Sunday, November 30, 2014

TAXI WARS: Protests planned after out-of-town taxi giant opens city centre office

Liverpool cabbies are predicting the outbreak of a “taxi war” after a Merseyside taxi giant announced it had opened a new office in the heart of the city centre.

In a statement on its website, Sefton-registered Delta Taxis said it had started a mini call centre in the heart of the city centre, raising fears among Liverpool taxi drivers that they could lose even more trade to what they have traditionally regarded as an “out-of-town” firms.

At present, bookings accepted by Delta at its main Bootle call centre can only go to private hire drivers and cars licensed in Sefton, while bookings at the city centre office will only be dispatched to Liverpool-licensed drivers.

But under a Deregulation Bill now going through Parliament, taxi and minicab firms will be able to subcontract business to other firms. This means Delta would be able to dispatch bookings from either its Bootle or Liverpool office, to drivers and cars from both fleets.

Last year, hackney and private hire drivers said they were losing up to 70% of their business to firms licensed outside the city boundary.

They said the latest move would put their livelihoods under even greater strain.

Jimmy Bradley, spokesman for the Liverpool Taxi Alliance – which supports the city’s black cab and private hire drivers – claimed they had been badly let down by Liverpool City Council.

Mr Bradley added: “By allowing Delta to open this office in the city centre, they’re creating the circumstances for a taxi war in Liverpool.

“We have paid millions of pounds in licensing fees over the last 25 years, and this comes as a total kick in the teeth.”

Mr Bradley said meetings were taking place among the city’s taxi-driving community to decide on their next course of action.

Cllr Steve Radford, leader of the city’s Liberal group who sits on the council’s licensing committee, said his main concern about the Deregulation Bill was its implications for public safety as it would allow bookings to be subcontracted to other firms, rather than a firm the customer knew and trusted.

He added: “I don’t have a problem with appropriate competition, but I do have concerns about public safety.”

     Source Liverpool Echo 

"Deregulation Bill", Have They Been Tipped The Wink? Anticipation...Or Inside Information?

Milton Keynes Council Apologises To Taxi Drivers Over Claims THEY Were To Blame For Rapist Getting Taxi Licence.

Taxi drivers have received an apology from Milton Keynes Council over claims a letter suggested they were to blame for a rapist getting a licence.

The letter had said the council wanted "to assist you in restoring the public's faith in your service".

The council's licensing committee granted serial rapist Nadeem Kiani a taxi licence in 2011.

An investigation into the affair revealed serious flaws in the taxi licensing policy.

In a second letter, dated 14 November, the council's head of taxi licensing, Mike Hainge, apologised for "the way in which that letter was phrased".

He said: "It was not our attention to cause any offence or to suggest the current difficulties were the fault of drivers. It clearly was not."

The original letter, from 4 November, had "required" all taxi drivers to undertake an additional Disclosure and Barring Service check.

In it, regulatory compliance manager, Neil Allen, said following the checks "we will reassure the public" it is safe to use taxis in Milton Keynes.

'Unnecessary strain'
The apology followed complaints by taxi drivers, including Skyline Taxis' director Gavin Sokhi.

He said he had wanted to ensure the council "appreciated the unnecessary strain" that had been put on drivers and operators.

Kiani was given the licence in 2011, despite having four convictions for rape and sexual assault.

Subhan Shafiq vouched for serial rapist Nadeem Kiani in 2011
In 2012 his licence had been briefly suspended after further details of how he had raped women in London were revealed. But a second committee lifted that suspension.

An investigation was launched in August, at which stage the chairman and vice-chairman of that second committee, Stuart Burke and Gladstone McKenzie, resigned.

Mayor Subhan Shafiq, who had vouched for Kiani as a friend in 2011, resigned from that role. Last week he quit as a councillor.

Mr Sokhi said: "Every council member and taxi licensing officer I have met with have been very apologetic and understanding.

