Friday, April 18, 2014

Nissan, burned on taxi deal, teases New Yorkers with a new prototype

First New York reneged on its contract to make the Nissan NV200 the city's official taxi last year. Now the cops want to write it a ticket.

Stiff-upper-lipped Nissan rolled out a couple of mock NV200 yellow New York taxis this week to carry visitors and VIPs around the city during the New York auto show. The pretend taxis looked a little too much like the real deal. And in the rain, snow and cold of auto show week, New Yorkers kept trying to hail the private show car drivers as they rolled down Manhattan's streets.

"Sorry, this isn't a real taxi," the drivers kept having to tell people through the windows. "I can't pick you up."

Then New York's Finest attempted to weigh in after one driver refused to wait his turn in the taxi queues at the airport.

"I'm not a real taxi," the driver protested as a policewoman started to write him a ticket for breaking taxi rules.

Even though a court voided its lucrative 10-year, billion-dollar Taxi of Tomorrow contract with the city last October, Nissan has gone ahead with sales here. Nissan officials believe cabbies still will want the Nissan contender, which was designed specifically to meet the city's contract requirements.

Judging from the irritated expressions of New Yorkers who couldn't catch the show cars, a fair number of consumers would also like to ride in them.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

In the Wake Of Brussels Decision, "Über ist Verboten" in Berlin .

Germany's capital city has followed the lead of Brussels and banned the insurgent taxi service Uber.

The injuction was brought forward by none other than  Richard Leipold, a taxi operator and chairman of the city's taxi association.

"This isn't a student start-up against a big taxi cartel. Uber is backed by Google" said Leipold.

Yesterday Brussels called time on the app-enabled pseudo-taxi service, with threats of €10,000 (£8,200) for each violation.

In March, Brussels' minister for public works and transport Brigitte Grouwels along with several taxi companies, accused Uber of violating taxi regulations, according to newspaper De Tijd.

In France, Uber has been subjected to the so called "15-minute" law, which requires taxi apps to wait 15 minutes after customers place a booking to pick them up.

However, this has not been enough to appease the militant taxi unions of Paris. Paris taxi groups have since been lobbying for a doubling of the regulation to a "30-minute."

Minicab apps have rapidly gained a large user base as they connect passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire or car sharing in dozens of cities around the world.

Meanwhile, Here In London.
London's private hire car association has called on Transport for London to ban minicab app services, such as Uber, from the capital's streets over concerns that they are breaching regulations.

London Taxi Org Walkout 
Last week, three of Londons representative Orgs, LTDA, LCDC and Unite, walked out of a meeting with TfL when it was admitted that although the company is acting unlawfully, TfL are refusing to to enforce any laws or regulations breached by Uber. The LTDA have further stated that they have instructed lawyers to take action against TfL.

The Licensed Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA), which represents the private hire operators, has said it has lost confidence in TfL's ability to bring the cab apps into line and accused them of "masquerading" as private cabs without following the same rules.

“The Private Hire Act 1998 ensures the safety of the travelling public. There is deep-rooted concern and evidence, that new app-based operators are not playing by the rules”, Steve Wright said. “TfL appears to be changing its approach to suit offshore app companies rather than putting the public’s safety first."

Should Steve and Bob resign in protest?

There is growing pressure in London's Private Hire and Taxi industries from drivers who believe both Steve Wright and Bob Oddy, should resign from the board, in protest of TfL's non-enforcement policy.

  • Wer mit dem Schwert lebt... as they say in Berlin.

The Collateral Damage That Comes From TfL, Local Councils And The Met, Turning A Blind Eye....

Great Britain is in the throes of a rape and pedophilia epidemic unlike anything the country has experienced in living memory.

The number of so called unlicensed minicab related rapes is snowballing to such an extent that a British judge has issued a warning that no woman can expect to be safe while traveling in a minicab.

Reliable statistics on taxi and minicab rapes nationwide are difficult to obtain, and Freedom of Information requests seeking accurate data on minicab-related sexual assaults are routinely denied (here and here).

