Saturday, January 04, 2014

Hammersmith Bridge Southbound Closures.

Urgent repair work to Hammersmith Bridge begins on January 13, meaning that it will be partially closed on weekdays until the end of February.

The southbound lane over the bridge (A306) will be closed between 7am and 3pm every Monday to Friday from January 13 to February 28, to allow essential repairs to the 126-year-old bridge’s wooden decking panels.

The work must be done to make sure that the road is safe for motorists and cyclists. After years of wear and tear, the current timber panels on the bridge need to be repaired or replaced, and then resurfaced. The worn wooden decking means that steel panels on the road, which provide an anti-skid surface, are failing to work properly.

There are also several pot holes in the road which have been patched up temporarily and this work will allow the defects to be properly and permanently repaired.

Cllr Victoria Brocklebank-Fowler, Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s cabinet member for transport and technical services, said: “These works are simply unavoidable and must be done now, to make sure the road surface holds up for the next decade. Of course, if there was any way we could keep the road open then we would.

“We are doing everything we can to keep disruption to residents to a minimum and we apologise for any temporary disruption this may cause.”

To minimise disruption and avoid clashing with Transport for London’s night-time closures of Hammersmith Flyover, the works have been planned for when southbound traffic flow is low and traffic heading north is at its peak.

However, access will be maintained in both directions over the bridge for buses, emergency vehicles and pedestrians. Cyclists will have to dismount and walk their bikes across the bridge. There will be access for local residents on either side of the bridge.

There will also be three full weekend closures, which are currently proposed for January 25-26, February 1-2 and February 8-9, from 8am on Saturday to 5am on Monday.

The diversions will be via Fulham Palace Road and Putney Bridge for southbound traffic and northbound traffic will be diverted to Chiswick Bridge during the weekend closures. Advance warning signs will be in place on both sides of the river this week and diversion signs will be up from January 13.

For more information on the works, contact Anvar Alizadeh or Michael Masella on 020 8753 3033 or 020 8753 3082. Alternatively the highways duty officer is available outside of office hours on 020 8748 8588.

Friday, January 03, 2014

CCTV cameras to be installed in city's taxis

TAXI passengers in Glasgow face being captured on CCTV, with a scheme to target problems from fare disputes to physical assaults expected to be approved next month.

A new policy on CCTV in taxis and private hire cars has been prepared and issued to trade representatives, Police Scotland and Scotland's Information Commissioner.

Glasgow City Council tried to introduce CCTV in taxis in 2009 but withdrew the idea after the Information Commissioner recommended not taking it forward. There had been concerns of potential legal action due to infringement of civil liberties.

The Information Commissioner's Office has now been sent the new draft policy to consider.

A note to councillors by the authority's head of licensing acknowledges that CCTV in taxis "is potentially more invasive than some other forms of CCTV". It therefore states it is essential any policy "promotes the principles set out in the Data Protection Act".

It adds: "The draft policy sets out a voluntary scheme and will not impose a mandatory requirement on licence holders to install CCTV. The primary focus is on ensuring that passenger safety is not compromised by the installation of the CCTV system."

The move follows a Scottish Government survey which found one in three taxi drivers has been assaulted at work. It would bring Glasgow into line with Manchester, Liverpool, Gateshead and London, as well as East Renfrewshire Council - the first Scottish council to permit them - and Dundee.

A similar scheme is also under consideration in Edinburgh.

Among the safeguards of the Glasgow policy, CCTV systems could not be used to record conversations "as this is highly intrusive and unlikely to be justified except in exceptional circumstances".

The draft states the system should not have any sound recording facility where possible. In cases where it does, the audio would only be justified where it is triggered due to a specific threat. Drivers would not be able to view the footage and an access code would be required to see it .

The cameras, three in each vehicle, would cost each driver around £400, with one in the driver's compartment and two recording passengers.

Stephen Flynn, vice-chairman of Glasgow Taxis Ltd, said: "We are pleased the policy is close to fruition. The sooner it can be implemented, the better.

