Saturday, November 08, 2014

They Think Its All a Semtex.

Listening to LBC yesterday, I was interested in a debate that presenter James O' Brien was having, about yet another claim that Uber were taking our trade to the cleaners.

Apparently, although I haven't seen the piece myself, the origins of it came from an article written by seasoned journalist and former MP, Matthew Parris.
The article was titled:
It’s the end of the road if black cabs don’t wise up

By Matthew Parris.
As I say, I haven't read the article myself, but listening to LBC, it appears that Mr Parris reckoned that with Uber around, anybody contemplating years on the Knowledge, must be crazy.
Many journalists would have had an even superior academic education than James O'Brien, but I must say, I have rarely heard anybody in modern life, who is such a wordsmith. O'Brien has a thorough and enviable grip of English Language, and I admire his constant encyclopaedic use of it throughout his programmes.
My only criticism of him, is that on the rare days he finds himself on the back foot of a debate, he will use this honed language skill to intimidate a lesser educated opponent. That said, James is still young, and I wager he will mature into a leading journalist.
I digress.
One thing I will say about James O'Brien, is that not only is he a great supporter of our profession himself, but he understands perfectly, the criteria we have to adhere to and the process of how we go about being part of London's Finest. I am grateful for that.
However, during his programme today, I feel that he, along with Matthew Parris, were missing the trick.
I phoned the station and tried to get on air, but sadly, time ran out before I could do.

The thing is, there is an enormous amount of hype surrounding this Uber firm. Currently, they appear to be enjoying the notoriety of their set up. They have rubbed officials up the wrong way worldwide now.  Despite this and with around 50 million dollars of investment, and an awful big slice of it from Goldmann Sachs, the Uber boardroom are naturally convinced they are on to a good thing.
Apparently, a large proportion of the public, and an ever increasing amount of journalists, are bemused why on earth then, are people still signing up or continuing with the London Knowledge ?
After all, Uber drivers have Sat Navs, don't they ? No need for the old fashioned Knowledge test then ? They (currently) also operate on a "surge price" system, which apparently means that they alter their prices according to market demand.
James O'Brien personally commented that he was having a drink with his wife and friends in a pub in Herne Hill, and when closing time came around all his friends dialled Uber. It appears that Matthew Parris and friends did the same, and were betting on which Uber car arrived first.

The Spectator's Lara Prendergast is on record as saying that Uber is for Londoners, and Black Cabs are for tourists.

Lara continues........"The black cab’s plight is self-made. Technology is increasingly being used to offer customers better, more reliable and cheaper options, and any industry ignores this at its peril. In the battle between iconic and innovative, it’s hard to feel too nostalgic when you’re being offered a better deal. Capitalism is alive on the roads of London – and for a 24-year-old girl trying to get round the city, that’s great news."
Really Lara?  Sounds great, doesn't it ?   Perfect even ! I'm almost tempted to agree with you and Matthew and you other hacks, but  I wager that you may find that it is not such great news after all !
I will tell you why I think you fair weather friends have got it wrong.
First of all, The great London Taxi Trade have been innovative from day one in technology. In fact, we have led the way. We were instrumental in the use of GPRS vehicle locators incorporating computers and satellite.
We also have our own Apps, which do everything that Uber Apps can do.
However, due to Uber's massive financial backing, they have attempted to ride roughsod over established Hackney Carriage Law, which clearly states that Hackney Carriages (ie Black Cabs) are the only service licensed by law to use a taxi meter, which the Uber App certainly mimics.

