Saturday, July 26, 2014

Free breakfast for cabbies: Letter to Editor.

Dear Jim,
I’m working with White Hat Bakery, who have a pop up café this summer at The Undercroft, Banqueting House on Whitehall. On the morning of 29th July White Hat will be giving away breakfast goody bags to all London cab drivers who pop in which will include homemade filled focaccia, sweet and savoury Chelsea buns, and a slice of cake.
I was wondering if you could help me get this information out to your loyal twitter followers? We are on twitter at @DTbanter, and will be sending out information on the event with the hashtag #breakfastforcabbies. Or please feel free to email me back if you would like any more information.
Kind regards,


Operation Simco: Taxi Flash Mob Demo 25/07/ Jim Thomas.

Just before midnight last night, hundreds of London Taxi drivers arrived in St James Square for a pre Flash Mob Demo meet up. The word had been put out via twitter's @TaG_Hit_Squad and @Flash_Demo accounts over the past week, with the final destination of the hit kept a secret till the very last minute. 

A forward command post was set up in Wardour Street, adjacent to the W Hotel. The target, the area around Wardour and Gerrard Street, normally infested and crawling with minicabs, a cesspit of illegal plying for hire and touting. As the barriers lowered into the Tarmac, with military precision, the signal was given and London's finest made their way to the location en masse.

This operation has been our most ambitious so far, with many believing it would be impossible to make much of a mark at this location. 

It didn't take long for the area to grind to a halt. The knock on affect turned Regent Street and Piccadilly Circus into a virtual car park. Drivers stood outside their Taxis, engaging with the public, explaining why the action was taking place.

The format of the Twitter Action Group (TaG) Hit Squad has in the past proved highly effective and had substantial results. Drivers from every section of the trade stood together in true unity. No one caring which org, or what colour lanyard, no egotistic leaders bleating about the size of their membership. Just concerned drivers ready to stand up and be counted.

Places the trade through had been completely lost to the touts have been clawed back.

Successive hits on Swallow Street has seen a marked decline in the number if unbooked touts lining up in the Regent Street bus lane and has resulted in the placement of the Heddon Street rank and Marshals being present on Friday nights.

Other successes in Clapham a High Street (new marshalled rank) and Smiths in Charterhouse Street has won a great deal of our work back from the touts.

Most notable by their absence last night were the authorities. With minicab related serious sexual assaults running at an all time high, compliance from police and TfL is almost non-existent.

We must not rest on our laurels, we have to make the authorities sit up and take notice.

Please follow the; 
@TaG_Hit_Squad and @Flash_Demo
for information of the next Flash Mob Hit.

Taxi Leaks would like to take this opportunity to thank Andy Simco for all the hard work put in to make last nights hit a success. His dedication to making London a safer place is inspirational.

And a special thanks to ever driver who put themselves out to attend. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

20mph But Not For Cyclists: Bus Users Fear Cyclists Clogging Bus Lanes: Should Cycling Helmets Be Mandatory? Jim Thomas

London Council to push for borough Wide 20mph speed limit. But it's one rule for Motorists and another for Cyclists.

The London Borough of Southwark this week dismissed reports it wants to enforce 20mph speed limits on cyclists.

Confusion about the council’s intentions emerged after an objector to the council’s proposed borough-wide 20mph speed limit said the choice of the word ‘vehicle’ in the traffic management order should be changed to ‘motor vehicle’ to reflect the fact that the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 governing speed limits specifically refers to the latter. 

But Southwark defended the existing wording, saying: “The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 does indeed refer to ‘motor vehicles’. 

However, since 1984 cycling as a modal share has grown substantially and the council receives a number of complaints from residents particularly pedestrians about the excessive speed of cyclists. Therefore it would be inappropriate to treat cyclists differently to any other form of traffic and effectively tie the hands of police when it comes to speed enforcement.”

Ralph Smyth, the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s senior transport campaigner, who is a barrister and a resident of Southwark, told LTT: “Southwark is seeking to include pedal cycles within the scope of its borough-wide 20mph speed limit. But the legal power it is relying on – section 84 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 – only enables highway authorities to create local speed limits for motor vehicles.

So the order is ultra vires – outside its powers – and this risks making the borough 20mph limit unenforceable for motor vehicles too.”

Smyth added: “You might expect to hear about such a hare-brained proposal in some far-flung town where cycling has largely died out. It is really surprising, however, to find it close to the beating heart of the mayor’s cycle revolution in a borough that claims to want to be the best in London for cycling.”