"The safety and well-being of our drivers and customers is paramount and we will support all taxi owners who wish to install appropriate CCTV equipment. Such equipment will provide all parties with a stronger sense of security and the proposed policy will help us ensure minimal impact on customer privacy."

A city council spokesman said: "The 2009 pilot was not followed up on the advice of the Information Commissioner because at that time there was a review of all information issues around the Information Bill.

"In terms of the new potential policy following the consultation between the partners, a report will go to committee early in the New Year where a decision will be taken on its implementation."

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Taxi Leaks Editor's Reply To Peter Hendy's Letter....By Jim Thomas.

Last year, bosses at TfL pocketed a cool £2.5m in bonuses with top recipient Peter Hendy receiving a massive £319,000 plus a knighthood.
Source: TfL's latest draft accounts (click here to view)

At around the same time, TfL Commissioner Sir Peter Hendy, decided he would no longer authorise the issue of temporary licences to drivers awaiting renewals, as has been the case for many years.

His decision, in league with holdups caused by the new licensing system, has thrown dozens of drivers out of work for periods in some cases, in excess of three months, causing great financial hardship for the drivers and their families.

Taxi leaks recently posted a campaign letter, asking TfL commissioner Peter Hendy to reconsider his refusal to grant temporary licences to drivers currently unable to work due to hold ups in TfL's system.

A standard reply from Leon Daniels on behalf of Peter Hendy, was sent out to all drivers who used the email template. This we posted on the Taxi Leaks blog, on Christmas morning.

Amazingly, there hasn't been one word publicly from the United Trade Group (LTDA,LCDC and Unite) who claim to represent the trades best interests. 
Although it has been "alleged" UTG subscribers have been secretly advised to carry on working without the necessary documentation.

Below is our reply to the response asking Sir Peter to reconsider.

Dear Mr. Hendy,

Thank you for the reply from your colleague Leon Daniels concerning the need for TfL to issue 'temporary' licences for taxi drivers whilst they are awaiting DBS or TfL processing.

Leon Daniels states that TfL are unable to so do and that there have been instances where had they done so, offences would have come to light that would have caused that person not to be relicensed.

This response raises the following issues and questions:

1. How many of these offences related to taxi drivers as opposed to PH licensees and if there are any, please supply suitably redacted details of those?

2. The reply in effect states that it is only at renewal of licence that such matters come to the attention of TfL, meaning that any criminal activity that would possibly lead to a revocation of a licence, could remain 'undetected' for the entire validity period of three years.

This, if correct is unacceptable from a public protection viewpoint and I would welcome further clarification.

3. All that is being sought is a temporary licence for drivers of known good character whilst DBS and TfL internal delays are resolved, any Risk Assessment would surely conclude that the public are at little risk from those concerned and it's probably correct that should they suddenly be of a criminal mindset to commit serious offences, whether they are licensed ( temporary or otherwise) as a taxi driver would not act as a deterrent!

In any event, offences committed if serious in nature, should have already led to an examination of that individuals fitness to remain licensed as the police authorities would have notified TfL, unless the situation as queried in point 2 is extant.

It is noted that TfL issue new licences to those who due to recent residency from abroad cannot be checked in any robust fashion yet those who have been checked many times, are prevented from pursuing there lawful business.

4. This issue is causing real and genuine hardship for what appears an unreasonable risk averse attitude from TfL. Other metropolitan
authorities issue just such temporary licences, if they can why cannot TfL.

5. If a TfL member of staff commits or is alleged to have commit an offence they are suspended on full pay pending any outcome. London taxi drivers often with decades of blameless service are being placed out of work for what are bureaucratic and doctrinaire reasons.

I urge you to reconsider.

Jim Thomas
Licensed Taxi Driver
40 years service.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

TfL new website, credit where credit's Jim Thomas

TfL are currently running a beta version of their new, easier to navigate website.

For many years now I, along with many others, have been complaining about the complexity of the TfL website. Navigation's a nightmare and many sections of the current website can only be found through links given online or on twitter.