"I felt it was very important the council built bridges with the trade, starting with an apology."

Milton Keynes Council said it did not want to add anything to the contents of Mr Hainge's letter.

    Source BBC news:

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Conclusive Evidence Shows, Retro Fitted Euro 3 Vehicles, Cleaner Than New Euro 5. .... Dave Davies.

The article below confirms what we already know ; 

that retro fitting older vehicles is a better strategy for reducing pollution than scrapping them because they are cleaner than new vehicles.

The conclusive evidence shows that a retro fitted Euro 3 bus is cleaner than a new Euro 5 bus; in exactly the same way that a retrofitted Euro 3 taxi is cleaner than a new Euro 5 taxi.

Why has Boris needlessly scrapped thousands of Euro 3 taxis at great expense to drivers ?

Emissions ‘significantly lower’ from retrofitted Euro III buses

Brighton study finds further evidence that Euro III buses retrofitted with SCR produce less air pollution than newer Euro V buses

Further evidence has emerged that older buses designed to meet Euro III emissions standards – which are then retrofitted with after-treatment technology – produce fewer exhaust emissions than newer Euro V standard buses, according to a study conducted in Brighton.

One of the test buses in Brighton fitted with PEMS equipment

Published yesterday (November 27) by consultancy Ricardo-AEA, the report is based on real-world testing of buses in Brighton and builds on another report from July, which demonstrated the emissions benefits from a range of buses of improving traffic flow.

As a follow up to the traffic flow study, Ricardo-AEA has since carried out measurements on an older Euro III bus that has recently been retrofitted with a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) and continuously regenerating particulate trap system.

The research found that, when averaged across the bus route on which tests were taken, the total emissions results of the Euro III retrofitted bus were substantially below those of all of the other buses tested, including the Euro V hybrid vehicle.

Data also indicated that of the nitrogen oxides (NOx) remaining in the exhaust, the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) fraction was substantially lowered to below 10% of total NOx.

The findings follow similar suggestions regarding the benefits of modifying older Euro III buses made last year by Steve Rawson, head of retrofit engineering at exhaust technology firm Eminox.

  Averaged NOx measured vs emissions technology 

EU Euro III emissions bus standards for carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon, oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and particulate matter came into force in 2000, while Euro V standards setting tougher emissions limits came into force in 2008. Tougher Euro VI standards for new buses came into force just under a year ago.

Warm up

However, the retrofitted after-treatment system required a ‘considerable’ period of warm-up before its full emissions control functionality could be achieved – typically 5-10 minutes from cold start, the Brighton study found.

According to Ricardo-AEA, this may have implications for bus operators with depots in, or close to, low emissions zones.

In addition, the firm said, scope was also seen both for “further optimization of the system calibration by improving the dosing of the SCR system in uphill stop-start traffic, and improving thermal management of the exhaust”.

Brighton test

For the study, the Euro III bus was tested on the number 7 bus route in the city, which traverses Brighton & Hove through the air pollution hotspot of North Street in the city centre and covers a total of 18km (9km in each direction) with ‘significant’ gradients throughout.

The bus was fitted with data measurement firm HORIBA’s advanced Portable Emissions Monitoring System (PEMS) equipment and artificially loaded with ballast representing a 70% passenger load. Multiple trips were conducted in normal traffic during business hours, stopping at regular bus stops in a similar manner to the normal passenger service.

Instrumentation of the exhaust systems was entirely within the vehicle profile for testing on public roads

Jon Andersson, manager of after-treatment and chemical analyses at Ricardo-AEA, said: “The results of this additional study challenge the conventional received wisdom that newer vehicles are always better in terms of their emissions.”

He also added that there was “some scope for improvement of the installed system” on the Euro III retrofit bus”.

