Friday, April 11, 2014

The Summer Of Discontent..By Spartacus.

Looks like it's all coming together in a perfect storm.

The Law Comm does a U turn on defining "Plying for Hire".

The deregulation bill has clauses meaning a free for all outside London and likely inside and the Law Comm report will be looking to allow this also.

Now we have the statement from Leon (Olympic lanes) Daniels of TfL that they know that Über and others are breaking the law, TfL intend to DO NOTHING despite being the licensing authority appointed by parliament to do so.

Of course it's easy for TfL to do this as they known that some trade orgs need the PR of going to a staged meeting over anything meaningful to expose TfL.

What will these meetings talk about, a consultation on TfL seeking to duck their responsibilities and of course find a way of allowing big business to shaft the working driver?


TfL are the authority to take action, 

However others are made of sterner stuff and a range of high profile direct actions are being planned that will bring the glaring light on the shortcomings of TfL, The Mayor , The TfL Board etc.

Also the GLA will be calling TfL to account about Cabs, Enforcement, Accountability, Cable Cars, Barclays non payments and much more.

No doubt Boris will fight tooth and claw to 'bury bad news' before the elections this year and next.

Your duty to yourself, the cab trade and the citizens of London is to ensure that does not happen.

Let's have THAT on the advan!

I'm Spartacus

Thursday, April 10, 2014

London City Airport Workers Say Nef Off

London's City Airport should close and its site be redeveloped to create jobs, boost local business and build new homes, a think tank has said.

The airport accounts for just 2.4% of London's total flight demand, the report from the New Economics Foundation (NEF) said.

Its passengers could use Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted, NEF claimed.

A London City Airport spokeswoman said the airport "facilitates inward investment and economic growth".

'Gives very little'

The report by NEF claimed: "City Airport creates little value - despite occupying 500,000 square metres at the heart of London, its direct contribution to the UK economy in 2011 was £110m - less than a fifth of the nearby ExCeL Exhibition and Conference Centre."

NEF economist Helen Kersley said: "Given our current dire shortage of homes, as well as the UK's international commitments to cutting its carbon emissions, we must seriously question the logic of locating an airport on precious inner city land.

"London City Airport places a significant environmental and social burden on neighbouring communities and gives back very little in return."

A London City Airport spokeswoman said: "The only airport in London provides a direct route to the capital's business, financial and political centres, facilitating inward investment and economic growth."

She added closing the airport would put 2,000 people out of work, prevent the creation of a further 1,500 jobs by 2023 and remove £750m a year from the economy.

Daren Johnson, Chair of the GLA is a supporter of this report. He posted today saying City Airport Should Close. Ken Livingston worked on a plan to close the airport post Cross Rail completion. Darren also posted a link on Twitter to a post on the GLA website showing a question he put to Ken back in 2007.

Question number0043/2007
Meeting date10/10/2007

Question byDarren Johnson

The Mayor has previously told the Assembly that London City Airport should be returned to non-airport use after Crossrail is built. Is the LDA actually doing some detailed work now, looking at a post-airport scenario for the land?

Answer by Manny Lewis, LDA

Yes, we are. We are doing that in a tripartite way. We are doing that with Design for London where there has been some initial masterplanning and initial visioning, about how, if the City Airport situation did change, you might Masterplan a new community there. We are also doing that work with Transport for London (TfL), in terms of their overall overarching view on airport strategy, and that is progressing.

Cab:Apps Letter To Dial-a-Cab Members.

Dear all Dial-a-Cab Members and fellow drivers,

We have followed with interest the speculation surrounding the bids for DAC, particularly the article dated 7th April in the London Taxi Drivers Forum, which refers to two bidders pulling out. We have kept quiet until now about our numerous discussions and meetings with the DAC Board between July 2013 and our Offer, which was submitted in December 2013 (and remains on the table), to ensure Members had the opportunity to vote, hold their AGM and fully consider the implications of what is a momentous decision about the long-term future of DAC.

