Saturday, June 07, 2014

London's Black taxis challenge U.S. car service Uber.

(Reuters) - They have been the kings of the British capital's roads for over a century but now the often opinionated drivers of London's iconic black taxi cabs are battling a high-technology rival that threatens their dominance.

In their sights is Uber Technologies Inc., a San Francisco-based company whose application lets people summon rides at the touch of a smartphone button and uses satellite navigation to calculate the distance for fares.

The drivers of black taxis say Uber, backed by investors such as Goldman Sachs (GS.N) and Google (GOOGL.O), is being used as a taximeter and thus contravenes a 1998 British law reserving the right to use a meter for licensed black taxis.

Uber says the application used by their drivers complies with all local regulations and that they are being targeted because of their success in winning customers.

A variety of apps are available for summoning both black cabs - bulbous, purpose-built vehicles which offer a roomier passenger compartment than most normal cars - and unmetered private-hire cars known as minicabs.

But the power of Uber's growing popularity of its app has rattled the black cab drivers that they have pushed London's transport regulator TfL, to ask the High Court to rule on the legality of such applications.

They also plan to converge near Trafalgar Square on June 11 for a protest that will paralyse central London, following strikes and other actions by drivers in cities such as Paris and Milan.


"We understand it's a competitive market place, but they're not playing by the rules," Jim, a taxi driver of over 30 years, told Reuters during a coffee break in the financial district. "We're fighting for our livelihoods here. No one's going to take it lying down."

Behind the debate over what constitutes a taximeter, Uber has touched a raw nerve in London because it brings home the threat to one of the city's most visible trades, from technological advances.

Uber provides an application for its drivers which calculates the cost of each journey by monitoring the distance and time travelled. The RMT, London taxi-drivers' union plus other representative groups say this amounts to a taximeter and that the regulator, Transport for London (TfL), is failing to enforce its own rules with a company that has powerful investors.

"TfL is scared by Uber’s big-money backers like Goldman ‘Government’ Sachs and Google," said Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Local Taxi group LTDA. "Something is very, very wrong here."

Tfl says its provisional view is that the use of smart phones does not constitute a taximeter but has invited the High Court to rule on the issue. And yet TfL's compliance officers were out in force reporting Taxi drivers advertising the 11June demo for sporting unauthorised stickers. 

In London, 20,000 taxis are expected to cause gridlock at  Wednesday's 6 hour protest.

"What else are we meant to do?" said cabbie Jim, sheltering from the rain in the back of a taxi, drinking instant coffee from polystyrene cups with three colleagues who between them have over 150 years
experience driving taxis in London. 

"It's do or die in this world."

Editorial Comment:
Jim's commitment is echoed by virtually all his colleagues.

It's inspiring that in the age of the billion dollar venture capitalist take over, asset stripping, greed is good type money men....we see a bit of the old Dunkirk spirit amongst the last bastions of London's heritage.

To every Cabby looking to play their part in this first battle, one of many more to come.
I salute you all. Let's give them Hell.

Jim Thomas.

Uber and Lyft ordered to shut down by Virginia as row continues. Told they are operating as unlicensed Taxis.

Row escalates between Virginia and ridesharing taxi disrupters as Uber fights cities, states and drivers across the globe

Transport services Uber and Lyft have been ordered to shut down their operations in Virginia, the US's 12th most populous state, in yet another tussle with authority for the internet-based companies.

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issued cease-and-desist letters to the two companies. It joins a long line of cities and states in the US and elsewhere, including London, where Uber in particular has faced legal challenges to its operations, which connect drivers and would-be riders via an app. Opponents say it is running an unlicensed taxi service - but Uber describes itself as a ride-sharing service, as does Lyft.

The motoring authority in Virginia, which has 8.2 million residents, previously fined both Uber and Lyft more than $35,000 (£20,800), claiming they were operating without proper permits under Virginia’s passenger carrier laws, which the state says applies to "any business that receives compensation to provide or facilitate transportation”.

“I am once again making clear that Uber must cease and desist operating in Viriginia until it obtains proper authority,” Richard Holcomb, commissioner of the Virginia DMV said in order sent to Uber on Thursday. Lyft was simultaneously sent the same letter.

“The DMV will issue civil penalties to Uber’s drivers that do not have authority to provide transportation for compensation,” Holcomb warned.