The objector to Southwark’s speed limit order said: “It is not realistic to expect those in control of all non-motorised vehicles to know their speed accurately, and therefore it is unreasonable for them to be subject to maximum speed limits. For example, a cyclist travelling downhill could easily but unknowingly exceed 20mph even without pedalling and it would be unjust for them to receive punishment for doing so.”

A DfT spokesman told LTT that the only mechanism by which cyclists could be prosecuted for speeding was via Section 28 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, which covers “dangerous cycling”. 

Southwark this week sought to clear up the confusion. Mark William, Southwark’s cabinet member for transport, said: 
“The council sees the establishment of a 20mph borough as a significant step forward in ensuring the safety of all road users not least cyclists and pedestrians. To achieve this we feel that all vehicles should limit their speed to 20 mph.

“The report to determine the statutory objections relating to a borough-wide 20mph speed limit makes it clear that orders made under Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 can apply to motor vehicles only and as such any prosecution by the police for breaches of the speed limit under that Act would be limited to motorised vehicles only. 

Accordingly the traffic order will be amended to make reference to ‘motorised vehicles’ only.”

Other Cycling News:
Bus users fear cycle lane snarl-up

London Travelwatch is pressing Transport for London to quantify the delays that buses will experience from a proposed new cycle superhighway.

TfL is consulting on plans for superhighway 5 through Vauxhall and a redesign of the junction outside Oval Tube station. The plans include a 1.4km two-way segregated cycle track from Oval over Vauxhall Bridge to Pimlico, which will be created by taking road space away from general traffic and buses.

“TfL’s documentation gives great detail about the benefits it sees from the proposals,” 
said Stephen Locke, chair of the passenger watchdog. 
“It also acknowledges that there will be some delays to bus passengers because the space available to buses will be reduced. But it doesn’t give bus passengers any idea of just how much longer their journey will take.” 

Locke has also voiced concern that plans to install bus stop bypasses on the route, will create conflicts between cyclists and passengers.

Mandatory helmet law wouldn’t discourage cycling, says Transport Research Laboratories:

Helmets: TRL says attitudes to helmet wearing more favourable:

There is no evidence to support the belief that compulsory helmet-wearing for cyclists would lead to a big drop in cycling, consultant TRL said this week.

TRL’s intervention in the helmet debate came as Jersey became the first jurisdiction in the UK to pass a helmet law, making it compulsory for child cyclists under 14 to wear a helmet. Parents face a £50 fine if their child is caught cycling without one.

    Source: Transport Extra.


Desoto Cabs Want To Scrap Their £5.4m Yearly Medallion Cost In Bid To Compete With Uber.

San Fransico cab company president Hansu Kim, says he's ready to switch the way his business is regulated and thereby compete, and defeat, the likes of Uber and Lyft.

DeSoto Cab may soon enter the disruption business.
The taxi company, one of San Francisco's largest, may exploit the same "loopholes in the regulatory process" that allow Uber and Lyft to exist and thrive, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

Hansu Kim, president of DeSoto, says that his 204-vehicle fleet, part of the 2,000 or so regulated and permitted taxis in San Francisco, is "bleeding money" -- thanks to the "different" rules that apply to taxis and to Uber and Lyft.

For example: the transportation network companies -- the fancy name for what the so-called "ride-share" companies do -- don't have "taxicab medallions" from the city, a requirement that costs DeSoto $5.4 million a year, the newspaper reported.

If DeSoto switched to a "charter-party carrier" license, or TCP, they'd be able to do the same thing as Uber and Lyft -- and spend much less money in order to do it.

Kim is sanguine about his chances against the ride-share giants: " Given the same rules, I'll beat them all day long," he told the newspaper.

That way, he could compete with the "ride-share" companies -- and still provide a regulated product.

More Than 30 Maryland Cab Companies Suing Uber

More than 30 Maryland cab companies are suing Uber, saying the company is hampering their ability to do business.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Baltimore Circuit Court, reported the Baltimore Sun. The lawsuit claims Uber's surge-pricing model is similar to price fixing, and the car service is creating an unfair marketplace.

Taxi companies have begun to fight Uber, a popular ride-sharing company that uses an app to summon rides. 

In D.C., taxis affiliated with the D.C. Taxi Operators Association closed down Pennsylvania Avenue last month in a protest against Uber that gridlocked traffic.

