Saturday, January 11, 2014

New Year, New Offensive. First Major Victory...by Jim Thomas.

Last night on Regent Street, the London taxi trade united and fought off the touts. 

It was a great success, a major victory.

Let's hope this sends out an important message to the leaders of all the trades representative bodies, just what a united force of drivers can achieve.


Last night, there wasn't one private hire vehicle, illegally plying for hire, touting in the bus lane and causing congestion at the Swallow Street Arch, thanks to: @LDNTaxiMarshall
@TaG_Hit_Squad
@UCGup
directing the rank and file drivers who answered the call for action. 

The new rank at Heddon Street, has played a major role in dissuading the touts from hanging up at this once notorious touting hotspot.

Also let's not forget, while this action was taking place, drivers were also servicing the Shard and Smiths, taking the work back wholesale. 

Both venues were really busy with the public backing the use of real taxis. 

This proves we can do it, working together, we can win back the stolen work.

The Marshals made a great decision to stay till 2am, which I believe made all the difference to the success of the evening. Twitter played a major role in defining the state of play. Messages abounded on all the joint work related accounts, giving updates at regular intervals.

Normally, on most Friday/Satureday nights, I go home disappointed and disillusioned. Sometimes I don't even work, basically because I find the sight of private hire touts, illegal ranking up, illegally plying for hire, touting and generally taking liberties so depressing.

But last night my spirit was elevated to an all time high and I went home two hours later than normal with a great big smile on my face and my pockets full.
Last night I experienced the same feelings I felt, on the night we amassed in St James Square and along with Knighty, Pacey and the rest of the forum hit squad, we split ranks and hit On Anon and Tiger Tiger in a joint operation. 

Things are finally looking up.

But we have to make sure we don't slacken off, we have to keep up the pressure.

Once the authorities, council and police see what we are doing, I believe we will get more and more assistance from them.

Marshals in strategic locations, are definitely the key. 

WE CAN DO THIS.
LAST NIGHT, WAS A COMPLETE VICTORY


And everyone who took part, no matter who they subscribe to, were heroes.

We work hard for the sole right to ply our trade and we should never sit back and watch our work being stolen. 

More of the same tonight, so come along and join the fun.
On Twitter follow free:
@LDNTaxiMarshall
@UCGup
@Tag_Hit_Squad
For regular updates


Friday, January 10, 2014

DfT funds smartphone app for road users to report potholes


The DfT is giving £30,000 for the development of a smartphone application to report potholes, being developed by CTC.

The cash is to enable CTC to update its 'Fill That Hole' website and develop a related app that is compatible with smartphones running Android software. Currently, nine million iPhone users can download the website's current app. The funding release will allow the new app to be made available from February, which the DfT says is the start of 'pothole season'.


Roads minister Robert Goodwill said: "The Government is serious about tackling potholes. That is why we want people to tell councils where to find them so they can fill them in. This app means more people are going to be able to report potholes more easily." The CTC said the collaboration with the DfT would help "to get Britain cycling".






Thursday, January 09, 2014

TAXI LEAKS And Co, Win Victory At Swallow Street...But Its Still Not Good Enough... By Jim Thomas.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any crazier, TfL show they are quite incapable of resolving problems at major night venues. 

After constant pressure from the Taxi Leaks' team, plus ground work put in by the army of ordinary working drivers who make up the Tag hit Squad, TfL have decided to try to cool things down. 

After a year of complaining about the widespread abuse from a TfL Private Hire operator, who's cars consistently use the Regent Street bus lane as a private minicab rank (with no fear of retribution from Council, Police or licensing authority) TfL are to trial marshalling at the site.

      
          RANKS UPDATE FROM TfL

But!!! and here lies the major problem:
When the venues at Swallow Street start to get busy, between the hours of midnight and 4am, unbelievably, the marshals will be moved 100 yards up the road to the point of the Heddon Street rank. Absolute madness.