Now, knowing what vivid imaginations you journalists have from birth, I want you to image a scenario.
Close your eyes. Lay back and relax. Pretend you are relaxed in the back seat of your favourite Uber driver's Prius on your way home, guided by a person who was working in Lidls last week, relying totally on a Tom Tom.
On your way home in this "cheaper option" that you are so chuffed to find yourself in, I want you to imagine that for 6 months, there will be no London Black Cabs in London, whatsoever. Your Uber ideology can really come to the fore now. With 50 million in the bank, expanding the Uber Fleet and depleting Aldi of their entire workforce, should present no problem !
So that's the scenario. Not a Black Cab on the road, and Uber have the lot to themselves. What do you see ?
Let me tell you what you would see. Utter and total meltdown ! Despite their wealth, Uber or any of the other fraudulent, one trick imposters come to that, would never, ever cope!
I will guarantee you that Londoners would definitely not see the London Taxi Trade as vehicles for tourists then ! 
Furthermore, I wager London Taxi Drivers would be begged to come back with a financial incentive !
I'm sure you are all aware of how stressful it is to be going to a job interview, a court appearance, a funeral, a christening, etc ?
How much more would your blood pressure rise if the person who picked you up had not the faintest idea of where he was driving, other than listening to a navigation app that had not updated?
Five to Six years learning London isn't demanded by my professional trade for nothing.
It costs about £100 to have a white filling in your teeth done. It takes the dentist doing it 6 years to train and become proficient enough to carry out the procedure.
If I got the backing of Merryl Lynch to do these fillings for 30 quid each, and had a dental surgery on every street corner in London and taking the instruction from a DVD on a laptop, would you let me do yours, Lara?
How about you Matthew ?  
After all, going on the 24 year old young girl's advice that ignoring the cheaper option is perilous for industry, I expect Lara to be first in the queue for her 30 quid filling, as I routed around in her mouth whilst watching the DVD for the procedure.

You can awake now. It was just a dream !  Luckily for you journalists, there are indeed ample black cabs in London. And even more fortunate for you, each and every one of my colleagues have been thoroughly tested on millions of roads, streets, back doubles, parks, synagogues, hospitals, pubs, clubs and newspaper offices.
Notwithstanding, our meters are meticulously governed by HMRC and Transport For London. We are medically fit, with an enhanced Criminal Records check. Our vehicles are inspected to the highest standards TWICE a year, insured to platinum standards and our integrity and judgement tested regularly.
Don't kid yourself. Our Iconic trade is as popular, loved and respected more today than it ever was before. Sure we have had our problems, what industry or profession hasn't ?
The Law Commissioners, Hendy, TFL, and all the other knockers may very well underestimate us and make the playing field uneven.
But I will bet my mortgage on it, that way before the festive season kicks in at any minute now, Matthew Parris's and Lara Prendergast's little mitts will be stuck up in the cold night air in our capital, just praying that the next iconic yellow light, stops for them.
And that goes for millions of other Londoners too. The London Taxi Trade hasn't lasted almost 400 years due to luck. Our training is steadfast, our service is exemplary and we are here to stay !
By the way, I understand there's a cheap dentist in the city somewhere, doing fillings for a 15 quid ! Be warned though, the white wears off and the silver shows through within a fortnight !
Know what I mean ?
8829 Semtex. (Licensed, Qualified And Proud To Be Professional)

Friday, November 07, 2014

TfL Announce Consultation For Taxi Tariff Changes, April 2015

Dear stakeholder,


We are seeking views on changes to taxi fares and tariffs in London, to take place in April 2015. 


Transport for London (TfL) licenses and regulates taxi and private hire services in London. As part of this, we set the maximum fares that taxis (black cabs or ‘hackney carriages’) can charge. These fares are determined by tariffs that are reviewed each year and normally changed in early April, to reflect changes in a cost index that reflects the costs of operating a taxi.


Previous tariff reviews have followed three basic principles:

·         Using the taxi cost index to guide the increase in average fares;

·         Maintaining reasonable differentials between the day, evening/weekend and late night tariffs;

·         Maintaining a reasonable progression of fare with journey length.


We propose to follow these principles again for the change to take effect on 11 April 2015. The final cost index figures are still to be assessed but on the basis of the information currently available, we would increase average taxi fares by 0.3 per cent.


We also propose to continue the present arrangement that will allow taxi drivers to add an extra charge of 40 pence if fuel prices increase significantly.


Please go to our consultation website You will find more information about the background to these proposals and the calculation of the cost index, as well as a questionnaire seeking your views.  Responses must be received by Friday 5 December 2014.


We are seeking the views of anyone with interest in these matters on these proposals. Please pass this message on to others who might be interested.

If you have any questions about this, please email me at with ‘Taxi Tariff review ’ in the subject line.


Yours sincerely,



Darren Crowson 

Strategy and Infrastructure Manager

TfL Taxi & Private Hire

Brian Rice Answers Rumours Re Dial A Cab App Rumour.

Hi Jim 


I hope you are well!


I have seen a few anomalies on Twitter regarding our App and a ‘follow up’ on Taxileaks.


Why drivers can’t ask me what is happening, instead of a Board Member that doesn’t know, or divulges the incorrect information, is beyond me.


Anyway, I would like to put the record straight, Dial-a-Cab do not supply cars to members of the public or indeed our Account clients.