Uber, which has raised over $300m in venture capital, has long portrayed its business as being based on ride-sharing, and that it is simply “connecting riders to drivers”.

Uber approves drivers, and issues them with equipment in the form of an app. But they do not have in-car meters, which the company argues exempts it from taxi licensing laws. Riders choose a pickup point and destination; the driver takes them between the desired places, at which the rider leaves the car without paying the driver. Instead, Uber bills the rider, based on time and distance. Uber pays the driver.

However Holcomb says that Uber and Lyft must be licensed as a traditional taxi company.

“Uber’s operations are not ridesharing arrangements as defined in Virginia law because Uber receives compensation for its services,” said Holcomb.

But in a statement released to the Washington Post, Uber said: “Uber has been providing Virginians with safe, affordable and reliable transportation options for months and has continued to work in good faith with the DMV to create a regulatory framework for ridesharing. We look forward to continuing to work with the Virginia DMV to find a permanent home for ridesharing in the Commonwealth [of Virginia].”

Lyft said in a statement to the Washington Post: “We’ve reviewed state transportation codes and believe we are following the applicable rules. We’ll continue normal operations as we work to make policy progress."

Virginia is not the first state or city in the US to take action against Uber and other app-based services. It has been banned in Portland, New Orleans and Miami. Houston, the US's fourth-largest city with 2.6m people and the biggest not to allow Uber, is currently in a battle with the company, which has started to operate in the city but only on a no-fee basis. Houston legislation currently prohibits the app-based services operating for profit, and politicians there have not been pleased with Uber's tactics.

Uber is also facing opposition in Maryland, with 5.2 million people, where the state’s chief public utility law judge said it must file an application to operate as a for-hire carrier – a traditional taxi company.

Outside the US Uber’s reception has been mixed. London’s cab drivers are currently in a row with the company and Transport for London (TfL) over what is and isn’t a taxi meter, which has been pushed to the high court.

Only London taxis can charge using a meter, but black-cab drivers claim Uber’s app - which tracks rides using GPS - is tantamount to a meter. TfL says it is not because the smartphone using the GPS is not physically attached to the cars.

The outcome at the high court will not only affect Uber’s London operations, but also its recently launched Manchester service.

• Victorian taxi regulator in Australia issues fines to drivers using Uber

    Source: the Guardian

Friday, June 06, 2014

LTDA letter to all it's 10,000 members, Re Demo Trafalgar Square 11th June, 2 Steve McNamara

I am writing to ask for your support and attendance at 2pm next Wednesday (11th June) at an LTDA drive in demonstration in the Trafalgar Square/Whitehall/Parliament Square area. We are calling this action to highlight our dissatisfaction with the manner in which Transport for London (TfL), the taxi and Private Hire regulator, is failing to enforce its own rules against the American minicab app Uber.

Uber is a multi million dollar company funded by Google, Amazon and Goldman Sachs that allows passengers to virtually 'hail' a minicab using an app on a Smartphone. It is not this technology that threatens our trade, in fact it's very similar to several of the Taxi and other minicab apps on the market, the danger is that TfL are allowing Uber drivers to take bookings directly in the car whilst 'plying for hire' and to calculate fares using a meter type device in direct contravention of the law prohibiting meters in minicabs.

I wrote to TfL last year pointing out the various breaches of the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 and asking them to take enforcement action and revoke Ubers licence, despite my chasing them on several occasions, I never received a substantive reply until April when they advised that, in their provisional opinion, Uber was operating lawfully. This left the Association with no choice and I instructed our Solicitors to proceed with Private Prosecutions against Uber drivers in an effort to gain convictions and force TfL to recognise the illegality of Ubers operation. These summonses have now been issued. Our solicitors have also been instructed to apply for a Judicial Review in the High Court, against TfL's decision not to prosecute the moment they formally confirm it.

As a result of the LTDA's actions and in a direct response to us announcing our demonstration next week, TfL have now asked us to join them in seeking a declaratory judgement in the High Court over the meter issue and our lawyers are currently considering our response and course of action. Make no mistake TfL's sudden change of heart is only as a result of the threat of a demonstration but it is still too little and to late and we must present a mass turn out on the 11th to show the Worlds media the strength of feeling and unity in our trade against the maladministration and inefficiencies of TfL.

The worlds media have already started to cover our grievances examples at:-

If we make the 11th the biggest demonstration of the year TfL cannot ignore our just cause.