Since the Heddon Street rank was implemented, it's had the desired effect of discouraging minicabs from hanging up, illegally plying for hire and touting. It hasn't been used by Taxis as well as we would like to see, but there has been very few problems since it went live and with more drivers encourage to use the rank, it could become a huge success.


However, getting back to Swallow Street. Although there is some misuse of the bus lane during the timed restriction prior to midnight, the main body of touts arrive around midnight, just when the marshals will be marching away. 
So, in our opinion this whole ridicules operation is a complete waste of budget. 

Marshals, HAVE NO POWER TO STOP MINICABS RANKING OR TOUTING, as we see constantly at Charing Cross Road, Old Street and Liverpool Street Station.

There is, as always simple, common sense solutions to these problems.
The Marshals need to stay at Swallow Street and should be accompanied by a compliance officer. Although the CO has no power of stop, he can of course check the licensing details of any Taxi or Private Hire driver found standing. If in the officers opinion the driver is illegally plying for hire or touting, the officer has the power to take details and report.



But do TfL have the apatite to go up against their most favoured operator.

The PH company at the Gaucho restaurant, is the same one who was given 18 new satellite office licenses on the same day they registered as a new PH company, contra to TfL policy which states you have to be registered and in business for a minimum of one year before you can apply for a licence variation.

This is also the same company that was granted a satellite office licence at new change after a Taxi rank request was turned down.

This is also the same company who are allowed to form an illegal rank on double red lines, completely blocking a cycle lane outside old Billingsgate.

 Surely TfL have consulted the UTG's Joint Ranks Committee on this, as part of their engagement policy?

How have working Taxi drivers agreed to this trial?


The RMT ranks and highways team have held discussions with both Westminster Council and their parking agents NSL, who have both gone on record to say they would consider a kerbside rank similar to the one at Heddon Street. This would also go a long way to contribute to solving the problem at Swallow Street Arch.




 

Drivers Still Waiting For Taxi Lcence Renewals: Problem Going National.


Taxi drivers have been forced off the road in Scarborough, waiting for CRB checks: Why the sudden delays?

Delays in processing background checks on Scarborough taxi drivers means a handful of them are still unable to get behind the wheel of their cab, months after they were submitted.

In total, eight drivers are still unable to take their taxis out as they await the results of compulsory criminal record checks as part of their applications.

Unlike London, where Commissioner Peter a Hendy has personally refused and given the best taci service in the world, a vote of no confidence. 

In Scarborough though,temporary 
licences have already been granted to many drivers, but the problem in has been caused by lateness of some applications, forcing a few drivers to put the brakes on their careers.

In a report that went before full council on Monday, Cllr Bill Chatt said: “I mentioned certain issues around the current round of Taxi and Private Hire driver licensing.

“As public safety is paramount each application is subject to a criminal records check; the delay in these being processed by other agencies had led to some drivers 
not receiving their licence before the existing one 
expired. I would like to update members that good progress has been made in licensing drivers, however there are still a handful still outstanding.”

Scarborough Council says that all eight were latecomers and as a result didn’t qualify for the self-declaration option.

As a result, all of them haven’t been permitted to drive and won’t be able to do so until their checks come back clear and the licences are issued.

The backlog has been caused due to changes in the Protection of Freedom Act earlier in the year, which has caused a national pile-up in the police processing what used to be known as CRB checks.

Drivers have received the courtesy of temporary licences, despite a possible criminal history that would ultimately take them off the road.
Innocent until proven guilty....in the tradition of British law.

Zero Emission Taxis Event: Invite To All Drivers.


On Thursday 16 January 2014 a Zero Emissions Taxis Event will take place at Potters Field (next to City Hall) and a number of key manufacturers will showcase their plans for a 'New Taxi for London'.

 

We have been working closely with the vehicle manufacturers on the development of future 'zero emission capable' taxis. These new taxis use the latest technology, have a number of enhanced features and give drivers a greater choice of vehicles. They will also play a vital role in reducing emissions and improving the air quality in London.