The Board intimated throughout the process that our Offer would be made public to Members as part of the initial voting process and we also gave permission for our identity to be revealed to Members at the AGM. From our most recent communication with the Board on 10th April 2014 it is now obvious they have no intention of presenting Members with the details of the cab:app Offer and we have been advised that exclusive discussions are now being pursued with a new third party who are still completing due diligence. Further, the Board confirmed they are not prepared to present Members with information on all three bids, as they feel the 75% vote required to achieve demutualisation will not be reached if Members are given a choice.

As DAC is owned by its Members, we believe this is not a decision that should be taken solely by the Board and that you deserve full transparency on the bidding process and proposals put forward to ensure you have access to all the information on each bid before taking such a major decision, in what could be a turning point in the history of DAC.

About cab:app
cab:app was invented by Peter Schive, an active London driver (badge no. 63768), to help unite independent Hackney drivers through technology by giving them the tools to do their job, increase their earnings and take on private hire. To date, cab:app’s growth has all been through word of mouth as we have steadily built up over 3,600 registered Hackney drivers in over 90 cities across the UK and Ireland. cab:app’s next major phase of technology development and plans for future growth are in progress, with many new features and benefits for drivers including an ongoing revenue share in the success of cab:app. By uniting black cab drivers across the country we will actively promote to passengers the first ever network where they can book and pay for a Hackney in any town or city by phone, website or app. The primary focus will be on building corporate accounts and other business customers to generate quality work for drivers. 

Offer to DAC Members
cab:app’s interest in buying into DAC is to help transform a business that has been in decline for several years, before it’s too late, by combining the best of a radio circuit with the latest innovations in technology, media and marketing.

Our offer proposed that all assets and cash within DAC, totalling approximately £15m or £11,400 per driver, will be ring fenced and distributed 100% in 3 cash payments to drivers over 6-18 months. This assumes a sale of the property for a price indicated by the Board with any additional increase in value accruing to Members
Members can elect to take 100% cash (£11,400) or for drivers that want to own a share in the business, there is an option to re-invest 25% of the distribution (£2,850) into the new business and still take out £8,550 in cash
cab:app will invest £2 million of new cash into the company to enhance the technology platform, promote the benefits of the Hackney industry, and launch a comprehensive sales/marketing campaign to win new business for drivers, with a focus on corporate accounts and other high quality customers
Subscription fees will be frozen for 3 years, DAC drivers will have priority on existing corporate accounts, all driver ideas and feedback will be embraced, and NO private hire drivers will be permitted on the system

In summary, cab:app has a clear long term vision and strategy to transform DAC. We are passionate about helping the Hackney trade to grow, so we would welcome the opportunity to present our plan to Members. We would encourage Members to request full transparency from the Board on all bids so you can consider the merits of each and make an informed decision about YOUR future. The Members own DAC and you collectively have the power to control the final outcome, so we would urge you to exercise your democratic right and NOT let the Board alone decide your fate.

If you have any questions or comments on this letter please feel free to contact or we’re happy to meet you on the ranks to discuss further.

Peter Schive, Derek Stewart and Jane Van Aken (co-founders of cab:app)

Multinational Threat From PH Smart Phone App, As Licensed By TfL. By Jim Thomas

Having read the recent press statement, released after TfL met with the Taxi and private hire trade in regards to a certain smartphone app, I firmly believe it to be no more than a knee jerk reaction to appease the threat from the United Trade Group (UTG) made on social media, to take direct action against TfL for non enforcement of Taxi legislation.

The Taxi trades largest representative org, the one with over 9,000 members, said it was going to instruct it lawyers as they left Tuesday's meeting, after being informed that although TfL consider Uber to be acting illegally, they had no intention to take them on.

There is of course a very good reason for this!
You've only got to look at TfL's track record of taking on PH companies. 

Uber has financial backing, which is larger than some countries gross domestic produce. 

The thought of the LTDA taking anyone to court doesn't really fill me with confidence either, considering the last time they did this was against Rickshaw Bikes.

While I totally agree that action should be taken in response to the Rank at the Shard, non enforcement of Taxi ranks across London and Illegal plying for hire by minicab touts, I firmly believe that to take Uber to task over the definition of a Taxi meter, is similar to the "Light Brigade" charging down the wrong valley, after being given bad advice. 

Uber offer a range of different pricing options, so if it was found that using a GPS smart phone was a form of Taxi meter, they would just switch to another option and carry on regardless.