If a Credit Client of Dial-a-Cab orders a car from us, they will not get one via our App, on-line, or off the telephone, we do not supply cars to clients!


However, regarding Account Clients with Concierge, our App mirrors their account and we have six clients that have the Concierge system, consequently, they are in a position to order a car on their account exactly the same as on-line or telephone, Deutsche Bank is one of those clients.


This has now been going on for ten years and I am getting a little weary of explaining the situation, so in a nutshell.  A member of the public or an Account Customer cannot order a car via our App or by any other means, unless they are one of the ‘six’ that use Concierge!


I hope I have clarified the situation.


Kind regards





Brian Rice


Dial-a-Cab (ODRTS Ltd)

Letters To Editor: TfL Replace Taxi Licence With Minicab Licence: Dial A Scab App?


Having recently moved house as required, I send back my hackney carriage vehicle licence for reissue to the new address.

Unbelievably this morning, back came a Private Hire vehicle licence with all the details of my old vehicle.

I called and as ever hung on for ages (at my cost) to sort it out, eventually I was told "don't worry we will send out another".

 Of course no apology and of course a prime example of the chaos and lack of security at Totally Failing London.

Be afraid, be very afraid.

Name supplied. 

Dear Jim 

I'm very worried about what was posted on Twitter yesterday. Apparently, the poster said a customer had used the DAC  app to book from an account and was sent an Addison Lee car. What makes it worst is a board member for DAC categorically denied this. Even though the driver had been shown the App on the phone of the customer. 

Is Dial A Cab not a "Licensed Taxi" company any more?

Why do they have to go along the same path as the greedy Hailo triumvirate. I suppose they will roll out the same old tired excuse, saying the customer these days demands a one stop transport shop. 

Bullshit, how many PH operators offer Taxis?

No wonder this trade is on its last legs, put a cabby in a suit, and he sells you down the Swanee.

Below is the image showing the Dial A Cab app, posted on Twitter. It clearly shows that potential customers to Dial A Cab are being offered an assortment of deferent minicabs. 

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Keep up the great work your team does Jim.

Gerald Coba.

Editor Answers

Gerald, I did see the posts made on this issue, plus you make a very valid point.

How many complaints do we see from Addison Lee or Brunel Cars customers who have been sent a Taxi instead of a car? 

How come our Taxi apps and radio companies say they have to offer minicabs because this is what the customer demands and the drivers accept this like sheep? 

How does this only work one way round?

First we had Hailo cars embedded into CityMapper Travel app, offering better prices than Taxis, now we have the Uber App embedded into Google maps.

Jim, spotted this yesterday as I was about to upgrade to Google maps iOS 8.

All the best, Colin.

Another Hendy 'Hotspot', how long before someone is hurt?

Three buses in 3 days have burst into flames, first week into November. 

Another bus caught alight in London yesterday, the third bus to burst into flames in a week. Passengers were evacuated from the 152 service after it caught alight in south west London at 12.30pm. London Fire Brigade said it was called to Western Road, Mitcham, to reports of a bus alight.

Firefighters dealt with the blaze quickly and it was out by 12.54pm, a spokeswoman said.

"London Fire Brigade said it was called to Western Road in Mitcham at 12:26 GMT to reports of a vehicle fire. No passengers required treatment and the fire was out by 13:00."

Transport for London (TfL) said the three fires were "isolated" and there would be a "full investigation".

Two of the fires involved buses operated by Abellio which said there were "two separate causes for fire".

In its statement it said: "We are investigating further to isolate the root causes."

On 3 November, a bus caught fire after colliding with a car in Barnet, north London.

Police said a woman and her child left the car and were treated at the scene for minor smoke inhalation.

The bus driver left the bus, which had no passengers aboard, and was not injured. 

It happened on the southbound A41 junction with Selbourne Gardens at about 18:45 GMT and caused travel delays in the area.

On the 5 November, a burning London bus showered a south London street in debris after its tyres are thought to have exploded in the fierce heat.

The blaze happened at the junction of Stafford Road and Sandy Lane in Wallington, at 14:00 GMT on Tuesday.

The driver of the 157 pulled over to the side of the road and got passengers off as smoke came from the back. 

London Ambulance service treated one person for shock. The cause of the fire is not thought to be suspicious.

"There was an explosion on the bus which threw debris from the bus across the road," a police spokesman said.

Transport for London said: "There was substantial damage to the bus including the tyres which may have been the cause of the small bang people heard."