Thank you

Steve Mcnamara
General Secretary

The Mayor of London could have egg on his face. Cabbies Against Boris Press Release.

A massive protest by thousands of London Taxi Drivers will take place in London on Wednesday 11th June at 2pm and will gridlock the capital.

The Mayor of London is due to answer questions in the London Assembly at 10am on the same day.

It is not difficult to imagine the scenario of angry taxi drivers protesting in the Assembly and pelting the Mayor with eggs!

Either physically or metaphorically it is likely that Boris Johnson will have egg on his face on Wednesday.

Cabbies  Against Boris is fully supportive of the London Taxi protest which is against the many improper and unlawful decisions imposed on the taxi trade by Transport for London and the Mayor.

These include the improper London Taxi Age limit and failure to enforce Private  Hire Law (including the recent issues with Uber the mini cab booking app) and many other decisions.

The Mayor of London has been in office for 6 years and in that time more than 25,000 people have died from Air Pollution in London, according to the Mayors own statistics.

London Taxi drivers are probably the group of workers worst affected by the pollution; if workers in any other situation were exposed to toxic pollution all day every day of their working lives the Health and Safety Executive and Unions would have that place of work shut down immediately and the health risk resolved.

In  London, instead of taking action to resolve the problem Boris Johnson implemented a Taxi Age limit; he recently claimed in a letter to the Environmental Audit Committee  (dated May 8th 2014 )that he has reduced pollution in London by ‘retiring 3000 of the oldest, most polluting taxis’.

In written evidence that the Mayor of London submitted to the same Committee in a report in 2011 he stated
‘’11. NO2 levels have not fallen in recent years as modelling had predicted. This is a problem across major cities in the UK and across the EU. Emerging evidence, including a report by King’s College London, suggests that this may be due to the failure of recent Euro standards to deliver expected reductions of NO2 [1] . 

A Euro 5 car, for example, emits around five times as much direct NO2 as a fifteen year old car.’’
In this report he acknowledges that he had seen a report from Kings College London (prior to 2011) and that a new Euro 5 car would emit around five times as much NO2 as a fifteen year old car.

The Mayor of London had previously stated the same in his Air Quality Strategy report of 2010

He then implemented a taxi age limit needlessly scrapping the fifteen year old taxis, which he knew would not reduce pollution at all.

In fact it has been proven to have failed by a Defra report in May 2013 following testing in London carried out by the Environmental Research Group at Kings College London who tested the emissions from tens of thousands of vehicles.

The results of this testing confirmed what the Mayor had said in his statement more than two years earlier and before he implemented the taxi age limit; that the newer taxis actually created MORE NO2 than the older taxis.

The Mayor was asked on many occasions in Mayors questions by London Assembly Members to conduct proper emissions testing BEFORE he needlessly scrapped taxis, to prove that this strategy would actually reduce pollution.

It is a requirement of Public Law for decisions to be evidence based so it would be reasonable to conduct at least some basic testing of taxis. 

The Mayor point blank refused to conduct any testing whatsoever, instead relying on the fact that the newer vehicles were Euro 5 and therefore would be cleaner, even though this completely contradicted his own written evidence that he had submitted to the Environmental Audit Committee in 2011.

This is a clear example that proper process has been ignored and that the Mayor of London’s Air Quality strategies have not complied with Public Law which is why they have failed.

The Mayors failed strategies will surely be exposed when he appears in person before the Environmental Audit Committee.

The Mayor and TFL have also ignored proper process on many of their decisions in relation to the London Taxi trade which makes these decisions unlawful.

In 2010 in an interview with LBC the Mayor claimed that he could not interfere with a TFL decision about traffic management at the Blackwall Tunnel because if he did and someone died he could be charged with Corporate Manslaughter.

His decisions about Air Quality in London have meant that 25000 people have died; does this mean he should be charged with Corporate Manslaughter?


Coming Soon: TaxiCab The App For Taxi Drivers, By Taxi Drivers

Are TfL Compliance, overstepping their authority? ... by Jim Thomas.

Compliance team badge and billing a driver who had broken down

Are TfL compliance officers exceeding their authority?

Disturbing news has come in to Taxi Leak Towers, from a concern cabby, who believes he's been unfairly treated by a female TfL compliance officer, who, in his opinion, seriously compromised the safety of a member of the traveling public and by her actions, placed a young lady in serious danger.