In TfL's press release, Leon Daniels states categorically:
Private hire apps may either direct a potential passenger to a choice of licensed private hire operators or transmit the passenger's request directly to a licensed operator who will then accept and record the booking and allocate a driver.  

From TfL's perspective, the essential aspect is that an app facilitates a customer to be put in direct contact with a licensed private hire operator.  

Any app that puts a passenger in direct contact with a driver for the purpose of a private hire is illegal and TfL will take appropriate action against the person responsible for the app.

So there is the case:
Uber are putting passengers in direct contact with a driver for the purpose of private hire, which as TfL illegal.

The way Uber operate, is possibly the biggest threat to the livelihood of Taxi drivers across many nations and to counter this threat in the most effective manner, we will need the help of our biggest unions, not just in the capital, but nationwide. 
Soon Uber will be operating right across the country.

Are we going to to wait untill our drivers can't earn a living, before we take the lead from our French and Italian colleagues.

To counter this threat, the Taxi trade in London must put aside egos and personal empires and unite completely with no exemptions. 
Nationally, it's the RMT, Unite and the GMB who have the resources and political clout needed to take this on. 

Licensed By TfL.
John Mason confirmed Uber were licensed as a PH operator on the 30th May 2012 while he was director. 

Considering the multinational outcry over Uber's modus operandi, why were they given an operators licence by TfL in the first place and who authorised their licensing?

TfL admitted (Tuesday's meeting with part of the Taxi trade) Uber operate illegally. So why haven't they revoked Uber's operators license?

Uber state, in their driver terms and conditions, they are NOT a transport provider. 

If that's true, why then did they apply for and were granted a PH operators licence in 2012?

Mass demos and drive-ins are a great way of getting publicity for our cause, but if the UTG continue to exclude London's second biggest Taxi representative group(s), they are not going into battle with a complete arsenal, fully equipped to take on the enemy.

Remember, Uber are not invincible.
In the States today, it was not a good day for the unlicensed transportation company. Lawsuits and legal proceedings abounded. Here’s a quick snapshot of what’s happening:

1.      Sacramento, CA
California Department of Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones issued a press release today announcing his recommendations for requiring transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft to provide commercial insurance in order to ensure protection for passengers, drivers and pedestrians. According to Jones, TNCs should bear the insurance burden when they encourage non-professional drivers to use their personal vehicles to transport passengers for profit.

2.      Houston, TX
Taxicab and limousine companies in Houston have filed a civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) lawsuit against Uber and Lyft. This type of civil lawsuit refers to the ongoing and intentional criminal practices of a party. Houston taxicab and limousine companies say Uber and Lyft are operating as for-hire vehicles without proper licenses, fee payment or insurance, and are not meeting the obligations of for-hire vehicles in Houston. They are seeking an injunction to stop the companies from operation.

3.      Columbus, OH
The City of Columbus filed a lawsuit that seeks to bar uberX from operation. The lawsuit states that the public is at risk because the city is both unable to verify drivers’ backgrounds and conduct vehicle inspections. Officials have said that charging for uberX rides is illegal because their drivers are acting as unlicensed vehicles for hire, which in Columbus is considered a misdemeanor. In the meantime, the Columbus attorney’s office is requesting a temporary restraining order that will prevent uberX from operating until a judge can decide whether to grant the permanent order.

Of course, the company is armed with war chests of hundreds of millions in venture capital funds--plenty to fund high-powered lawyers and lobbyists. They will undoubtedly fight these lawsuits  tooth and nail.

Brighton taxi drivers step up fight against deregulation. Source: The Argus.

Brighton taxi drivers have launched a campaign against the deregulation of the industry, which they claim could put public safety at risk.

Under current licensing regulations, companies can only handle bookings they have taken themselves through their own operators.

But amendments added to a government Bill would allow private hire companies to subcontract work to other operators in another area, and would allow ordinary drivers to drive private hire vehicles when they are “off-duty”.

The taxi companies have requested the help of MP Simon Kirby who confirmed he had written to the minister and was trying to arrange for Brighton and Hove taxi representatives can put their concerns to the transport minister directly.