The IT staff (or has this been outsourced too?) at TfL have now come up with a brand-new website, currently operating as a beta version and in my humble opinion, they have done a first class job. So it would seem that someone somewhere, is listening.

It appears we will soon be able to open a TPH online account, which should speed up enquiries and complaints.

Taxis and private hire section is easily accessible from the main body of the TfL website. The link is at the bottom, on the home page.

Most if not all of the relevant pages relating to Taxis and private hire are included in the new site. 
No matter what device you’re on - mobile, tablet, laptop or desktop - there is better access to all TfL online services. 

You can find out;
How to become a taxi or private hire licensee.
Check the progress of your application/renewal (on line). 
See the latest notices for current drivers.
Advice and updates on legal requirements and consultations.

Only downside we could find, making a complaint regarding touting incidents. 
It's still possible but is drawn out and long winded. 
In our opinion, this process should be made more user friendly. 
Personally I believe TfL should consider a twitter account, perhaps @TPHtouting, solely for the purpose of reporting touting incidents. But they probably fear being overwhelmed on a nightly basis.

TfL have launched a whole new range of Twitter accounts, something our trade has been utilising for sometime with services such as @cabup, @UCGup, @Tag_hit_squad and others.
All the underground lines, overground, DLR, Buses, Cable car, Boris Bikes and general traffic information have their very own twitter account. Registering for email updates and weekend closures have been made much easier.

Try the site out for yourself:  click here...Taxis and private hire.
Whoever was in charge of this project....Well Done 👍

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

French Cabbies Show What A United Taxi Trade Can Jim Thomas.

January 1st, 2013, the Parisian Taxi Commission implement the ’15-minute law’.

The 15 minute law will take effect, requiring smartphone Private Hire apps such as Uber, to wait at least 15 minutes, after customers order a ride before a pick up can be completed.

Paris has a long history in the Taxi market and the number of taxis in Paris has remained relatively unchanged since 1950. When Paris taxis want to flex their muscle, they need only block all major roads and highways in order to get their way. This is made relatively easy as all representative groups, drivers, owners and associates belong to one body...the Paris Taxi Commission.

Uber founder Travis Kalanick has tried to expanded his brand in Paris but has come up against a united Taxi trade, probably the best represented divers in the world.

The ’15-minute law’ is not news to most. We heard earlier this year that the decree had been proposed. After the initial shock of such a law set in, it seems that PH companies with apps such as SnapCar, LeCab, Chauffeur Privé, as well as Uber, spoke with the Minister of Transportation and had convinced the group in charge of the decree to include a clause stating that the law would only apply to users who had signed up in the past 24-48 hours. 

This would rendered the decree useless, as there is no way to verify on sight, when a passenger signed up for the service, nor do new passengers make up for a large percentage of daily users on chauffeur apps. But even so, the licensing authority considered the inclusion of said clause. 

In the days leading up to the announcement about whether the decree would be put in place, it seems the Paris Taxi Commission threatened once again to block all major thoroughfare unless the caveat to the decree was removed and the decree enacted as originally announced.

Just the threat of action was all it took and now we find ourselves here - looking at a precedent about to be set in France, which has encouraged the preservation and tradition of  their historic industry.

Meanwhile in London our representatives seem to be sleepwalking into a minefield. There appears to be no apatite to take on TfL over smart phone apps such as a Uber.  Our inside man (undercover uber) says that they are looking to roll out a new low cost service which they hope will overrun London, finally taking down the iconic Taxi trade.

Vive la france, vive la différence. 

Taxi Leaks Extra Bit 

Monday, December 30, 2013


Most of the trade are completely unaware just what lies in store for us in the new year. The majority believe what they are fed by the Vichy trade press, which purveys the myth that everything is in hand and under control. Truth is, we are in dire straits and it's not going to get any better by carrying on regardless.

Most subscribers to trade representative bodies haven't got a clue what's going on and to be honest, don't really care. 