"What makes this worse, is the fact that as a female and part of a safer travel at night team, you'd think she would have known better" the driver complained.

Earlier this week, our friend was making his way to the Rail Air Freight Terminal rank at Victoria, after seeing tweets from the @UCGup twitter account, that a large queue was building up, after the arrival of the last Gatwick train and there were no taxis. 

As the driver entered Bulleid Way, he was hailed by a young lady who had just stepped off one of the coaches.

As the driver pulled up and put down the window, there was a screech of tires and a white Toyota Prius pulled across the front of the taxi, emulating a scene from the Sweeney.

The passenger door of the Prius swung open and a blonde female passenger jumped out, ran over to the drivers door and stuck her arm through the window. Holding her ID card right in the drivers face, she shouted "TfL compliance"

The Taxi driver told us, at first I thought Jack Regan had come back as a woman. I really expected her to shout "you're nicked sonny Jim"

The driver continued:
"I asked what the problem was and she replied you're forming an unauthorised rank, badge and bill."

"I tried to explain she was stopping me working and had no power of stop, as she was not a warranted officer, but she wasn't having it. By now my prospective passenger had been escorted away, after being approached by a seedy looking tout."

"I told her, that bloody touts taken my job. Why don't you go and check his details and nick him for touting. She casually looked over and said with a huge smile on her face, no roundals, so he's not a minicab."

"No, I said, he's an unlicensed tout and now you've put that young lady in danger." 

"The compliance officer just shrugged her shoulders and said, he could be her father picking her up. I pointed out that if her father was picking her up, she wouldn't have flagged me down."

"She carried on taking notes regardless and recorded all my details and said she was going to report me for forming an unauthorised rank. I told her, you must be mad what makes you think I was ranking here when the RAFT is crying out for cabs?" 

"She replied, there is a line of cabs behind you with their lights on. I then pointed out, she was in fact completely blocking the road and the cabs behind were also on their way to the RAFT rank."

The driver told Taxi Leaks he can't wait to be called up to Palestra about this, as the whole incident will have been captured on the CCTV.

The compliance officer, in his opinion, had grossly over stepped her authority and by her action, placed a member of the public in serious danger.

Little wonder then, that sexual attacks from licensed and unlicensed minicabs are running at an all time high. TfL and the Met are not enforcing illegal plying for hire and because they now have a policy of turning a blind eye, predators are acquiring fresh victims on a scale never seen before in the capital.

The Met a Police have admitted only 1 in 10 victims report  sexual attacks. From April to November last year, there was a probability of over 700 minicab related sexual attacks on young passengers. 

Our Taxi driver friend will be writing to his MP about this incident. 

Editorial Comment:
Tonight we heard that compliance teams were pulling cabs in Euston, for having Demo Stickers on show. Drivers were told by COs that the stickers were illegal.
If these stickers are illegal, then so are Green Tomato Cars body panel stickers showing Green Tomatoes.

If you get pulled, just tell the compliance officers the stickers are not illegal as they are not part of the vehicle, in the same way that Uber's smart phones are considered by TfL not to be part of their vehicles. 


Thursday, June 05, 2014

London Assembly launch investigation into the running of Taxis and Private Hire

Press Release
The London Assembly Transport Committee has today launched an investigation into how Taxi and Private Hire Services help play a part in moving Londoners and visitors around the capital,  how they mesh with other forms of transport, and how they might change to provide a better service in the future.

The Committee will also examining Transport for London’s (TfL) role as licensor and regulator of the trades, including how it tackles touting and other safety concerns.

Over 300,000 trips per day in London are made by taxi or private hire vehicle. This represents around one per cent of total daily journeys in the capital.

There are over 25,000 licensed taxi drivers and over 66,000 licensed private hire drivers in London. Licensed taxis (black cabs) are able to accept street hails, can operate from ranks and must have a taximeter. Private hire vehicles (minicabs) cannot accept street hails or use ranks, and must be pre-booked through a licensed operator.

Chair of the Transport Committee Caroline Pidgeon AM said:

Black cabs are as synonymous with London as Tower Bridge and Big Ben. Alongside Private Hire vehicles they play an important role in providing a service to Londoners and visitors to our capital, particularly for those who don’t own their own car, have mobility impairments or work unsocial hours.