Andrew Cheeseman, managing director of Brighton and Hove City Cabs, added: “It’s all to do with public safety. The safety issue is really key with this.”

He also added that Green MP Caroline Lucas had been a major help for them dealing with the issue.

Bosses at the city’s major private hire companies, including Streamline Taxis, Brighton and Hove City Cabs as well as taxi unions, hit out at the proposed amendments last week.

They say the amendments could put members of the public at risk of rogue drivers by making it harder to carry out checks and could also damage the reputation of the city’s taxi industry.

At the moment when a taxi is booked all the details are logged by the operator, including the details of the driver.

But by allowing companies to subcontract work to other areas would hamper the ability of police to track down drivers should anything happen.

Concerns were also raised that allowing non-taxi drivers to drive private hire vehicles when they are off-duty leaves passengers particularly vulnerable to anonymous drivers picking them up.

John Streeter, vice-chairman of Streamline Taxis, said: “We’ve got the highest standards in Brighton compared to anywhere else in the country, and we want to maintain that.

“It’s unsafe and it goes against customer safety.”

Mick Hildreth, secretary for GMB National Taxi section, also said they had been given days to look over the amendments before they were presented to MPs. He said: “There’s been a complete lack of consultation.”

The Government has claimed that allowing companies to subcontract work will help customers, while allowing off-duty taxis to be used as general use cars will save families money on second vehicles.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

After Yesterday's All Trade (Taxi And Private Hire) Meeting, TfL Releases Press Statement.

TfL invites trades to help shape regulatory framework for taxi and private hire apps

09 April 2014

Smart phone apps offer significant potential benefits to passengers, drivers and operators

Transport for London (TfL) has confirmed that it welcomes the use of taxi and private hire apps to benefit passengers, subject to those apps meeting the high standards of public safety TfL expects. 
TfL is inviting the taxi and private hire trades to provide their views on how the regulatory framework should be applied to this rapidly developing technology, while ensuring that the current highest standards of public safety and customer service in the trades are maintained.
The development of taxi and private hire booking apps offer tremendous potential benefits for customers. 

This includes enhanced safety and security measures - with many apps providing the passenger with a photo of the driver and their name, the registration of the vehicle and the ability to track both the approach of the vehicle and the remainder of the journey in real time.
However, the rapid pace at which smart phone based technology has been developing in recent years has led to a need for clarity about what is required in order for apps to comply with the regulatory framework in London. 

TfL is seeking to clarify that position and has asked the taxi and private hire trades for their input to formalise the regulatory framework and ensure there is a level playing field for all operators.

Leon Daniels, TfL's Managing Director of Surface Transport, said: `We welcome developments that make life easier for passengers. 

`As in many other areas of transport and retail services, apps can offer passengers the potential of better and more convenient services. 

`We are asking the trades to embrace these advances in technology, which have the potential to further improve London's taxi and private hire services, and have asked them to be part of the formal process to help shape the regulatory framework in this rapidly developing area.'
Constructive meetings were held recently with both the private hire and taxi trades on this issue. 

Discussions focused on the use of apps for private hire vehicle bookings, with TfL presenting its provisional views on the use of apps, which are as follows:

Apps can put a customer in touch with licensed private hire operators, either by signposting a customer to a choice of licensed operators or by transmitting a customer's data directly to a specific licensed operator.  Apps that deliver this service do not in themselves 'make provision' for the invitation or acceptance of private hire bookings.  Only a licensed operator can 'make provision' for the invitation or acceptance of a booking
While it is perfectly legal for an app to put a customer directly in touch with a licensed hackney carriage driver, 
any app that puts a customer directly in touch with a private hire driver without the booking being accepted by an operator first is illegal.  

Even if the licensed driver is also a licensed operator, the booking must be accepted at the licensed premises.  

A booking can not be accepted by a private hire operator in a vehicle or through a mobile phone on the street.  
Certain details, such as the date of the booking, must be recorded by operators before the start of each journey.  There is no obligation to record the main destination at the time of booking unless it is specified by the customer
There is no obligation to quote a fare when making a booking via a private hire app unless a quote is requested
Smart phones used by private hire drivers - which act as GPS tracking devices to measure journey distances and relay information so that fares can be calculated remotely from the vehicle - do not constitute the equipping of a vehicle with a taxi meter.