Virginia has barred Uber from operating in the state, and in San Francisco, the head of one of the oldest cab companies in the city has said that: 
"traditional taxis may not survive 18 months in the face of competition from Uber."

Maryland has become a new battlefront for the dispute, with cab companies lobbying against proposals to regulate Uber differently than cab companies.

The cab companies claim that services like Uber aren't regulated the same way that taxis are. Uber has countered that the ride-sharing model isn't a taxi service, and pointed to the consumer demand for the product.

Two of the companies that sued in Maryland -- Barwood Tax and Sun Cab -- are based in Montgomery County.

An Uber spokesperson says it's too early to comment on this lawsuit, but the company will defend itself if it has to.

    Source NBC: Bay Area.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Has the Mayor's unlawful Taxi Age Limit, put the public at risk? Jim Thomas.

Literally thousands of perfectly good London Taxis, with many more years service left in them, with better emissions than current models are being taken off the road, under the Mayors unlawful 15 year age limit scheme.

The fact is, it's a requirement of Public Law that the decisions of the Mayor and TFL are evidenced based.

The Mayor and TFL conducted no testing whatsoever to prove that scrapping older taxis was a valid strategy.

After singling out Taxis as responsible for almost 30% of the recorded air pollution levels on London's roads (again without evidence) the Mayor and TfL announced that a fifteen year age limit on Taxis would be bought in to combat the ever increasing pollution levels. 

Since the Age Limit was introduced in 2012 many thousands of FX4s and TX1s have been unnecessarily removed from service as licensed Taxicabs.

There has, however been no improvement in pollution levels. In fact it's got worse.

The Defra report, released in May 2013, showed that newer taxis are no cleaner than older taxis (as for f-NO2, they were actually creating more pollution).


But it gets a lot worse, as there is a more threatening problem:
The Mayor's Taxi Age limit has thrown up a major new problem and that is a ready supply of cheap London Taxis. Under current legislation these vehicles can legal be sold on to anyone, complete with TfL licence plate.

A growing number of old vehicles, complete with TfL plate are being seeing plying for hire on London's streets. Amazingly, the same regulations apply to licensed PHVs which also can be sold on complete with TfL roundel, to anyone with the cash including sexual predators, who may be using these vehicles to obtain fresh victims by touting outside clubs and night venues.

And it gets worse:
Currently both the Met and TfL do everything in their power to manipulate and suppress the true cab related, serious sexual assault figures. 
It's alleged, if a victim is raped or sexually assaulted in an unlicensed minicab, it's not recorded as cab related. It has also been alleged that if penetration doesn't take place, then in many cases the attack is recorded as common assault. 

TfL's record of non-enforcement of PHVs is a major contribution to the sexual assault statistics. 

Solution is simple:
1. Scrap the Mayors age limit scheme and return to the requirement of requesting all TfL plates and roundels be surrendered when vehicles (Taxis and minicabs) are sold on. 
2. Return to the requirement of change of ownership inspections at NSL centres.
3. It must be a requirement that licensed Taxi and PHV owners be fit and proper to enable them to hold a licence.

This would not cure the problem completely, but it would take many unlawfully plated vehicles out of the system and would make it harder for predators to blend in, within the ranks of licensed touts and clipboard Johnnies. 

As the Rape and Sexual Assault figures continue to spiral out of control, both the Mayor and TfL's transport commissioner ( I am not a moral compass) Sir Peter Hendy, should be held to account for there disgraceful non-action on this issue.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Letters to Taxi Leaks Editor, Jim Thomas.

First letter to Jim was in reply to Leon Daniels press release yesterday:

Star Letter:
OK Leon, as the regulator you have given us a chapter an verse lesson in how (in your opinion) Uber are not doing anything illegal, as the phone app they use isn't
permanently fixed to the vehicle.

Thus (in your opinion) creating the loophole for Uber to retain their operating licence. 

We see you're desperation for getting a judicial decision before a judge chosen specially by TfL.

Would you now like to explain in a letter to every licensed taxi driver:

The legalities why PH vehicles are allowed to sit outside every bar and club throughout the capital unregulated by the police and your own enforcement officers?
And further explain WHERE in any legislation it says that TfL as the regulatory body have the authority to turn a blind eye to illegal PH ranks operating across the capital ?

A judicial decision isn't required to answer this question Leon - there is plenty of case law that proves this activity is illegal - and plenty of evidence to prove that TfL is a corrupt regulatory body that is clearly NOT FIT FOR PERPOSE! 