A short while ago the trade received a wake up call from the most important tool we have ever seen, the United Cabbies News. Sadly, because of the general apathy and lack of support, this publication was consigned to the annals of history and now sadly along with it, the United Cabbies Group. Remember my prediction from last year: "When the final battle comes, there will be no one left to lead the fightback".

So, what went wrong:
Our licensing authority (TfL) have for some time, been running an agenda towards harmonising both Private Hire and Hackney Carriage. Project Horizon (incorporating the STaN Agenda) has been implemented over the last ten years or so, in a number of separate phases. 

Horizon covers a multitude of strategies which also include cutting back TfL staff to the bone, selling off TfL property and outsourcing many departments workloads.

Current phases have seen the lowing of our standards, while giving our competitors more and more respectability. Previously, our trade leaders did nothing as suburban ranks were given away to PH. This was followed by a major expansion of licence variations (satellite offices). Uniformed cab enforcement, replaced by compliance with no powers, plus TfL/LTPH showed a total disregard to enforcement of illegal plying for hire. Testament to this is the fact that since TfL took control of Licensing Taxis from the Met, there has been just one conviction for this offence. 

We have seen many venues where minicabs are allowed to openly flout the law, forming unlawful ranks, illegally plying for hire and touting. Some PH companies rarely dispatch work in the traditional manner. They operate solely from venues, with clipboard Johnnies feeding illegal rolling ranks. This factor alone has seen the number of serious sexual assaults in unbooked minicabs go through the roof. Police estimates put this figure at around 25 such attacks weekly. Victims are seen by the authority as collateral damage.

But to find the tipping point for our troubled future, we must look at what happened with the Olympic issue.
TfL used anti terrorist legislation to stop mass demonstrations and sidelined our trade at venues, moving Taxi ranks out of sight.
They then heavily promoted private hire, giving them waiting areas outside exits. Research by Westminster City Council has previously shown that passengers leaving events will get into the first mode of transport they see waiting outside the exit when leaving.

Along with being hidden away, we were also banned from the Olympic road network. The reason, simply because of demands from sponsors who didn't want to compete with liveried Taxis. 

A minority stood up and demonstrated against the attack, but the major representative groups refused to get involved for fear of being black balled from the prestigious emgagement policy, another stroke of genius from the men in grey suits at Blackfriars.

The Olympic issue could have easily been won, as was the case in Sydney and Beijing, which saw just threats of mass demonstrations by their united trades, winning the day.

We've seen what can be achieved only recently, by our French colleagues in Paris. With just the mention of a demonstration their demands were met in full. Basically because the authority in Paris know the French taxi drivers would stand united.

Once TfL saw the piss poor resistance to their Olympic proposals they knew the Taxi trade could be defeated on every level.

The solidarity this trade enjoyed in the 70's and 80's, simply fell by the wayside, being replaced by decades of general apathy.
Most of today's drivers are oblivious to the successes gained by our trade when, under leadership from the Transport and General workers union (now Unite),we won various issues against a similar onslaught from the GLC. 

Over the years, perceived militant action has been bought off in secret meetings, with private contracts, offers of highly paid marshalling jobs and more recently, continued inclusion to the inner circle of engagement.

During the Olympics, the carrot dangled on a stick (better known as the Cabbies Cabinet), was waved in front of the last few dissenters standing. 
We were informed of the possibility of an elected representative on the board of TfL to complement the Mayors appointed advisor.
We were told: "Do you want to be confined to the outside pissing in, or would you rather be on the inside pissing out?"
Promises, that later proved to be complete lies.

Now, having served its purpose, LTPH is kicked into touch.
The lines between us and PH have been purposely blurred, with entrepreneurs from within our own trade, building financial empires working alongside the competition. Worst of all, the general state of apathy, which plagues the vast majority of the rank and file, has been instilled and kept alive by selected, sanitised trade press. 

How do we move forward?
The parasites have to be removed before we can get anything near unity. Their trolls infiltrate blogs, forums, cab shelters and meetings like a virus, spreading lies and perpetuating the myth that "all's well".