Further discussion with the taxi and private hire trades will take place in the coming weeks to help clarify the regulatory framework for this rapidly developing technology to ensure that the current highest standards of public safety and customer service in the trades are maintained.

Only a private hire operator licensed by TfL can make provision for the invitation or acceptance of, or accept, a booking for the purpose of private hire in London.  A licensed private hire operator has to meet a number of legal and regulatory requirements and is subject to regular compliance audits and checks to maintain public safety and promote a high quality service to customers.
Any private hire operator found not to comply with these requirements will be subject to action which can include the suspension or revocation of its licence.
Private hire apps may either direct a potential passenger to a choice of licensed private hire operators or transmit the passenger's request directly to a licensed operator who will then accept and record the booking and allocate a driver.  From TfL's perspective, the essential aspect is that an app facilitates a customer to be put in direct contact with a licensed private hire operator.  Any app that puts a passenger in direct contact with a driver for the purpose of a private hire is illegal and TfL will take appropriate action against the person responsible for the app.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

EXCLUSIVE: Have the LTDA finally woken up? By Jim Thomas

This very afternoon representatives from the Taxi trade, in the form of the LTDA, LCDC and Unite (no RMT them), met with Boris Johnson and TfL to discuss the way in which Uber are currently operating in London. 

First signs were good as the LCDC posted on Twitter:
"Today at our meeting TFL declared Uber are operating legally in London. Line has been drawn. Battle starts now! GD"

After the meeting the a LTDA made this announcement via social media:
"TfL say they will not act against Uber.
 This is a political not legal decision, who made it and why, Boris or Cameron?
LTDA instructs lawyers."

Followed by:
"We will be calling a demo and organising other actions to highlight the political interference influencing this wrong decision"

The LCDC have also put out these tweets:

"TFL are now a Licencing Authority with NO AUTHORITY!!"

"TFL do not see that UBER are operating a meter for calculating their fares."

"As we got to Palestra the PH were leaving. They are fuming at TFL. They will loose drivers. Uber will create a 1 tier system in London. GD"

They talk a good fight, but will they really take up the gauntlet?

Everyone is now screaming for action, drivers talking about stopping subscriptions to orgs they feel are not pulling their weight.


Or is this just another publicity stunt?

Should Bob Oddy grow some and in protest, resign from the board of TfL who are ignoring the pleas of drivers calling for justice and obedience to the laws and legislation?

As Bob Oddy is part of a licensing authority which is refusing to take action against an out of control PH operator, should he be removed from the executive of the LTDA?

Ex Transport Minister Steve Norris, To Join Minicab App, As Advisor To The Board

Former Transport Minister Steven Norris, after using Uber from Terminal 5 to Central London, recently tweeted that "apps are the future". Norris has now firmly nailed his colours to the mast and jumped aboard the minicabit boat.

Following its recent success to win a £75,000 investment on Dragons’ Den, minicabit announced that Steven Norris is to join them as Advisor to the Board.
(Gonna need a bit more than 75 grand then)

Norris was previously a Minister of Transport, Board Member of Transport for London, Mayor of London candidate and has also held a number of top executive roles across the UK transport sector. 

Currently Norris is President of ITS (UK), the public/private sector body, that promotes developments in transport technology.

Regarding his role at minicabit, he said : 
“As we move deeper into the digital age, the UK private hire sector still remains one of the last transport modes to be bookable online. At the same time, the app and web market for booking cabs is pretty fragmented, with some options if you’re in central London but little else for the rest of the UK".

In the past allegedly, the minicab app circumnavigated the need for a PH licence by claiming not to be a minicab operator. They operate as a third party middleman, similar to a price comparison website, with an app.

The company have a history of disregarding the laws and legislation when it comes to the use of the words Taxi and Cab in their promotional material. 

After complaints were made about this sign at the O2, LTPH said nothing could be done as at the time of the complaint, the company was not licensed as a PH operator and was in fact only a third party booking agent.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Hailo backtrack over minimum fares.

This today on the Hailo blog.