Name and badge number withheld at request of the driver.

Dear Jim
I'd like to bring to the attention of the trade the way some minicabs firms are now flaunting the PH conditions of fitness. A regular sight in the Merton, Kingston area are cars from an operator called KB cars, with livery on the front door panels. 

I understand that some vehicles with ultra low emission vehicles have been given special dispensation to have some firm of body livery but KB cars are virtually all ordinary cars, such as VW Sharron, Avensis and Vitos.

I have complained to TfL but I'm still waiting for any sort of acknowledgement. I believe the company operational centre is at 225 Kingston Road, New Malden.

Thanks JP, we will be bringing this to the attention of Policing and On Street Enforcement ASAP.

Camden Cookouts
Camden council, in their ultimate wisdom have decided to reintroduce family cookouts or as we like to call them, barbecues.

They said:

Many people living in Camden do not have their own gardens and we want as many people as possible to enjoy our parks over the summer. We will only be allowing portable, reusable charcoal barbecues, disposable or gas barbecues will not be allowed.

Full BBQ guidelines and bins for cooled charcoal will be provided in our parks and open spaces where BBQs prove most popular.

This will be trialed for one year.


A refreshing change, after Taxis persistently accused of blocking the cycle lane at Findsbury Park Station Forecourt by @TfLTPH spin doctors.

Regards Gerald Coba

Monday, July 21, 2014

Minicab firms to protest new law, in Paris Taxi Wars.

The war in Paris between traditional taxis and private minicab (VTC) firms shows no sign of being resolved. After protesting taxi drivers caused traffic chaos earlier this year, Monday will see VTC drivers demonstrate in central Paris against a new law.

First it was the traditional taxi drivers in Paris who protested against what they saw as unfair competition from private hire minicabs (Véhicle de Tourisme avec Chauffeurs).

Now the tide has turned with minicab drivers set to demonstrate on Monday against a proposed government law aimed at ending the increasingly bitter battle between the two versions of taxis.

On Monday drivers from the private hire car firms like Snapcar, Chauffeur-privé, LeCab, Allocab et Supershuttle, will descend on Place Vauban in the seventh arrondissement to demonstrate.

The VTC drivers are angry at various amendments in a new law, that has already been given the green light by the National Assembly,  that was put forward after taxi drivers had complained of unfair competition from firms like Uber.

But now it is the VTC drivers who say the new rules will leave them at a disadvantage and threaten their livelihoods.

One amendment forces VTC drivers to return to a private garage or to the company’s office in between each journey, meaning they can’t park up by the side of the road.

The law also bars them from using a geo-localisation system on smartphones, like the system used by Uber, whereas taxi drivers will be able to use the technology in future.

“It’s incredible, it’s scandalous. We cannot work in these conditions,” Yan Hascoet, from the union FFTPR told Le Parisien newspaper.

Hascoet said the law will simply lead to increased costs for the VTC companies.

Taxi driver unions on the other hand defended the new law.

“Parking on public roads is reserved only for taxi drives. That’s already in the law, but VTC drivers don’t respect it.

The new law, that was inspired by a report by MP Thomas Thévenoud, will be discussed by the Senate this week

TfL Notice 7/14:...Letter to all drivers and private hire operators.

Taxi and Private Hire smartphone apps in London Letter to all drivers and private hire operators

This notice provides an update to all taxi and private hire drivers and private hire operators regarding the use of smartphone apps in London. The content of this notice has also been sent directly to all licensed drivers and operators.

The taxi and private hire trades play a vital role in London’s transport system, carrying over half a million passengers around the Capital every day.

I am conscious that the growth in the use of smart phones is changing the way many of us organise our lives, with passengers and drivers increasingly using apps that serve London’s taxi and private hire market. While apps offer tremendous potential benefits, TfL as the regulator has a duty to ensure that the way in which they operate complies with the licensing and regulatory framework in London. Over the last few months you will have seen a lot in the media about this, in particular about the Uber app, and I this note explains our current position on the use of smart phone technology.

As you will know, private hire vehicles in London are prohibited from being equipped with taximeters. However, it is not unlawful for a private hire operator to charge its customers on the basis of time taken and distance travelled in respect of journeys. TfL’s view is that smartphones that transmit location information (based on GPS data) between vehicles and operators, have no operational connection with the vehicles, and receive information about fares which are calculated remotely from the vehicle, are not taximeters within the meaning of the legislation (section 11 of the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998).