However, a much acclaimed report produced by the London Metropolitan Police Service estimates that on average there are a total of 1,125 sexual assaults, including rapes, each year involving minicab drivers in just London; this works out to approximately 22 sexual assaults against women by minicab drivers each week in England's capital city alone.

Moreover, according to a report entitled, "Ending Violence against Women and Girls in the UK," published by the Home Office in March 2013, only around one in ten women who experience serious sexual assault report it to the police. As a result, one can infer that the actual number of taxi rapes across Britain as a whole is far greater than many are willing to admit.

Apart from a few high-profile cases, these rapes are rarely reported by national newspapers in Britain, apparently because the politically incorrect crimes are not deemed to be newsworthy.

But a survey of stories buried deep inside local newspapers shows that (unlicensed and licensed) minicab related rapes are occurring in all parts of England, Wales and Scotland on an almost daily basis.

In a recent case in London that was reported by national newspapers, Mohamed Hacene-Chaouch, 46, was sentenced to seven years in prison for raping a 24-year-old female passenger in his minicab. Hacene-Chaouch -- an Algerian married father of five -- assaulted the woman after she got lost in Soho, central London.

The woman, who had been celebrating a friend's birthday and had become inebriated, told the jury that the last thing she remembered was being in the back of a car and being taken to an ATM machine. She said she drifted in and out of consciousness but woke up inside the car in front of her east London home to find Hacene-Chaouch raping her. Although Hacene-Chaouch denied the allegations, the crime was filmed by local CCTV cameras.

Judge Wendy Joseph at the Old Bailey accused Hacene-Chaouch of being a sexual predator and said: "It must have been clear to you that she was helplessly and hopelessly drunk. She trusted you to take her safely home. She was clearly vulnerable, she was obviously helpless and in your power, and I regard this as a significant feature." Joseph added: "I haven't heard a single word of remorse in any way, shape or form."

Hacene-Chaouch -- who was acquitted of an almost identical attack in London in 2004 -- showed no emotion and stared straight ahead as the judge read the sentence. But as he was told he would be banned from working or seeking work as a taxi or Private hire driver for 10 years, he gestured to his wife, who was watching the proceedings in the public gallery, and shouted: "Allah is great! I am innocent!"

In East London February 6, police said they were looking for an "Asian" man accused of sexually assaulting three women in his minicab, around the Canning Town district.

In Clapham, Salam Rahman, 27, and Mohammed Elahi, 26, were jailed for nine years for gang-raping two female passengers, one of whom was a 26-year-old newlywed. In Clapham, south London, Atiq Rehman, 20, tricked a 22-year-old woman into thinking he was a legitimate minicab driver. Rehman, an illegal immigrant from Pakistan who was twice refused asylum in Britain, raped the woman for 45 minutes while asking her how many children she wanted to have.

Assadullah Razaq, 31, was sentenced to eight years in jail for raping a 28-year-old female passenger. The defense attorney said that Razaq, an Afghan refugee and a married father of three, admitted to having sex with the woman, but maintained it was not rape. His attorney said Razaq came to Britain after being tortured by the Taliban, and that something had affected his mental state.

The Egg Club, King's Cross in central London, police said they were looking for a Turkish minicab driver who raped an 18-year-old passenger after driving her to a remote location. After the attack, he took her to Gloucester Place in Westminster where he pushed her from his car and left her lying in a gutter.

Non Enforcement of illegal plying for hire from TfL, is Totally Failing London.

Source: Gatestone Institute, International Policy Council

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Reason Why Ticket Offices Must Remain Open And Manned.

Ticket offices have to remain open and manned because there is always one idiot who gets stuck and needs help.

Vote Of No Confidence In TfL From The Private Hire Trade.

London Private Hire industry questions Transport for London’s fitness to regulate

• Populus poll shows 80% of people are not aware that some cars booked through new smartphone apps are not licensed and compliant with the law and TfL regulations 

• LPHCA demands TfL enforce app-based cab companies’ compliance with legislation and regulations 
• Offshore companies endanger London public by breaching essential safety requirements

14th April 2014, London UK: The Licensed Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA) – the trade body which represents the interests of licensed Private Hire operators – has lost confidence in the ability of TfL to safeguard public safety as regulator of the London taxi and Private Hire car market. At a recent meeting, the LPHCA’s membership voted a motion of no confidence for TfL to continue as the regulator of the London cab industry.