New minimum fare update - driving more jobs
Posted in Driver Community | by Hailo Team | April 7, 2014

As you know it’s been a quiet time in the taxi industry of late, and to help change this, Hailo will be reducing its minimum fares to drive more jobs your way - especially in-between the rush hours.

We have listened to feedback from drivers and passengers alike and the results are clear. The £15 overnight figure was too high and the £8 minimum during the workday was putting people off using black cabs for business.

So, starting tomorrow at 10am passengers will be told there is no minimum fare in the work day and it’s a simple, flat £10 at all other times.

Guaranteed fiver for the driver

Hailo has put five million jobs in taxis over the past two years so we know from real data that very few fares are under £5, but if you do get one of those during the work day, don’t worry, we will always guarantee you £5 minimum by making up the difference on any job. You’ll see the money in your weekly statement as usual.


TfL Consider "A" Boards Priority Over Minicab Touts by Jim Thomas.

Last night was another night of misery for licensed Taxi drivers trying to use the new rank on Clapham High Street. The new rank is of the shared loading bay type and runs from 132-162, basically, McDonald's to just short of Stonehouse Street.

Minicab drivers are refusing to move when challenged saying "there is no taxi rank it is our waiting and collection point".
So far their has been no visit to the site by TfL and even after Taxi drivers made repeated calls to the police on the non emergency number 101, no one has been sent round to assist. 

The signage is pretty poor. Consisting of an extention to the board on a post which reads:

Red Rout: No Stoping at any time: Except 10am-7pm Loading 20 mins: Disabled Max 3hours: 7pm-7am Taxis Only.

This is the same type of signage we saw go up on the bus stand at the junction of Coventry Street and Wardour Street. At first the minicabs were reluctant to move on as this was a popular touting area. But the local the constabulary have been very helpful and now the rank is fully utilised at night by a steady stream of Taxis and the touts have gone.

Clapham needs enforcement and the company refusing to move (Greyhound Cars) should be contacted by TfL.
If they don't comply, then their licence variation (satellite office licence) should be revoked.

Where's the enforcement:
Where are the compliance officers that were in such great supply in the months leading up to the rank going live?

Representatives from TfL visited shopkeepers on Whitechapel Road without warning on Wednesday, to tell them to remove A-frames from pavements within the next seven days as part of a trial. This should be of great comfort to the passengers of illegal touts who have suffered sexually motivated attacks.

Dana Skelley, Director of Asset Management at TfL, said: “Removing unnecessary clutter from the capital’s roads and footways helps create a safe and accessible street environment and contributes to improving the public realm for London’s visitors, residents and workers.

“To support this objective, we have recently begun a trial of more robust enforcement against unauthorised advertising (‘A’) boards on Whitechapel Road. This approach is supported by many important stakeholders and especially benefits our more vulnerable road users.”

So there you have it. TfL see A boards as a menace to public safety, but continue to turn a blind eye to the touts and sexual predators that infest the night streets on the capital.

Appeal following attempted murders at hotel in W1

Police are appealing for information following an attack on three women at a central London hotel that is being treated as attempted murder.

Officers were called at 01:50hrs on Sunday, 6 April, to the Cumberland Hotel in W1 following reports of an assault.

At this stage, it is believed that a single male suspect entered a guest bedroom on the seventh floor of the building, where three women and three children were sleeping in adjoining rooms.

Detectives believe that the suspect was disturbed when some of the occupants of the room woke up, and the three women were subsequently assaulted with a hammer which was later recovered at the scene.

The victims are all UAE nationals aged in their 30s, and all sustained head and facial injuries.

'Victim One' is in a critical but stable condition at a central London hospital. 'Victim Two' and 'Victim Three' both sustained serious injuries but their conditions are not life-threatening.

At this stage, officers retain an open mind regarding the motive for the attack.

The investigation into the incident is being led by detectives from the Homicide and Major Crime Command, under Detective Chief Inspector Andy Chalmers.

DCI Chalmers said: "This was an unusually violent attack on three women and I am very keen to speak with anyone who was in or around the hotel between 01.00hrs and 02.00hrs on Sunday morning.

"Did you see or hear anything that could be of use to my officers? If so, we would like to hear from you as soon as possible."

The incident room can be contacted on 020 8358 0100.