 

This event is open to all taxi drivers and owners and the full details are:

 

DateThursday 16 January 2014
Time14:30 to 16:00
Venue: Potters Field, next to City Hall, London SE1 2AA

 

This is a fantastic opportunity to see how exciting the future of the London taxi is going to be and to speak to some of the manufacturers who are going to make it a reality.

 

Regards

 

Transport for London – London Taxi and Private Hire  

Email: For enquiries email tph.enquiries@tfl.gov.uk  

Web: For licensing information visit the TfL website or tryTfL’s Common Questions Section

Twitter: You can now follow us on Twitter @TfLTPH

Telephone: For driver and operator enquiries call 0343 222 4444, for vehicle enquiries call 0343 222 5555


Wednesday, January 08, 2014

180 Years Of Purpose Built Taxis: A Pictorial History Of London's Iconic Taxicabs


The first Hackney carriage licences were issued for horse-drawn carriages in 1662. The hansom cab was patented in 1834 and was widely used until the introduction of motorised cabs in the early 20th century.


Two early Rational motor taxis (built by Heatly-Gresham Engineering) parked outside the Savoy Theatre in The Strand. Registration numbers on taxis show the photo was taken after 1904. The Rational, built by Heatly-Gresham Engineering of Letchworth, was the first taxi to afford some protection to the driver and to be fitted with doors.



A Knightsbridge motor taxi rank in 1907 with vehicles believed to be of Renault and/or Unic manufacture.


Taxis outside Paddington Underground station in Praed Street in 1932. 
(Hanging it up: something's never change)


The Austin London Taxicab, introduced in 1930, used a modified Austin Heavy 12/4 chassis.


An Austin LL (Low-Loader) taxicab, which was introduced in 1934. The rear portion of its roof could be folded down.

The Austin FX3 was introduced in 1949.


The Beardmore was an alternative taxi design used in London during the 1960s and 1970s


Winchester
In 1963, the Winchester MkI was the first taxicab to feature fibreglass bodywork. It was the brainchild of the managing director of Winchester Automobiles (West End) Ltd (a subsidiary of a specialist insurance group which had been formed in the late 1940s specifically to cater for the insurance needs of owner-drivers). 


The iconic FX4 London Taxicab. More than 75,000 FX4s were built between 1958-1997.


The Metrocab design was based on models and early work for the Beardmore Mark VIII by Metro-Cammell-Weymann in conjunction with the London General Cab Company.

MCW Metrocab

Introduced in 1987, this fibreglass-bodied cab was powered by a 2.5 litre- four cylinder Ford Transit direct injection diesel engine coupled to a Ford four-speed automatic or a five- speed manual gearbox. It was the first London cab to fully wheelchair accessible and to be licensed by the Public Carriage Office to carry four passengers.

Reliant Metrocab

Reliant bought the Metrocab from MCW in 1989, and moved the plant to Tamworth, Staffordshire.

Hooper Metrocab

When Reliant suffered financial trouble, Hooper bought Metrocab and began a steady programme of improvement. In late 1992 the Metrocab became the first London cab to be fitted with disc brakes as standard. Six- and seven seat versions followed. 


The popular FX4 was replaced in 1997 by the TX1, made by London Taxis International.


Series 11 and TTT Metrocab.

 The restyled Series II was introduced in 1997 and featured a great many detail improvements. In 2000 a turbocharged Toyota engine replaced the Ford in the TTT model.



The LTI TXII was produced between 2002 and 2006. Many TX type taxis have been modified for private use.


In 2006, LTI introduced the TX4. Following extensive problems including steering faults and engine fires, the company went into administration in 2913 and was rescued later the same year by China's Geely Motors. Geely intend to produce the next generation TX5 hybrid and are also looking at entering the Private Hire market.


Mercedes-Benz, launched its Vito Taxi in June 2008. Since the launch the vehicle has been plagued with trouble from the rear wheel steering. 


Nissan's new kid on the block, the controversial NV200, to be launched December 2014. 