Mr Andersson said: “As bus operators attempt to balance their fleet replacement cycles with the imperative to reduce pollution and hence improve urban air quality, the optimal use of retrofit clean technologies of this nature may be an attractive and highly effective alternative to the early replacement of older vehicles. Local authorities are examining the potential of such retrofit solutions in the rules governing future Low Emissions Zones, as these may provide a highly practical path to reducing emissions at source.”

    Source: AirQuality News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Monday's tube strike on as LU management wreck ACAS talks

Strike action on the Northern Line over the victimisation and sacking of a driver will go ahead from early Monday as planned after ACAS talks broke down last night due to a complete failure of the management side to engage in any serious discussions which could have led to a negotiated settlement.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:

"The ACAS talks, which RMT had been calling for with the objective of reaching a fair and just settlement in this case,  have broken down due to a total refusal of the management side to engage in any kind of meaningful discussions. As a result of London Underground's disregard for negotiations and their own procedures Mondays action goes ahead as planned. 

“RMT has been pointing out for some time now that a new culture of harassment and misuse of procedures is rife on London Underground at the moment and the union will not stand back while individuals are fitted-up and picked off as has happened in this particular case on the Northern Line.

“The unattributed briefings to the media that our member had been sacked for “drinking on duty” are totally untrue. Those smears have been repeated by the Transport Commissioner and the union has now taken that matter up with him directly. 

"Our member has a specific medical condition and the union maintains that it was the failure to follow agreed procedures, and to recognise that condition, that has led to this unwarranted dismissal and the subsequent strike action. "

TfL...Fair, Open, Transparent ? Jim Thomas

In February this year, after hearing that there had been an increase in complaints against licensed Taxi drivers using the rank at Putney Station, I placed an FOI request asking TfL to give me just the monthly totals of complaints for the 12 months Jan-Dec 2013.

As TfL had freely supplied this information regarding complaints made against Taxi Drivers at Finsbury Park and Paddington Station, I didn't see any problem making a simple request for the information required. 

Dear Transport for London,

Could you please give me the total number of complaints made between the dates 1st January 2013 to 31st December 2013 by members of the public, against licensed Taxi drivers using the licensed
taxi rank in Putney High Street, outside of Putney station.

If records are not yet available to December 2013 could you please
give details up to and including the the most recent month to December2013.

Simple I thought, but I was wrong!

After much to-ing and thro-ing I have just received the out come if an internal inquiry as TfL have continued to deny my request.

I have been accused of phishing for information, making a vexatious request, deliberately trying to engage staff in time wasting, with no purpose to my request. 

All I asked for was the monthly total of complaints, made in 2013 against taxi drivers at a Putney Station. 

To top the disingenuous allegations made against me, I was further told that when complaints are made against drivers the location is not recorded. How can this be if a complaint is location based?

They said:
"To reiterate, when we record a complaint we do not record the location where the incident took place and therefore we could not simply extract and provide the information requested in your request "

Preferring to the information received re: Finsbury Park, I was informed:
The panel noted that you referred to a previous response send to a different applicant on 1 November 2014 and queried why this was answerable but your request was not. 

Having looked into this we can confirm that the information provided did not actually relate to passenger complaints. They related to Taxi parking and other issues around the taxi rank at Finsbury Park which were held as a result of some monitoring work.

The email concluded with the passage: 
The request was interpreted to be in respect of customer complaints about the service
provided from these ranks since your request specifically asked for; 
“complaints made ... by members of the public, against licensed Taxi drivers using the licensed taxi rank in Putney High Street, outside of Putney station”.

We are unable to confirm, at present, what information an amended search might identify (if any) but you are welcome to submit an amended request for this information if it is of interest.
If you are dissatisfied with the internal review actions to date you can refer the matter to the independent authority responsible for enforcing the Freedom of Information Act.

To be honest, I wasn't trying to blacken anyone or any groups name, I was trying to clear up a statement made on the forum, that there had been more complaints last year (2013) against drivers on the Putney rank, than against drivers at Heathrow.

I couldn't just see this to be true and thought this to be an exaggeration. 