The bus company Abellio added: "Initial investigations appear to indicate that the incident was caused by the offside rear brake seizing. This then resulted in the tyre catching fire and subsequently bursting". 

Firefighters were called after smoke began coming from the back.

"As it was during a strike by fire brigade workers, two contingency crews were sent out," London Fire Brigade (LFB) said in a statement.

"The bus was evacuated and LFB left the scene at about 15:10 GMT."

Ken Davidson, TfL's head of bus operations, said: "The fire (yesterday) was contained within the engine compartment and there was minor damage to the bus... there were no reported injuries."

He said the fires involving Abellio vehicles were due to "technical faults" and added that TfL operated a fleet of 8,700 buses


       Sources: The Sun, Evening Standard, BBC news.

Pedestrianise Oxford Street, Part 2: A View From Semtex.

Looking at this idea from face value, of course it is a fantastic concept and technically would be a innovative master plan.

However, this is London we are talking about here. We don't have the economic stability of a country such as China, or the advanced foresight and efficiency projections of somewhere like Japan, either.
Furthermore, retail is changing more now than at any other time in history.

Sustainability issues are higher on the consumer agenda than ever before.

That said, the competition and race to "go green" holds huge rewards for whoever manages to pull this massive coup off successfully.

I agree totally that doing nothing is an option we can't afford.

Currently though, retailers are and have had an extremely rough time. To have extra burden put on them by raising rents and rates to pay for our ultimate green retail dream, is probably untenable.
Digital retailing from both a retailers and customers view has increased dramatically too. Even the big boys in the global retail trade are having their work cut out against on-line savvy customers.

When you look at the one's having it off in the UK at the moment, it is the extremes between the markets.
Primark and Harrods are doing great, but how about the ones in between?
Successful retailers these days have to have a customer focussed business structure, that operates at a lower cost but at the same time, with far greater agility.

I think therefore it would be improbable to expect retailers to be able to foot the bill for such a fantastic ideology.
If that is true then it would be left to Government to have to fund it. But be honest, how could we trust either central government or indeed, City Hall to back a project as huge as this?

I remember in the late 90's when they closed the Rotherhithe Tunnel for refurbishment. Because they couldn't afford to pay the contractors the overtime, it ran over by months! Traffic getting across the water was an absolute nightmare every single day!

It became so bad, that Morgan Stanley who had only just moved up onto the Wharf, actually paid for the work to be completed, as they were getting fed up with employees arriving late for work.
Not only that though. Look at the current state of our infrastructure. The tube has had no real investment down there since Queen Victoria was alive, roads are literally breaking up around us as we drive our cabs.

They've just resurfaced the East side of Russell Square and Woburn Place.

Make a job of it? Jesus Christ! I thought they had discovered oil up there! How did it take so long to resurface a road?

In America, they do it as you drive behind them!!!
So, all in all, as much as I look at that brilliant projected plan I think how wonderful it would be for all of us. In reality though, I just can't see where the massive funding would come from, for such a mammoth infrastructure and ecological Pièce de résistance.

I have said for years that before we were to look at something as masterful as this plan, we need to get basic infrastructure problems right first.
I believe that ALL zebra crossings in London should be ripped up overnight and replaced with Pelicans.
There is no place for the old fashioned Zebra in a fast paced city like London.

Take the one for example on the North Side of Russell Square by Bedford Way, or the one outside St Pauls, or the one by Bow Street/Russell Street, Covent Garden.
I defy any cab driver or other motorist not to break the law on these crossings during the day.

It is impossible to get past them without somebody's foot being on them! That's not forgetting the clever Dicks who think it's clever to pretend that they are continuing straight ahead, only to "trick us" at the last second, using the "rights" that the public have to stop us on a whim ! The fact that they are constructed of 90% water walking in front of a 2 ton TX4 is of little consequence to these numb skulls.

In my opinion and in summary, although I see this proposal as being a brilliant and innovative masterpiece for our Capital City, in truth I cannot see the future of elevated pedestrian walkways and areas in London until we have learnt how to fill a pot hole in the road, without closing the Borough off, to achieve it.
8829 Semtex

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Pedestrianise Oxford Street : Yes, but not at street level?

Pedestrianising Oxford Street at street level is not a solution. It just moves the problem to surrounding streets

> Time for a walk down the high street <

The recent  testing carried out by the Environmental Research Group at Kings College London showed that Oxford Street is one of the most polluted roads in the world. The reason for this is undoubtedly diesel pollution.