The New Electric Metro from Frazer Nash: but will the trade buy a vehicle with limited range. Is this just another foolish folly from Mayor Boris Johnson to rank alongside the Cable Car and Barclay Bike scheme?















Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Green Party's Baroness Jones Writes To TfL Over Illegal Goings On At Charterhouse Street...by Glen Alutto.

After receiving reports from drivers, complaining about the illegal goings on outside Smiths and Fabric in Charterhouse Street, our roving reporter, Glen Alutto decided to write to Baroness Jones, assembly member for the Green Party.

Sent: 25 November 2013 15:53
To: Jenny Jones
Subject: Charterhouse Street, Islington.

Dear Jenny,

Since the Crossrail works began at Farringdon the rank for Fabric has been removed leaving the area outside Smiths open to blatant abuse by touts who will often park on the pavement completely blocking access for pedestrians.



The situation hasn't improved since Islington Council painted a two cab rank outside the front door recently, with the head operator & his drivers either blocking the rank or intimidating drivers wishing to service it.

http://i.mobypicture.com/user/mrmojo1966/view/16218000

The situation could easily be resolved if Islington Council were to issue the illegally parked minicabs PCN's for their parking misdamenours in the same manner as which they do for Taxis who stop & use the cafes around the market.


I look forward to your response in this matter, yours sincerely Glen Alutto.

We have now received this reply:

Dear Glen,
Happy new year. I am getting in touch on behalf of Jenny Jones AM to let you know that a response has now been received to the enquiry which the Green group on the London Assembly raised with TfL on your behalf.
Please see below for the response from TfL.
Best wishes,
Rachel


Dear Rachel,

Thank you for your email, I am very sorry for not replying sooner.

As I believe Jenny has seen first-hand, we take touting and other illegal cab activity very seriously -  touts pose a serious risk to the travelling public in London and undermine legitimate and law abiding taxi and private hire drivers.  We are aware of issues including touting and illegal parking on Charterhouse Street and I can confirm the area receives regular attention from the Cab Enforcement Unit and from TfL’s compliance officers. Both plain clothes and uniformed officers are regularly deployed to the area.

Complaints have been received about the behaviour of both private hire and taxi drivers in the area.  Compliance officers have visited Smiths and spoken to both the venue manager and the private hire operator that is licensed to operate from that venue. 

The compliance officers did not observe any wrongdoing at the time but they reminded the operator of their responsibilities and conditions of their licence and warned them action will be taken against them if they are found to be touting / operating outside their licensing conditions. The situation is being monitored closely and compliance officers are making regular visits to the location - we will also ensure the area continues to be given attention by the police.

TfL expects any private hire vehicle to comply with local parking restrictions.  However, TfL has no powers to enforce parking restrictions on Borough roads which are the responsibility of the local authority.  While the parking situation the constituent describes is not something that TfL or the police are able to enforce we are in regular communication with local authorities to seek enforcement of the parking restrictions in particular areas of concern. 

As parking on double yellow lines is a civil offence, enforceable by the local borough, the police would not normally take action unless they felt the vehicles concerned were causing an obstruction. We will raise this issue with the London Borough of Islington to see what more can be done. TfL is also in the process of writing to the driver of the vehicle in the photograph provided to make them aware they have come to our attention and that we expect the highest standards from our licensees.

Licensed and law abiding taxi and private hire drivers, and members of the public, often have valuable intelligence that is used to inform both the Safer Transport Command and TfL’s enforcement activities to deal with touting and other illegal cab activity. We have logged the information provided by the constituent to our intelligence database which is used to inform the deployment of police and our compliance team officers.

Kind regards....

Editorial comment: 

And so the problem continues to fester away. Private hire cars are left alone to illegally park on the double yellow lines, park on the pavement, blocking emergency exits, illegally ply for hire and the operator constantly abuses Taxi drivers legally using the official taxi rank. 