I decided the only way to find the truth was through an FOI request. TfL themselves have in the past told me to check my facts properly before posting articles, rather than relying on statements made by third parties. So that's exactly what I was doing, checking the facts.

No underhandedness,  no  vexatiousness, no phishing intended, just trying to clear up a statement made which I thought to be an exaggeration. 

For them to say that when a complaint is made by a customer against a driver, no location is recorded, is a lie.
Other drivers have told my that when complaints have been made against them, they have been sent a form with clear headings on: 
Incident details
Colour of taxi
Description (including gender)
Location/Start of journey
First name 
Last name

TfL are a public body and as such have a duty to be open and transparent. The present administration is being run more like a private company, leading people to believe they have something to hide. 

In their instance, have we seen the actions of an open and transparent licensing authority?....I think not.

Misleading, you bet!

It now makes you wonder, just what TfL are trying to hide about complaints at Putney High Street?

                            TO BE CONTINUED.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Disabled victimised at Winter Wonderland by Westminster City Council.... By Jim Thomas

So, finally we find out who is behind the exclusion of the Taxi trade from the old rank in South Carriage Drive.

At a site meeting, which took place yesterday, the trade found that the major objector to drivers using the rank, usually implemented outside the main exit to Winter Wonderland on South Carriage Drive (SCD), is in fact "Westminster City Council".

Westminster officials are adamant that the trade should be banned from SCD and be made to use the new, badly situated rank, in a deserted part of North Carriage Drive

Something is not right here and only time will tell why we have been excluded from SCD, as no rational explanation has been laid on the table.

When asked about disabled access to transport from the event, Westminster City Council unbelievably suggested that people with disabilities such as wheelchair users, should make their way across a major six lane 40mph carriageway (Park Lane), to the Intercontinental rank in Hamilton Place, on the off chance there may be a taxi waiting there.

Surely under the Equality Act this can't be ethical. 

The London Taci trade have also been informed that as far as Westminster are concerned, the book is now closed on this issue and there will be no further meetings or discussions.

But last night, defiant Taxi Drivers were still ranking outside the main exit on South Carriage Drive. Police were occasionally moving on Cabs, but speaking to individual officers, it appears, most actually support the call for a reinstatement of the old rank on safety issues.

To say members of certain orgs within the United Trade Group are disappointed with their reps handling of this issue, would be a massive understatement. Many feel the situation should never have got this far out of hand and a suitable rank should have been sorted  months ago.

Perhaps these people who take our hard earned money, just are not up to the job! 

As of this morning, no official statement has been made on behalf of the United Trade Group to their members.
Not one word from the biggest representative group, the LTDA who are alleged to have over 10,000 member.

Anyone wishing to personally complain about this

situation should email Westminster City Councils Transport Commisioner Martin Low :

             We Shall not, we shall not be moved 

Drivers still ranking outside the main exit of WinterWonderlad last night.

For regular updates on the situation on SCD please follow
On Twitter. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What's Being Said In The House About Zero Emission Taxis And Buses... By Jim Thomas.

Someone should point out to the under Secretary Of State (DoT) that Nissan have pulled out of the London Taxi market over confusion concerning the ULEZ and the fact their Petrol engine Taxi would be obsolete within 3 years. 

During the Olympic trials, the Hydrogen Taxis were considered to be unsafe in confined spaces. They were banned by the DoT from using tunnels under the Thames and were not allowed on most mainline station ranks. They had to stick to specified routes.  

The retail value of these vehicle potential hydrogen bombs was put somewhere between £75,000 and £85,000 each, although we couldn't get manufactures to give a more accurate estimate on cost. 

Both vehicles used, had to be loaded onto a low-loader and taken to the Midlands to be refuelled, as there were/are no facilities in London.

All is not well with Japan's electric taxi drivers. Technology not ready for Taxi market.