The main taxi and private hire trade organisations fundamentally disagree with how the law should be applied to the use of smart phones in this way. TfL has no specific vested interest in which interpretation is correct, other than that we would like clarity so we can regulate the industry and enforce effectively where necessary and appropriate.

In order for us to resolve this issue as quickly and fairly as possible, allowing all interested parties to make representations, we consider the most appropriate way forward is to invite the High Court to issue a declaration as to how the law should be applied in this area.

However, we are now aware that the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) has commenced private prosecutions in the Magistrates’ Court against a number of individual drivers who use the Uber app. These cases will delay the resolution of this issue as the High Court cannot be invited to issue a declaration while there are ongoing criminal proceedings. Nor will the private prosecutions provide a definitive legal position on this issue, as the decisions of one Magistrates’ Court are not binding on another.

Rather than resolving this issue quickly and fairly, we believe that the LTDA actions are prolonging the inherent uncertainty on this issue and are unfairly pursuing a small number of licensed private hire drivers which we are of the view is not in the public interest.

It would be preferable for the LTDA to withdraw their private prosecutions and work with us to get the issues before the High Court as soon as possible in order to get a definitive resolution.

Record keeping and recording of destination
The Licensed Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA) assert that the regulations relating to record keeping for private hire operators require a destination to be recorded before the commencement of a journey on all occasions.

TfL is of the view that the law as it currently stands only requires operators to record a destination if a passenger specifies one at the time of booking and not otherwise. 

We do however agree that these regulations are unclear on this point. 

The power to make the regulations is now vested in TfL. We therefore intend to consult on potential revisions to the regulations to provide clarity and help ensure the highest standards of public safety and customer service are maintained. 

More details of this consultation will be publicised later this year.

Uber’s operating model
Concerns have been raised regarding the nature of Uber’s business operating model in London. While it is right that TfL takes into account the reasoned views of others as to how the law should be applied, our role as regulator is to reach an independent view of the law, without improper influence, taking into account all relevant considerations. 

In April we carried out TfL’s largest ever compliance inspection and at the time of that inspection Uber met all requirements for a private hire operation in relation to record keeping. We have also been in extensive correspondence with Uber to understand precisely how their business model operates in London.

Following this review, we have reached the conclusion that the way Uber operates in London is in accordance with the law as it applies to private hire operators and specifically in the way bookings are accepted and invited. 

However, TfL is aware of one incidence where it appears that a driver may have carried out private hire bookings for Uber using a vehicle without insurance and that matter is being dealt with appropriately.

Technology continues to advance quickly and we will continue to monitor developments in way that the market develops in London to ensure that operators and drivers remain compliant.

I would like to emphasise that TfL continues to recognise, and defend, the important distinction between the services provided by taxis and private hire vehicles. TfL is therefore continuing to defend the right of taxis to utilise bus lanes in the ongoing litigation including at the European Court of Justice.

Leon Daniels

Managing Director – Surface Transport
Transport for London

Editorial Comment: from Jim Thomas Editor, Taxi Leaks.

TfL have always been aware that Uber did not/does not comply with conditions of fitness as PH operator.

TfL have bent over backwards to accommodate this billion dollar company. Uber have unfairly been given over two years grace, to get their London operation in order.

On the 19th of June 2014 Garret Emmerson stated Uber had changed certain terms and conditions with their relationship regarding passengers, but that TfL were still not happy with certain aspects of  Uber's London operation. 

Even so, they still refused to suspend Uber's operating licence.

If Uber were a Licensed Taxi company, they would not have a current licence.

On the 19 June 2014, Grant Davis, chairman of the LCDC, said they were talking with the LTDA, about a second date for further action....but we've heard nothing since.

Our French comrades threatened to block the airport on a weekly basis and now their licensing authority has recently banned Uber from operating in Paris.

The issue regarding Uber using a smart phone as a meter should never have gone to court. 
It will change nothing, win or lose.

The issue we should have gone to court on is that smart phone apps are not a pre booking, they are instant hails. By accepting instant hails Uber drivers are plying for hire, something that at present only licensed Taxi drivers can accept.

This could change shortly as the Law Commision want to scrap the licensed Taxi trades sole right to ply for hire.

What are our trade orgs waiting for, what are they scared of?

TfL are not operating fairly, clearly or transparent. 
They operate more like a private corporation than a licensing authority, with scant disregard to and total bias against the licensed Taxi trade.