“New technologies have the potential to improve passenger services but also present a challenge to the existing regulation of London’s Taxi and Private Hire trades.

”Our investigation will focus on how both sectors can improve on all aspects of passenger service, including the vital issue of safety. We will want to see how the Mayor and Transport for London are responding to this changing environment and how they can improve their regulation of and services to the industries.”

The investigation will look at a wide range of issues that have an effect on passengers including:

Availability of Taxis and Private Hire vehicles
Safety and security, including touting
Fares and payment options
The Mayor's position on Taxis and Private Hire vehicles
The performance of Transport for London's Taxi and Private Hire Unit
The Committee will hold two formal meetings in public on 9 July and 2 September 2014. People are also invited to submit written views about the issues above to the Transport Committee, London Assembly, City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, London SE1 2AA, or email: .

Editorial Comment:
It's interesting to note that in this release to the press, the GLA have stressed that under current legislation Private Hire must be Pre Booked, something that would see PH ride sharing apps in breach of the law.

With this in mind TfL must be made to answer for ignoring regulation and legislation by licensing Uber. The Buck has to stop with Transport Commissioner Sir Peter Hendy. 

The release also says GLA will look at the a Mayors position on Taxis and private hire. Boris has already made his feelings quite clear when he said Uber was the future and that the app knocks Hailo into a cocked hat.

The Taxi trade are to hold a mass demonstration in Central London, over the continued incompetence and poor administration from TfL as a licensing authority.
The Demo could be just one of many. 

In the words of Winnie Ewing:
Britain used to rule the waves
Now it just waves the rules.

Just Who are TfL Putting Behind The Wheel?

Uber Exposed: Who's Behind The Wheel.

A months-long NBC4 I-Team investigation uncovered some dark truths behind UberX drivers, including convicted felons passing background checks and drivers stealing customers' belongings. 

Joel Grover reports for the NBC4 News 

Uber Driver Kidnaps Passenger In Los Angeles

A 32-year-old driver for the rideshare service Uber was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping a woman and taking her to a motel room, police said on Tuesday.

Frederick Dencer, 32, of Encino, was arrested on suspicion of kidnap for purpose of sexual assault, police said.

He was being held in connection with the incident, reported Monday at 6 a.m. A woman said she had just left a motel room where a man she did not know was lying next to her with his shirt off, said LAPD Lt. Paul Vernon. She didn't know how she got there.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Black Cabs v Uber – Get Tim Fenton

Those of us who dwell around 158 miles from Euston have been – thus far – blissfully unaware of the rumblings caused in London by the arrival of San Francisco based Uber, which claims to “connect riders with drivers” via a smartphone app. You use the app, you pre-pay, a car appears, you get transported from A to B. Simples. Except, in the capital, nothing is that simple.

The London taxi has to be accessible, one of a range of features not offered by supposed competitors

How London got to the place it is in now with black cabs and minicabs is a long and complex story, but it comes down to the former – which can be hailed on the street and may use taxi ranks at major stations and elsewhere – being strictly regulated for purposes of safety, driver suitability, and, best-known, The Knowledge. The London cabby must have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the city’s streets.

Minicabs and their drivers are also regulated, but not to the same degree, and again, there is a good reason for this: fitness for purpose of both vehicle and driver, and a need to be able to assure the punters of their safety, whatever hour of the day or night they travel. All of this may not be the norm in San Francisco – or, indeed, any large city in the USA. This, though, does not deter the ideologically minded.

Yes, the ruckus between cabbies and Uber is, like so much else, being turned into a right-versus-left battle, one of alleged freedom versus supposed servitude. To no surprise, this is the take of the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, who have concluded “Unions buy Labour support in London taxi wars”. Why bother to be knowledgeable when you can remain ignorant?

Take this magnificent slice of drivel: “Guido understands that the GMB union has infiltrated the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, the black cabbies’ trade union, to lobby politicians against Uber”. That’s a straight-A f*** right off in one: the LTDA needs no lessons on organisation or lobbying. London’s cabbies are the premier example of closed-shop protectionism. They manage this by themselves, thanks.

The Fawkes folks’ pals at the Institute of Directors (IoD) have taken a similar tack: “it makes sense for the regulations to adapt to a changing market and changing customer expectations ... the UK’s regulatory framework has been overtaken by digital innovation and, in some areas, is no longer fit for purpose”. And, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here.

