her disappearance. Her mother died of heart failure in 2006.

On April 2, 2004, 14-year-old DeJesus went missing while walking home from Wilbur Wright Middle School. She was last seen around West 105 Street and Lorain Avenue. Her mother, Nancy Ruiz, said she believed DeJesus was sold into human trafficking.

"I always said it from the beginning; she was sold to the highest bidder," Ruiz said in April 2012.

The remaining families of both women went to MetroHealth Medical Center, where they will be reunited. FBI agents were also at the hospital Monday night as family and friends flocked to see the women.

"I am thankful that Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight have been found alive. We have many unanswered questions regarding this case and the investigation will be ongoing. Again, I am thankful that these three young ladies are found and alive," Mayor Frank Jackson said.

Last summer, there was a break in Berry case that turned out to be an inmate's hoax. Robert Wolford, 26, told authorities that Berry's body was in a vacant lot in Cleveland. Police searched at West 30th Street and Wade Avenue in July with backhoes, but nothing was found. Wolford was sentenced to four and half years in prison after pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, making a false report and making a false alarm.

Sadly, Amanda Berry's mother, Louwana, died in March 2006, three years after her daughter's disappearance.

Monday, May 06, 2013

TfLs Poor Performance...the Jim Thomas

Notice to take down misleading blog.
A few months ago I received an email from The Revenue Prosecution department at Windsor House who were purporting to act for TfL over the publication of what they claimed was a misleading article on the blog Taxi Leaks. The email stated we (The blog editorial staff) would also receive a letter, which eventually turned up weeks later, after being posted to the wrong address. Read letter: click here

The examples the email gave of misleading statements were:
"Just another story in a long line of allegations of corruption, fraud and malfeasance abounding the corridors of Palestra and Windsor House”.
This statement is supported by the publication of photographs of three senior TfL officers.

There have been allegations of corruption as PH test roundels were issued to cars that had not been inspected and passed fit for service, as required under the Private Hire Act 1998. We also understand that two officials from SGS have been arrested in connection with this matter. We have asked for all vehicles, that were dealt with by the two officials, to be re-inspected to protect public safety. LTPH hasn't commented on this request. 

After months of trying to uncover the truth of what actually happened at Palestra, we were told in an email by the director of LTPH that "there had been no arrest of any individual at Palestra" (we have that email)
This statement turned out to be false as an email had already been sent to the RMT stating that a member of staff from Palestra had been arrested and was subject to legal proceedings

We now know that this case went to court and ex- member of Masons Staff, Brazilian national Marcos Gurgel was found guilty of fraudulently obtaining £249 from Taxi Driver Stanley Marut.

So, as this case involved a number of drivers and was drawn out until Mr Marut finally made a complaint direct to TfLs fraud department....and as both these incidents involved corruption and fraud, we feel this part of our original statement is accurate. The malfeasance we have already dealt with in a previous post click here 

The three photographs publish were an accurate representation of the three senior members of TfL/LTPH, applicable to the Taxi Trade to which this article was originally targeted.
Commissioner Peter Hendy, Managing Director Leon Daniels and Director John Mason.

Next we were again accused of misleading our readers with the statement:
Cloned Bills and IDs thought to have originated from Palestra” and “The awarding of the licensing contract to a company who's wardens refuse to enforce traffic restrictions against Private Hire drivers in Central London”.
Mason told his legal departmen "These allegations are wholly unfounded, inappropriate and denied by our client."

We understand that it is a matter of record that some time ago, the RMT voiced concerned that the cloned bills were so good, they may have originated from Palestra as blanks. We also understand that John Mason wrote to the RMT over their concern on this issue. It was only after an audit of stock that none were found to be missing although according to a message from Deputy Director Helen Chapman, "had a bit of a moment a couple of weeks ago when we thought some new ones had gone missing but all is in order and accounted for".

We did not make the statement that the cloned bills had definitly originated from Palestra, we stated "Cloned Bills and IDs thought to have originated from Palestra" and although John Mason may have felt mislead by this statement, we feel the man on the Clapham Omnibus would not be mislead.

The last part of the accusation referring to
“The awarding of the licensing contract to a company who's wardens refuse to enforce traffic restrictions against Private Hire drivers in Central London” we have dealt with in the post
A Dear John Letter, Bullet Point no8 click here

So there you have it:
We feel that this demand from the director of LTPH was in itself unfair and a true example of harassment over a post that showed just how poor LTPH have performed under his administration.

We of course give John Mason the opportunity to respond to this post and will publish in full any statement (unedited) that he wishes to make.

More on this issue:
Part 1. click here
Part 2. click here
Part 3. click here
Part 4. click here
Part 5. click here
Part 6. click here
Part 7. click here
Part 8. click here

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Shape Of Things To Come, As London Licensed Minicab Spotted Working In Manchester

Below, is a post taken from the Manchester Taxi Drivers here

Unbelievable, but, true. A London PH car working up here in Manchester. It works on New City, Withington, a particularly down market outfit. They have Gedling, West Lindley, Cheshire and Rossendale vehicles working for them as well.

The questions must be asked, why would a licensed London private hire vehicle travel 200 miles to work for a cowboy outfit ?
1. Is the car cloned ?
2. Is the driver on the run from something in London ?

Whatever, this is taking the proverbial big time.

How many sex attacks will it take in Manchester, before somebody stops the scum of the country, descending on our City, because they know they can do what ever they like.


Nothing to do with us you may think...Well think again.

The Vauxhall Vector NU57WZP snapped in Manchester with local PH door stickers is definitely registered as a London Private Hire Vehicle: License no 8720001. The LTPH roundel can also be plainly seen.

There are a few different scenarios here;
1. More than likely not a cloned car, as that wouldn't explain the LTPH roundels in the windows

2. The driver could be visiting relatives and as he works as a minicab in London, may have been asked to help out.

3. The owner could have lent the car to a local minicab friend who was desperate after his car broke down.

All quite illegal, but more chance of winning the lottery than getting caught.

The last scenario is the most serious;
4. Has this driver been involved in some type of crime in London and is on the run from the Met?
Why would a London minicab driver be prepared to drive 200 miles just to work.

If the Law Commission drops the laws on cross boarder hirings, London will be swamped with minicabs licensed in rural places, who will flock to the brighter lights of London, to work for a new mass invasion of satellite offices which will flood the place.