The LPHCA is concerned about those cab app providers which are operating illegally in the capital - putting London’s world-class safety record at risk. The body is questioning TfL’s fitness to remain the regulator after it has done little to address the activities of some offshore technology companies which provide cab services via apps.

A recent Populus poll carried out by the LPHCA also reveals that Londoners do not understand that some cars booked through new smartphone apps are not fully compliant with TfL regulations. Of the 1,014 people polled by Populus:

• 89% of people said it is very/fairly important that newer app-based cab companies should be required to use TfL-licensed operating centres 
• 80% of people weren’t aware that some cars booked through new smartphone apps are not fully-licensed and compliant with TfL regulations

LPHCA conducted the poll to raise awareness of the concerns passengers have, in particular when using minicabs and taxis in London, and to gauge an understanding of these individuals’ perceptions of TfL’s responsibilities as the regulator.

Private Hire companies (minicabs, chauffeur and executive cars) in London are regulated by TfL under the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998. “The Private Hire Vehicles Act ensures the safety of the travelling public. There is deep-rooted concern and evidence, that new app-based operators are not playing by the rules”, said Steve Wright MBE, chair, LPHCA. “TfL appears to be changing its approach to suit offshore app companies rather than putting the public’s safety first,” he explained. The poll highlighted strong public concern that app companies that have been subject to regulatory action elsewhere should be subject to stringent scrutiny in the UK:

• 70% of people are a lot or a little less likely to use the services of a smartphone app operator that’s been the subject of a complete ban on operation somewhere in the world 
• 87% of people agree that TfL should investigate all smartphone app operators to assess their compliance with UK regulations

“Some of these app providers are being allowed to operate in London when they have already been convicted of serious licensing offences in other cities around the world and in some cases, we have even seen evidence of them using drivers without insurance,” explained Wright. “We want to see TfL fulfil its legal obligations to enforce the law effectively, fairly and consistently and so does the travelling public.”

“There have been considerable problems worldwide with these new app providers - including a passenger alleging she had been raped by a driver booked via an app and the death of a young girl on a street crossing by a driver engaged by an ‘app-based’ company,” said Wright.

And Now It's Gone International

TfL, Totally Out Of Control And Unfit For Purpose. By Jim Thomas.

Do these people believe they are above the law?

Do they really believe they are untouchable and irreplaceable?

By refusing to act against a company, that they have admitted is acting in an unlawful manner, they are not in compliance with Public Law.

In the past:
 * PH roundels have been dished out like sweet papers without cars being inspected.
 * A man wanted in connection with a million murder genocide, was licensed as a PH driver.
 * PH operators have been licensed contra to TfL policy
 * One PH operator we know of has been licensed with no operating centre.
 * Plus, corruption has taken place, over the counter at Palestra, which resulted in arrest and conviction of a member of staff.

Project Horizon has seen internal staff at TfL cut to the bone, while top bosses still recieved massive bonuses.
The computer upgrade to the multi million pound TOLA system, has been a disaster and the subbing out of licensing responsibilities has seen drivers kept unnecessarily out of work for months on end, because Sir Peter Hendy personally stopped the accepted practice of issuing temporary licences while applicants wait for renewals.

The fact is, this is a Public Body, who receive £9 billion a year in taxpayers money and yet they are accountable to absolutely no one.

Refusal to use enforcement:
In regards to Private hire acting illegally, they have for many years now refused to enforce hackney carriage law, refused to enforce the private hire act, have virtually disbanded cab enforcement unit and totally disregard the offence of illegally plying for hire by private hire cars. Licensed Taxi ranks have been removed wholesale and replaced with Bus Stands and Boris Bike Stations.

Because of their blind eye attitude and inaction by compliance teams, we have seen the figures for serious sexual assaults, including rapes, go through the roof. 

We have seen in an article about a certain email train posted on the MayorWatch website, they are not an open and transparent body. They instruct staff only to give the bear minimum answers with FOI requests and in some cases they just don't answer at all.