One, cabbies work to the rules: they do not make them. And two, despite the claims made by Uber, all they are offering is someone with a satnav and a recent model car. Their drivers may be as safe a proposition as black cabs; that is a decision for the punters to reach. But Uber gives you no more than a decent minicab. And, as for their drivers having The Knowledge ... you have got to be joking.

Technology? Not really. You get what you pay for. You pay less, you get less.

Concerned member of the public complains to TfL about Uber.

Below is a copy of a complaint made to TfL by a concerned member of the public. It should be noted that even members of the public are aware that this service is operating outside the parameters of the legislation and are confused at TfLs continued support of a company, basically breaking the law:

Last Saturday evening I booked a Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) for my wife and I to go a short distance from our home in Mortlake to a local restaurant for dinner.

I made the booking through the mobile phone application (app) ‘Uber’. Having opened  the app, I was advised that there was a vehicle available within 7 minutes which I then ‘requested’. The ‘booking’ consisted in its entirety of these two ‘clicks,’ and at no time was I required to enter either pickup or destination details, or advised of the price.

When the Gentleman arrived he of course had no idea where I wanted to go, and when we told him, he had no idea of the location of the restaurant, and therefore no idea which way to turn his steering wheel.

After some frantic satnav work and verbal directions from us, all undertaken in the middle of a busy road junction, we set off on our short journey. We were not told the price until the journey had ended.

My complaint, therefore, is that when a customer books a Private Hire Vehicle, the driver should arrive knowing the main destination of the journey specified at the time of the booking, and with any fare or estimated fare quoted at the time of the booking, as specified in the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 section 4.(3)(b).

I understand that Private Hire drivers do not undertake the ‘Knowledge of London,’ and are therefore unlikely to arrive at pickups sufficiently able to transport passengers safely and economically without journey details being recorded at the time of booking, prior to despatch.

If a driver passes the Knowledge of London, admired the world over for its exacting difficulty, they are deemed competent to pick up passengers on demand, on the understanding that they will know which way to turn the steering wheel when customers arrive in the Taxi and tell them the destination.

If a driver registers as a Private Hire Driver and/or Operator, for which there is only a cursory topographical test, they will need to have journey details collected at the time of booking, prior to dispatch, in order that when they do arrive to pick up passengers, they are sufficiently informed as to where they are going, and can concentrate on transporting passengers safely.
There is nothing here that is changed in any way by the advent of smart phones, GPS, or any other new technology.

This is about, as it always has been, getting people from A to B safely and in abdicating responsibility and deferring completely unnecessarily to the High Court (why?) TfL is compromising the safety of Londoners  daily.

I would therefore request that TfL explain why Uber passengers are not required to enter journey details at time of booking, prior to despatch as required by the above mentioned Act of Parliament?


Editorial Comment:
While they are at it, perhaps TfL would like to explain 
Why they licensed a PH operator that didn't have a land line to take ore booking as per the 1998 Act
Why they licensed a PH operator that didn't/ still doesn't have a central operating centre where booking were all journey and drivers records are kept for inspection, as per the 1998 Act.
Why this modus operandi wasn't detected in 2012 when the licence was first applied for.

Again we offer space on this blog, should TfL wish to explain their actions to the 25,000 licensed Taxi drivers and the 65,000 Private hire drivers who have adhered strictly to the legislation set down by active Parliament.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Tottenham Court Road to be overhauled in £26m revamp

Tottenham Court Road will be re-designed with new public spaces under a £26m scheme
Tottenham Court Road will be reserved for buses and bicycles only during daylight hours from Monday to Saturday.

Camden Council wants to make the central London street safer and boost business ahead of the opening of a new Crossrail station in 2018.

The current one-way system will be replaced with tree-lined, two-way traffic flows to help cut congestion.

Wider pavements, cycle lanes and safer pedestrian crossings will also be installed as part of the £26m plan.

Only buses, cycles and local access will be allowed on Tottenham Court Road from 08:00 to 19:00 Monday to Saturday under the scheme announced by Camden Council.

Four new public spaces will be created including a new pedestrianised plaza at the foot of Centre Point next to the new Crossrail station.

A new park will be built in Alfred Place and wider pavements and direct pedestrian crossings will be installed on Tottenham Court Road and New Oxford Street.

Tottenham Court Road will be overhauled to reduce congestion
Protected cycle lanes will be installed on Gower Lane and University College London will receive an extra wide crossing.