At present, the trade orgs currently available to us, offer little or no solution. Most are run for the self-gratification of the chosen few. Unless the membership of these benign trade bodies stand up and demand action, it's all over bar the shouting.

Project Horizon, spawned the award winning STaN report.
The STaN Agenda....was totally ignored and unchallenged by the trade.
We then saw the emergence of Satellite offices....these went unchallenged.
Next came the proliferation of clipboard johnnies, resurrected from a seedy past, supported by minicab marshals....they also went unchallenged. 

The begining of the end.
Now TfL's legal department have stated PH can legally wait to become hired outside far as we know, this has also been unchallenged. 

Yes we have had a decent year
Yes the work levels have been good throughout the recession
But it's all about to change, with a new set of rules, put in place by the insistence of large transport groups owned by vast multi-nation financial institutions. 
The writing has been on the wall for some time, the clues are all there. You don't have to be a genius, apathy rules and in the world of the blind, the man with only one eye is king.

It's not hard to defeat an army who won't fight back.
Our complete demise has only been held back by a few active militants. 
As a great man once said:
"Never has so much been owed, by so many, to so few". 
But the few are getting fewer by the week.

And who really is to blame for all this?
It's YOU, the driver who can't be bothered.
It's YOU, who continue to pay subscriptions without question.
It's YOU, the "I'm all right jacks" of the trade.

While this situation remains, TfL will piss all over us and we will have no hope.

Yes the UCG came close, but collapsed. 
Basically because YOU never gave them the support needed to finish the job.

What does the future hold for the trade?
In 2014, the true fate of our trade will emerge.

PH sharing our major ranks, using wheelchair accessible vehicles, plus our sole right to ply for hire, the reason we spend on average 44 months "doing the knowledge"will soon be gone forever.

Steve McNamara, vice general secretary of the LTDA when asked to meet the RMT and discuss a united trade action plan said;
"We don't see the same dangers in the law commission as you" 
But at least he replied, unlike the LCDC and Unite, who just ignored the invite.  

Addison Lee are about to replace their fleet of Ford Galaxys with Wheelchair accessible (WAV) Mercedes Vitos. Cheaper than their Taxi counterpart, because they don't have to meet the same strict conditions of fitness (RWS)
Peugeot, Citroen and Fiat, are currently in talks to take TfL to the European Court in their bid to introduce their vehicles into the London market. 

Geely's will soon be launching the PH version of its TX4. 
The distinction between taxis and minicabs will be diminished.

One myth that needs dispelling, is that PH companies don't want their drivers to be able to ply for hire, as they can't make money out of that.
Many PH companies already operate solely from their vehicles plying for hire outside clubs and bars. Most of the larger PH companies are in the process of moving over to rental and leasing services. PH owner-driver circuits are gradually disappearing, being bought up by the bigger boys in the business. 

We now have companies that have hundreds, even thousands of vehicles, where once minicab firms were considered large, if they had a couple of dozen drivers at their disposal.

If this were more than a myth, Com Cab, Dial a Cab and Radio Taxis would have disappeared years ago. They've had no problem with their drivers plying for hire. 

The die has been cast and deals has been done.
Griffin and sons are no longer major players after selling control of their companies to the Carlyle Group, who in preparation for the Law Commission proposals, are presently buying up PH operators all over the country, to form a nationwide network. 
Do they know something we don't know?

We've been informed that the Law Commission (LC) mean to introduce a national standard for PH and that plying for hire is not to be defined in law and current restrictions on cross border hirings will be dropped nationally.
Why do you think the LC didn't published their draft proposals earlier in December?

It's the lemmings who will be the first ones jumping up and down screaming "why did no one do anything".

The answer is they did............the truth is, it's YOU that let them down.

This from our Liverpool colleagues:

The Liverpool cab and private hire trade have begun operation clearout, which will see the perpetrators of underinsured operators pushed back beyond the city boundaries, those scabs who steal our work don't like the truth to be told