Why did a top TfL officer become involved over the placement of a Taxi rank?
On the 17th on March I place an FOI request to TfL about the new Taxi rank, badly sited in St Thomas Street SE1, which stated: 
If possible could you explain how the location of this Taxi Rank was decided and confirm dates of any site visit by
staff employed by TFL.

Also, could you kindly confirm or deny if Mr Leon Daniels had any involvement verbally or by correspondence with reference to the taxi rank in St Thomas Street, if so, please provide copies.

I have since recieved a reply from the "WhatDoTheyKnow" team stating that 

"Transport for London have delayed."

"They have not replied to your FOI request re Taxi rank placement St Thomas Street SE1 promptly, as normally required by law." 

This is an all too common response from TfL to Freedom of Information requests.

TfL, Out Of Control And "Totally Failing London".

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Who do you think you are kidding Mr. Daniels' by Warden Hodges

Time to ask some hard questions about how Über managed to obtain a TfL Private hire licence and quite how TfL are protecting the travelling public.

Leon Daniels (yes the very same Leon Daniels our friend from the Olympics) seems to be fronting up on cab trade matters for TfL at present.

Taxileaks have sent out its roving reporters to find out what is going on.

The registered office of Über at present, is an office block (Winchester House), on the Old Marylebone Road with many other companies registered there (109 to be precise). 

When we visited, the receptionist told us the office was unstaffed that day, apparently others have had the same response.

Über started out at 3 More London and was there sharing an office with Norose Company Secretarial Services Ltd, till November 2013 moved to 83 Baker Street, then on to Marylebone  in December and will apparently be on the move again soon. Norose is still registered as Übers company secretary. 

Über is registered on TfLs web site as Über London Ltd. They were first licensed on 31th of May 2012 and their current licence runs till 30th of May 2017.

What's going on Mr Daniels?

Every PH operator has to have an 'Operating Centre' where bookings are recorded.
It is an absolute requirement and the premises is to accessible at any time for inspections by TfL's Compliance staff. 
We can find no Operating Centre address anywhere for Über.

What's going on Mr Daniels?

If there is a compliant from a customer about the fare etc. TfL just pass this on to the operator, currently we can't even find a telephone number for Über, so how can this be done?

What's going on Mr Daniels? 

We have all read the TfL statement about a 'consultation' concerning apps. , 'virtual meters' etc.

What for?

It does not matter if a PH vehicle is booked on the phone, via an App, the internet or by carrier pigeon, it must always be pre booked and details recorded by a TfL licensed Operator. 

The law is absolutely plain on this, anything else is illegal and leaves the passenger and driver uninsured which in addition to a breach of the PH act which TfL have to enforce, it's a criminal offence under the Road Traffic Acts.

Thus far, TfL has failed to act.

What's going Mr Daniels?

We don't want a TfL staged consultation. We want TfL to do its duty! 

Just like Brussels and other licensing authorities across the globe.

There are rumours of 'political interference' in this matter.

What's going on Mr Daniels?

This blog awaits your reply until then get your compliance officers out there. 

Editorial Comment
 In the same vein:
 * A private hire company in 2012 was issue 18 Statelitte Office licenses without conforming to TfL policy of being in business for the minimum period of one year. In TfL's defence, Director John Mason made a number of statements appertaining to the company involved, which all proved to be untrue.

 * Around the same time in 2012, a west London minicab company was issued a package of PH licence roundels without the necessity to present vehicles for licensing at SGS. We were told by Director John Mason that this wasn't cash for licences, but just someone doing a friend a favour.

 * On the 17th of April 2013, Brazilian national and member of staff at Palestra, Marcos Gurgel was found guilty of fraudulently obtaining £249 from Taxi Driver Stanley Marut, in a licence renewal scam.

What's going on Mr Daniels?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Statement Put Out By London Private Hire Car Association .

@TfLTPH News Release - TfL invites trades to help shape regulatory framework for taxi and private hire apps 
Click here for TfL Press Release - re Smart Phone Apps.

We’re surprised that TfL TPH issued a Press Notice about Cowboy Cab Apps whilst legal proceedings & discussions are taking place.