A new network of safe cycle routes will connect Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia with the West End.

Camden Council said the current one-way system on Tottenham Court Road and Gower Street increased journey times and caused confusion for bus passengers whose bus routes start and end on different streets.

Camden Councillor Phil Jones said: "Our ambitious West End Project will transform the Tottenham Court Road area into one of London's premier commercial, cultural and academic districts."

Camden Council will hold a public consultation on the changes from 9 June until 18 July.

Editorial Comment:
We have seen disaster after disaster from Camden in this area.  
Who's idea was it to make it a no left turn from Hamstead Road, onto Euston Road?

Do Camden Council believe that taking this busy three lane one way street, extending the paved area reducing capacity and making it two way, one in each direction, will reduce traffic congestion?

We were promised by this council before, that reducing Torrington Place to one way with a large segregated cycle lane would reduce congestion. In fact it caused extensive traffic build in Tottenham Court Road.

This new scheme will affect our trade dramatically, but will our representative groups bothered to contribute to the public consultation?

Putney Bridge a To Close For 3 Months. £1.5million project to start on Monday 14th July .

Repairs to Putney Bridge mean it will close to all vehicle traffic on Monday, July 14.

However, the predicted six month closure timetable has been reduced. Now, engineers are saying the works could be completed in around half that time.

Most of the £1.5m repair programme will be carried out during the school summer holidays. This timetable should also ensure that the bridge will reopen in time for Christmas.

While the works are ongoing pedestrians will still be able to cross the bridge, as will cyclists, although they will need to dismount.

Buses will operate a shuttle service from both ends of the bridge. This means that passengers will need to cross it on foot to carry on their journeys.

Motorists will still be able to use other river crossings, while others are expected to switch to public transport. People who make only short journeys north and south of the river may take advantage of the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme which was extended to Putney and other northern parts of the borough in December 2013.

The timing of the repairs has been drawn up in close consultation with Transport for London, neighbouring highway authorities, local amenity groups, business representatives and other partners to ensure a high level of co-ordination with other major roadworks in south and west London.

The programme has also been drawn up to avoid impacting on the Wimbledon tennis championships, while the works have been scheduled so that August’s Ride London cycle event, which attracts thousands of professional and amateur bike riders, can still be accommodated.

Council leader Ravi Govindia said: “These works are absolutely vital to protect the internal fabric of the bridge and ensure it lasts another 100 years.

“Our primary concern is to get this important job done efficiently and quickly so that there is the least amount of disruption to residents, businesses and the wider travelling public.”

The decision to fully close the bridge to all traffic – rather than have a partial closure – was backed by a clear majority of both residents and businesses during the public consultation late last year. The public’s preferred option was getting the job done in the shortest possible time and at the lowest cost to taxpayers.

Cllr Govindia added: “I am pleased that we have dramatically shortened the closure period and ensured that not only will the works be carried out when traffic levels are at their lowest, but that these vital repairs should be completed well before the busy Christmas rush, which is good news for local traders. Unfortunately a repair job on this scale to an important river crossing means that some degree of disruption is unavoidable, and we are of course very sorry for the inconvenience it will cause, but we have worked very hard to keep this to the absolute minimum. And we are giving people as much advance warning as we can so that they have plenty of time to plan alternative routes or look at using other forms of transport to get across the river.”

Public meetings and drop-in sessions are also being arranged so that people can find out more about the project and posters will also be placed on bus stops across Putney to inform passengers about the changes.

June 2, 2014

TfL Press Release, Formal process underway for High Court ruling on taximeters

Editorial Comment:
Again, TfL have skirted round the the outside of a major problem facing the Licensed Taxi trade.

The major objection to the Uber app is that it is in contravention to the  Private Hire Vehicles Act 1998. This app puts passengers in direct contact with driver which is in effect a direct hail. As this hail is not a pre booking, then the driver has accepted the ride by plying for hire. The present legislation only permits licensed Hackney carriages to ply for hire and so, the PH driver using the app, is illegally plying for hire.

A note for consideration is that in the Law Commission report, the powers to be want to do away with the words "Hackney Carriage" from all legislation. Bit of a coincidence don't you think.

Uber applied to TfLTPH in 2012 and under the directorship of John Mason, brushed aside much of the legal requirements and issued them with an operators licence, even though they had no operating centre or land line to take bookings.