News has reach Taxi Leaks Towers, that Nissan has dismantled their Taxi showroom in E14 and will no longer be looking to produce a Petrol Engine NV2000 Taxi for the London Market. They have also said that the current e-NV100 will not pass TfL's strict conditions of fitness, therefore they have no plans to continue investing in the London Market.

The reason given is that with the mayors current regulations regarding the ULEZ coming into force, it would mean that their Petrol engine vehicle would be obsolete within 3 years. 

For full report on the Nissan situation, >Click Here <

Not satisfied with banging another nail into the coffin of the Taxi trade, Boris Johnson has also defended plans to allow his flagship bus to drive in central London despite NOT meeting new emissions standards aimed at cutting the number of deaths attributed to poor air quality.

From 2020 all vehicles entering a new ‘Ultra Low Emission Zone’ will need to comply fully with limits on nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and CO2 emissions or face a daily fine.
The new rules will apply to all private and commercial vehicles, although we have heard in a letter from the deputy Mayor that current Taxis will be exempt from the fines. A payoff that would see all non compliant Taxis subject to a 10 year age limit.

Mr Johnson and Transport for London intend to allow hundreds of New Routemaster buses to operate in the zone despite not meeting emissions limits. No age limit will apply to the Routemasters.

Because TfL, will own the buses, bus operators will escape the fines paid by businesses and households who cannot afford to upgrade their vehicles from the outset.

Boris's dream is that London's Taxi fleet will turn over to electric power as soon as possible, giving him breathing space in his air quality strategy. 

Many would say he is using the trade as a scapegoat to compensate for not having a greener Bus fleet.

But is the Technology ready ?

They may be fine for private use, a few miles daily, but will Taxi driver doing in excess of 100 miles a day, find electric Taxis suitable?

Japan was one of the First Nations to trial an electric Taxi fleet, but all is not well with Japan's electric taxi drivers.

Two years ago, in February 2011, the city of Osaka introduced a fleet of fifty Nissan Leaf taxis. The deal was a cooperative arrangement between Nissan, 30 taxi firms, and the government, each was being subsidized to the tune of 1,780,000 Yen, over $21,000 at the time.

The car's would clean up Japan's clogged streets, an improvement on the ubiquitous, square-jawed Toyota Crown taxis used throughout Japanese cities.

Initially, they went down a storm.

“It’s not fatiguing to drive them. There’s no vibration or knocks from the engine,” said one driver. “They just glide smoothly. The electricity is far cheaper than outlays for gasoline, and there are few mechanical failures. 

Eventually we’re certain that EV taxis will become the most common type on the road.” 

It's not surprising to see the reaction, either.

Like many countries, incumbent taxis are often chosen for their reliability and simplicity, rather than their comfort or driving characteristics. That's why New York is still full of hardy Crown Vics, London's streets are crowded with rattling diesel black cabs, and Mexico only recently relinquished the ubiquitous VW Bug. A Nissan Leaf really would feel like the future to the average taxi driver. But could it continue do the work over time?

Turning tide?

Large problems have begun to emerge.

The first came in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, following 2011's earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Many people were worried that electric cars would give off the wrong image, conspicuous consumption of electricity at a time when power was in high demand and very short supply. Electricity is no longer seen as the clean, safe option it once was.

There are other issues too with the cars themselves.

While reliable, comfortable and smooth as ever, high-mileage drivers are finding degradation of the battery packs to be a major issue.

Where a 60-mile range was once common in regular use, some are finding that cut to as low as 30 miles and to save energy as much as possible, some drivers are shunning the car's heater in favor of chemical pocket warmers, and even blankets. Drivers have been cautioned for driving at night with no lights and obviously there's no chance of getting the driver to "put some music on!"

Degradation of the battery pack has also had an effect on the battery's ability to take a quick charge. A 15-minute quick charge has effectively turned into a 40-minute one for many drivers. 

They can't travel as far and they can't spend as much time on the road, it's ruining business for some. Customers requesting longer trips are even being turned down. Can you imagine this in London, "Guilford Driver ? No chance Guv !".