We want Trade Bodies (Taxi & PHV) to work together and will be launching a campaign called Keep Cabs Safe to combat Cowboy Cab Apps

We will be issuing further information about our battle to combat Cowboy Cab Apps to members as soon as legal restrictions are lifted.

We welcome news @TheLTDA has started pre action protocol for Judicial Review - Summonses to be issued imminently against a Cab App

A packed LPHCA Platinum Members Meeting where Cowboy Apps and those operating illegally are debated.

Source: Statement put out on Twitter.

Uber Made Illegal In Brussels: Two Uber Drivers Vehicles Seized By Police

Uber has run into trouble with the Belgian government and its legislators. A week after launching an urban P2P ride-sharing service called UberPOP in Brussels, the first (completely privately-held) vehicles of Uber drivers have already been seized, reported newspaper La Dernière Heure (via De Tijd).

Brigitte Grouwels, Brussels’ minister of public works and transport, already made it clear that it wouldn’t be allowing Uber to operate any of its taxi industry-threatening services in the city, and she seems to be hellbent on keeping her word.

In retaliation, Uber gifted everyone in Brussels one week of free service using UberPOP.

During a coincidental check, two UberPOP drivers had their vehicles seized by the police this morning, for not adhering to the relevant laws on taxi services.

UberPOP is different from most of the services Uber offers globally, in the sense that it’s actually not a way to book cars driven by professional drivers like the regular Uber or the cheaper UberX service.

Instead, Uber lets individual sign up to become a driver, and acts as a facilitator for potential ‘clients’ to look up drivers and book rides (at a lower rate than ‘real’ Uber cars, of course).

Brussels’ lawmakers want to make it impossible for Uber even to offer its watered-down transportation service.
Regulators in Brussels’ taxi industry have formally requested Uber to stop operating its services in Brussels entirely, something the Silicon Valley-based company appears to be intent on ignoring.

Uber rep Susanne Stulemeijer told De Tijd that it will back the two drivers as the issue gets caught up in Belgium’s complicated legal system, which the company said it was thoroughly examining at the moment. Uber says it’s received a lot of positive feedback from drivers and passengers alike since it launched its service in Brussels last week, and appears to have no intentions of terminating its operations in the city.

According to various media reports, Uber has claimed ‘hundreds of drivers’ have signed up for the service in Brussels so far, with more than 1,000 passengers sharing rides in the week after its debut.

The authorities will now watch the Belgian company’s activities more closely.

Men remanded re Cumberland Hotel assault

A man charged with the attempted murder of three women at a central London hotel and two others charged with offences including handling stolen goods have been remanded in custody, Saturday, 12 April.

Philip Spence, 32, of no fixed abode was charged on 11 April with three counts of attempted murder and one count of aggravated burglary.

Thomas Efremi, 56, of Upper Handa Walk, N1 was charged with handling stolen goods and fraud by false representation.

James Moss, 33, of Hanley Road, N4 was charged with handling stolen goods

They have been remanded in custody to appear at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday, 17 April. 

A fourth person, Carly Baker - 31, of Hanley Road, N4 was charged with handling stolen goods

She has been bailed to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Tuesday, 15 April.

All of those charged are British nationals.

A 34-year-old man has been bailed to return, pending further enquiries, on a date in May.

Three women were injured during the incident at the hotel. Victim 1 remains in a critical condition. Victims 2 and 3 remain in hospital, but neither is believed to be in a life-threatening condition. 

Enquiries continue.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

For All We Know: 160 WW2 veterans, 80 Taxis: A film about music, memories and comradeship.

A musical documentary following an extraordinary road trip with 160 WW2 veterans: a film about music, memories and comradeship.

We’re raising funds to start making FOR ALL WE KNOW (working title), a documentary like no other - part road movie, part musical. Together with BAFTA-nominated producer Sara Woodford, we're pulling together a small crew (two cameramen, an art director, a sound recordist), who are on standby to shoot the film during an extraordinary road trip in May 2014. It’s coming up very soon…that’s why we’re running this urgent fund-raising campaign! 