Again we see TfL bending over backwards to accommodate satellite office operations, giving preference over the licensed taxi trade. 
We need a Parliamentary committee enquiry, to look into the behaviour of our licensing authority (TfL), concerning the issuing and running of satellite office operations in Central London. 

Monday, January 06, 2014

New Nissan Kicks Out The Dirty Diesel Engine.

Despite rumours within the trade, the vehicle has an automatic gearbox and a new front bumper panel

Nissan says the 1.6 litre petrol-engine taxi will be cleaner than the current diesel cabs which are used in the capital. But with a new launch date of December will Nissan lose market share to proposed new modifications from Mercedes, the TX5 Hybrid and the all electric MetroCab.


The NV200 taxi, which was first unveiled in August 2012, has been modified following feedback from taxi drivers and the Mayor of London's office.

The iconic round headlamps of the FX and TX  models and a re-designed grille are key features of the new taxi, which unfortunately doesn't goes on sale till December 2014.

The Taxi has been developed by the company's European design centre in Paddington, west London.



Features:
Nissan says the latest version adheres to TfL's conditions of fitness which include a requirement for a 25ft (7.6m) turning circle.
Following consultations with TfL, LED lighting was added to improve visibility of the traditional taxi sign and the vehicle was given new front bumper panels.

The grille was also remodelled to mirror the traditional front of a black cab.


Nissan NV200 London Taxi Specifications*

Wheelbase 2.72m

Vehicle Height 1.9m

Vehicle Length 4.41m

Vehicle Width without mirrors 1.91m

Vehicle Width with mirrors 2.1m

Turning circle 7.6m

Engine Displacement (L) 1.6

Number of cylinders 4

Engine Power (HP/kW) 115/86

Torque (lb-ft/Nm) 117/158

CO2 179g

NOx 10mg/km

Particles 1.0mg/km

Driven axle Front

Estimated Base Taxi MSRP

Price to be confirmed, but significantly lower than TX4 price

Key Feature List:
1.6 Petrol Engine, Front Wheel Drive 
Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS)

Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) 
Power windows front, rear pivot with sliding porthole in doors 
Power Locks 
Power Mirror 
Front and rear compartment A/C

Premium Vinyl Seat Materials 
Primary Partition 
Vinyl Floor 
Exterior Graphics 
Exterior and Interior Taxi lighting 
2nd row tip seats with integrated seat back

3-passenger Bench Seat split 60:40 
Panoramic Glass Roof 
Rear heater and rear controls 
Passenger Entry Step and grab handles

Drivers Bluetooth 

Reversing Camera

Running Boards

Wheel chair access through nearside sliding door

Integrated rear facing restrained wheel chair position

USB and 12v passenger charging points

*Information we've been given is tentative and subject to change.



Editorial Staff Comments:

By Supercabby

Today Nissan Unveiled the New Face of it’s Taxi for London at the Nissan Innovations Centre at the O2 in Greenwich, I went along representing Jim Thomas from Taxi Leaks as it was too early for him and the complete opposite side of London from where he lives but only 10 minutes from home for me.

I was quite surprised that only a couple one of the Taxi trade rags was represented but the drivers organisation were well represented with Grant Davis from the LCDC, Peter Rose from Unite and Steve McNamara from the LTDA and of course Mike Fitz and myself who were probably the only real taxi drivers there.

A short presentation was given and then the unveiling of the New Face of the Nissan London Taxi was revealed!


During the presentation it was explained that Nissan wanted to retain the iconic look of the “London Taxi” and you could say that to some extent they have managed to achieve that aim. But an alternative view could be taken that they have merely tried to paste the front of a TX onto the NV200 Van.

It appears that this launch was basically just to show off a redesigned front end of the NV200 so we were only invited along to have a look at a couple of headlights and a grill as the rest of the vehicle including the interior has not yet been finished. We were not allowed to sit inside and sample the drivers legroom or viewpoint, we were not even allowed to open the doors as they were locked!