After news that the Taxi trade were to mount a massive united trade demo over TfL's incompetent handling of Taxi and private hire  licensing, they have announced that they are to seek a high court interpretation of the word taximeter. Believing this would be enough to stem the upcoming demo, they have asked the trade to wait until a legal definition has been made.

The meter issue is only a small part of the Uber saga. Even if a judge were to rule that the drivers phone is being used as a meter, Uber will just change the pricing structure and carry on regardless.
Below is TfL's latest press release on the meter issue. 

Formal process underway for High Court ruling on taximeters
Transport for London (TfL), which regulates and licenses the taxi and private hire trades in the capital in the interests of passengers, has now begun the formal process for securing a High Court ruling on taximeters.

Formal 'letters before action' have now been issued to Uber and the main trade bodies - the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association and the Licensed Private Hire Car Association - proposing that they will be called to take part in the action being brought by TfL.

TfL is seeking a High Court ruling on whether smart phones that use GPS technology to measure the time and distance of a journey and then receive information about fares comply with current law on 'taximeters', which can only be used in London by taxis.

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 and to ensure there is a level playing field for all operators.

TfL set out its provisional view that smart phones used by private hire drivers do not constitute the equipping of a vehicle with a ‘taximeter’. However, given the level of concern among the trade, and the fact that some of the legislation in this area is unclear and able to be interpreted in various ways, TfL is inviting the High Court to give a binding determination on this issue.

This move has been welcomed by the pre-eminent authority on taxi law in England and Wales, James Button.

James Button said: “The law on this issue is currently uncertain and open to interpretation. It is therefore a sensible approach to seek a binding ruling from the High Court, where all parties can present their views and the Court will clarify the position.”

Leon Daniels, TfL’s Managing Director of Surface Transport, said: “The process for securing a High Court ruling on the issue of taximeters is now underway. We hope that London's taxi drivers and private hire drivers and operators recognise that this is the sensible approach and will work with us.

"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, but their use must be legal and on the issue of taximeters the law is unclear.  We have taken a provisional view, and a binding High Court ruling will bring clarity on this issue for all parties."


Editorial Notes:

Notice that TFL say:
"This move has been welcomed by the pre-eminent authority on taxi law in England and Wales, James Button."

And yet when we informed LTPH that we had contacted Mr Button and in his opinion Minicabs/Private Hire could not stand and wait to be hired, we were told he was not a judge, he was only a Derbyshire solicitor. Now he's suddenly a pre-eminent authority on taxi law in England and Wales

Leon Daniels announces:
We welcome developments that make life easier for passengers

Does that include bending the law to make it "fit the purpose" Leon?
Silly me I thought the wording was PH operators had to be "fit for purpose".

Monday, June 02, 2014

Tube union official Mark Harding found not guilty of picket Jim Thomas

Hammersmith Magistrates Court this morning, RMT tube union official Mark Harding, was found not guilty of charges brought against him under section 241 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 as amended by Schedules 7 and 17 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 during the last phase of tube strike action.

Mick Cash, RMT Acting General Secretary, said:
This is an important victory, not just for RMT but for the whole trade union movement, and has significant implications for every single trade unionist taking action and seeking to picket effectively at the workplace. “RMT always said that this prosecution was politically motivated and was just another attempt to tighten the noose of the anti-trade union laws around the necks of those sections of the working class prepared to stand up and fight. “It shouldn’t be forgotten that this prosecution arose from the dispute on London Underground over savage cuts to jobs, services and safety and that fight continues.

Just how much power have TfL got when it comes to intimidating the work force. Mark Harding was charged under the "Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 200".

Let's not forget the letter which was sent out, signed by Director of Taxis and Private Hire John Mason, to 5 drivers who took part in the Whitehall demonstration. 

The so-called "Parliament Square 5" received the letter on the 17 August 2012, a month after the demonstration and were asked to attend Palestra, after being caught up in the gridlock of the Parliament Square Demo.
TfL used anti terrorist  police officers to intimidate cabbies involved in a peaceful protest against Olympic lane issue in the three Central London Demos

Not the first time we've seen bully boy tactics from TfL Cab Enforcement officers:

This cabbie suffered a broken wrist for the heinous crime of beeping in his hooter

One has to wonder what TfL and the Met have in store for the taxi trade, on the 11 of June in Trafalgar Square.