We’ll be following a huge gathering of World War II veterans -160 of them in all – mostly in their late 80’s and early 90’s – as they travel all the way to Holland and back in an astonishing convoy of 80 London Black Cabs. We’ll follow closely the journeys of some of the veterans who appear in the trailer and will be with them for the whole 5 day trip. In Holland, they will take part in a number of formal and informal events, standing once again alongside the Dutch people to mark National Liberation day. The veterans will pay their respects to their fallen comrades and accept the thanks of those they helped liberate. Throughout the journey, we’ll record some of their stories, songs and memories. We'll be fascinated to explore how the trip changes those who take part.

For all we know, this could be the last time these great British veterans are strong enough to make such a trip - it will be very special and meaningful. That’s why we really want to make this film NOW! So whether you have or had a relative who fought in World War II (who doesn’t?), whether you're a Cabbie, a music lover, or you just love a heart-warming story, please contribute what you can to the making of the film. In return, we’re offering some wonderful rewards. You can even dedicate the film to one of your relatives, or take part in the trip itself!

I’m inspired to tell this story far and wide… and I hope you will come on this journey with us!

Veterans singing at a recent Music Night at the Coach and Horses in Soho in London

As you’ve probably gathered by now, FOR ALL WE KNOW will not be just any documentary, but a musical documentary. I’ve noticed that music plays a large part in the lives of the veterans. Whenever they get together for a pint, or a trip in a cab, there’s usually a song! So threaded throughout the film will be the songs and music underpinning the veterans’ memories, good and bad. I’ve been studying these songs over the last few years, even holding informal ‘auditions’ (see trailer!) and singing sessions in Black Cabs. We’re really excited about filming on the last night of the trip, when the veterans will take part in a Music Night before they return back to London. No doubt they’ll belt out their favourites from wartime and from the post-war boom time. Danny McCrudden (89), Royal Navy veteran, could give Tony Bennett a run for his money, so we can’t wait to record him sing ‘The Good Life’. 

Veterans from World War II on a trip to Worthing with the taxi charity in 1964.

I’ve been getting to know some of the veterans (and the Cabbies) featured in the trailer for the last few years, while I’ve been working as a kind of artist-in-residence for a little known charity, The London Taxi Benevolent Association for the War Disabled. They’ve been taking veterans on trips in Black Cabs for years in the UK and beyond, quietly getting along with their work since 1948! Not enough of us know about them, so I want to make the film in part to spread the word. 

WW2 veterans have been more than willing to share their stories from wartime with me!

So far, getting to know the veterans has been a labour of love. But now we need funds to pull off a documentary feature. We’re raising funds for the first stage of production. If we raise more (which we secretly hope we will!), the additional funds will go towards paying for music rights, post-production, and the use of archive footage. 

We want to make a funny and tender, touching tribute to World War II veterans, as well as an affectionate portrait of London’s Black Cab drivers. In their own words and weaving together the songs that accompanied them through their best and worst of times, these men - and some women - will reflect on that time which was to shape their whole lives. 

will be a multi-layered, unsentimental tribute to World War II veterans, a film about music, memories and comradeship.

How Kickstart Works:
 * There is a set total which has to be reached by a certain date.

 * People are asked to make a pledge.
   (minimum pledge is just £1)

 * So far this project has been pledged £2,485 by 22 people.

 * There are just 16 days left to reach the total required of £18,850.

 * A complete range of rewards are offered, starting at £3 which will get you an official thank you sent to your twitter account. £25 gets you a DVD of the film, all the way up to £3,000 which will give you an executive producer credit. 

 * If the total is not achieved, then no one pays

Please contribute what you can.


Thank you.

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Filming a hundred and sixty elderly people in their 80's and 90's on a journey to Holland in a convoy of Black Cabs...what could possibly go wrong?!

The main challenge we face is getting this all together in a very short period of time. But we are used to working to tight deadlines…and are already working on the film now, off our own backs, filming the preparations for the trip…and everyone we talk to wants to help us, so we are very confident in being able to pull it off.

One of the other challenges we will face concerns the music itself…and negotiating the precarious (and expensive!) world of copyright. Thankfully we have a wonderful music rights advisor, Diane Hayes from Face The Music, who has kindly and brilliantly negotiated the music rights for the trailer.