More recent testing carried out by Ricardo and Brighton and Hove Council has clearly shown how most of the diesel pollution from buses is caused when they are stop /starting in traffic.

The conclusion is that urgent action needs to be taken to improve traffic flow and to separate pedestrians from the toxic pollution.

Suggestions have been made that Oxford Street should be pedestrianised, which is a great idea. However this does not acknowledge that the buses and taxis are a critical part of the Public Transport infrastructure and if they prohibited from using Oxford Street they will just cause more congestion elsewhere which in turn will further increase pollution.

One very old idea that has been suggested many times and ignored should be now given proper consideration; elevated pedestrian walkways and areas.

This is a simple solution which can be easily achieved. It will improve the traffic flow because there would be no need for traffic to stop for pedestrians crossing the road and therefore significantly reduce pollution. It would free up space at street level for dedicated cycle lanes. It would remove the majority of pedestrians from close proximity to the pollution and also from the physical danger of crossing busy roads.

Vertical self powered ventilation shafts could be installed to disperse pollution above high rise buildings, overcoming the problem of ‘urban canyons’ which means that pollution can accumulate to dangerous levels.
Shopkeepers could benefit from such a scheme because there will be an increase in shop front area with the additional upper pedestrian level, creating a similar situation to that of a shopping mall and there will be an increase in footfall because the shopping area will become a cleaner and safer environment.

The cost of a scheme could be funded by retailers who will see increased revenues and by corporate sponsors who would have an excellent advertising opportunity.
The current situation of toxic pollution requires urgent action; this may be a solution which can be achieved in a relatively short space of time.
Plans for Oxford Street, London, in the 1963 Colin Buchanan report "Traffic in Towns".

Taking pedestrians out of the equation with elevator crossings in Las Vegas.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    With thanks to Dave Davies.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Bob Oddy says, MPs' Inaction over Rickshaws Will Cost Lives

MPs' inaction over Rickshaws in the capital will cost lives, according to the London Taxi Driver's Association.

Bob Oddy, deputy general secretary LTDA, said: 
"The vehicles, otherwise known as pedicabs, can flip-over and throw passengers out."

"Fortunately, no one has gone under a passing vehicle, but I'm afraid it's going to happen and when it does a lot of the parliamentarians, who have not acted when they might have acted over the last few years, are going to be looking for a lot of reasons to justify their inaction when someone gets killed," Oddy said.

Bobs comments come after the Law Commission recommended giving local authorities the power to ban rickshaws who fail to meet safety standards and advised that the vehicles could be licenced.

The move, if enacted, would bring London in line with other capital cities like Berlin and Amsterdam.

But Oddy said that it was unlikely that the Law Commission's recommendation would be acted upon until after the 2015 General Election next may and he argued that "primary legislation" from the House of Commons is needed.

He went on to say:
"It's primary legislation that's required and parliament feels it has more important things to deal with, I guess,"

"Unfortunately, it's unlikely that the Law Commission's recommendations will be acted upon because of the coming general election."

"But when they do get around to it, whoever gets elected next year, what's been recommended is that there's an opportunity for different areas around the country to licence or not to licence."

"It's probable that they won't ban them nation-wide for that reason."

"You can't licence a vehicle that's inherently dangerous."

Bob's comments come after figures from Transport for London and the Metropolitan Police revealed that there were more than 650 incidents involving rickshaws in 2013.

Friedel Schroder, the director of BugBugs and the chairman of London Pedicab Operators Association, admitted to IBTimes UK that there are some "cowboy" rickshaw drivers on the streets of the capital.

"The cowboy operators will have a bike and run it into the ground, so there's no regular maintenance or training," he said.

But Schroder claimed that pedicabs have been one of the safest forms of transportation in the last 15 years in London.

"You have had no fatalities in the last 15 years, compared with 10 a week from motorised vehicles in Central London," Schroder.

"The detractors will work with a lot of hearsay and, unfortunately, it's not as libellous as it should be.

"They have the idea that they can stamp something out while it's still in its birth phase."

Schroder also claimed that the taxi drivers' efforts to oppose the rickshaws have "backfired" because the number of pedicabs have grown from hundreds to up to a thousand in London.
Original article refered to the LTDA as a trade union and Bob as a union official. Taxi Leaks has taken the liberty of amending the article to show the LTDA as an association.

    Source: ibTimes