The hire sign on the vehicle did look good and showed up quite brightly even in the extremely well lit innovations centre and should not pose any problems while working the streets. The paintwork on the Taxi was of a very high standard as you would expect with it being a launch vehicle.

One thing that I think may present a problem, is the side running boards they have decided to include which protrude quite a bit and could pose problems on high kerbs and may even be of concern when 2 NV200 are trying to pass each other on one of London’s narrow streets.


Also the front wheelbase of the NV200 is quite a lot wider than that of the rear which will require some adaption when parallel parking in reverse as the when the rear wheels are close to the pavement the front wheels will be scrapping along kerb.

Something  I found quite interesting, was that this launch NV200 was fitted with Alloy wheels, which have not been seen as standard before on a London Taxi. I wonder will these stay, or whether they will be replaced with steel wheels once the vehicle is launched.


Nissan state that the expected Launch date for the NV200 London Taxi is to be December 2014 which is quite different from the original launch date which was proposed as January 2013 and then October 2013 so only time will tell as to whether Nissan actually met this launch date or not. Also, the Nv200 will initially only be available with a 1.6 Litre petrol engine and it remains to be seen as to how well this engine will cope with 6 passengers and driver onboard going up Highgate Hill?

Nissan stated today that they are committed to bringing an NV200 Electric Taxi that will be launched somewhere in the UK, they didn’t say that it would be London but that it would be a UK City, the Electric Taxi is expected to have a range of about 120 miles but that is under perfect driving conditions where you need to coast along to red traffic signals so that the batteries are being recharged, also I wonder what effect driving at night in the rain with the heaters and heated rear screen on would have on the range of the batteries?

The Worlds big media companies were present at this launch and seemed to show a lot of interest in both Fitz and myself, as we were the only real working Taxi drivers present. We gave a few interviews and aired our views with regards to the NV200. Nissan seem to be putting a lot of money and energy into promoting this Taxi and in their presentation they stated that they hope to produce 140,000 of theses Taxis in the first year of production which is more than LTI/LTC have produced since 1948 which is quite and ambitious projection.

Will this NV200 Taxi be good for London? 
That is the million dollar question? 
Competition is always good to keep the existing manufacturers of purpose built taxis on their toes and to keep them improving on the vehicles that they build but will it further dilute the traditional iconic image and presence of the London Taxi? 
Will it bring us another step closer to blurring the division between the London Taxi Trade and Private Hire that is one question that I am not sure of.

Read more from Supercabby at: http://london-taxi.co.uk

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Hailo Introduce New Minimum Fare Structure.

Hailo for 2014: updated pricing tiers means more jobs for drivers

In order to make every Hailo job a good job, Hailo increased the minimum fare at the end of 2013 to encourage more drivers to accept more jobs and leave fewer passengers stranded.

It worked. In December, Hailo put more jobs in cabs - and more money in drivers pockets - than ever before.

So, as we welcome in the new year, we need to keep moving and make sure we’re offering the best service to drivers and passengers alike.

We’ve looked at the numbers and listened to what both drivers and passengers have been telling us. We need to set the minimum fares at the right level to get you more jobs at more times of the day.

So we’re introducing a lower minimum fare at off-peak. Starting Monday 6 January 2014 between 10am and 4pm on weekdays, the minimum fare on Hailo will be reduced to £8.

At late night (10pm - 2am) the minimum fare will be £15 and at all other times it will be a guaranteed £10.


Working with minimum fares is easy. Just remember two things:

  1. The minimum fare will be shown every time on the job offer screen (see screenshot below). NB. Drivers will need to be on at least version 3.4.1 of the app to see this. 
  2. Only ever enter the meter fare into the app - the correct minimum is worked out for you, taking any pre-set passenger tip into account.

        

As we enter Kipper Season, we want to make black cabs as attractive as possible for Londoners. Despite the success of Hailo, we leave thousands of passengers stranded every day and unable to get a black cab.

With the minimum fare, the driver rewards programme and the new Going Home button, Hailo is playing its part. So please do your bit and take the work that’s offered.