There's no get-out for the drivers either. 

To qualify for the government's subsidy, the electric cars must be run for a minimum of three years. That's a year too long for some. “I’m getting out of this business,” said one driver, “This is no way to earn a living.”

This has got me thinking!

If one of the top Tech countries in the world ain't making it happen and with the name Nissan popping up, then no way, no way are we ready to take up alternative energy vehicles.

I'm a believer in test cases and the Osaka case proves at the moment that the time is definitely not right for embarking on a road that will lead to businesses collapsing.

More power to you all ! 

    Source: Japan Today : MayorWatch.

Taxi-gate has been a ‘tragedy for Milton Keynes’ Amanda Devlin

Allowing a convicted rapist to drive a taxi “has been a tragedy for this city”, says Milton Keynes Council leader Pete Marland.

At an audit report discussing the internal investigation into the scandal, Mr Marland said he was “sickened” by what had happened.

He said: “All the great things we are doing as a city have been damaged by this.

“This has been a tragedy for the city.”

Mr Marland added that he thought the audit report was “good” because it makes clear what happened, but said “we should not take for granted that what happened won’t happen again.”

Milton Keynes cannot be known for having “concrete cows, roundabouts and a rapist taxi driver”, says the new licensing committee chairman.

Speaking at the MK council audit committee meeting tonight, Councillor Catriona Morris said: “In this new world we now live in we will do everything we can to restore the reputation of the council and help the taxi service of Milton Keynes.

“It is vital that people don’t talk about concrete cows, roundabouts and a rapist taxi driver. It is vital we move on.”

She added that she looked forward to seeing councillors at the next cabinet meeting on December 10 to discuss changes and “make this a service we can be proud of”.

Councillors debating the internal investigation into the taxi licensing scandal tonight recognised the “reputational damage” caused to taxi drivers.

    Source: Milton Keynes Citizen : Amanda Devlin

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

London's Finest Fought Back Last Night...And Won. ... By Jim Thomas.

As yesterday afternoon drew to a close, the trade was shocked to hear the news that the meeting regarding the rank at Winter Wonderland (WW) took place without reps from the UTG, who were excluded from attending.
Member of both the RMT and the UCG Will know exactly how that feels.

But nothing had been said to the waiting trade, who were under the impression that the org or union they pay their hard earned money to in the form of subscriptions, were at this meeting fighting for their right to ply for hire at the main exit of WW on South Carriage Drive (SCD) and not nearly a mile away in an almost deserted, badly illuminated part of North Carriage Drive(NCD).

Around 5:30pm, we were informed the trade orgs were not included in the meeting. 

Shortly after 6pm this email from TfL was made public on social media:
Email from Tfl re WINTER WONDERLAND.

Unfortunately the Royal Parks Authority would not agree to amending their current taxi rank location, regardless of the various benefits to having the rank at SCD for passengers, mobility impaired passengers and the trade.

I understand that this is not what you and your members wanted to hear, which is why I have instructed Nicole to set up a sight meeting between the Parks Authority and the Cab Ranks Committee at their earliest convenience to look to expedite the current situation. Nicole has just emailed them, so as soon as this is arranged she will be in touch with further details. ENDS.

Around 8pm messages went out on the Flash Demo twitter feed that drivers should attend en masse at the SCD entrance to WW at 9pm.

By 9.15 hundreds of Taxis had answered the call and had formed a massive rolling rank just back from the gates. The Public were coming out and using Taxis.

WW and the Royal Parks had spitefully coned off the space by the entrance, obviously for their preference of PH cars 

But the space remained empty as cars were put off forming an illegal rank by the presence of so many militant Taxis.

By 9.30pm the old bill had arrived and tried to move on the taxis. After just a few minutes of discussion with a few of the drivers, their attitude changed. 

We were told that they would be making a report, advising the old rank be reinstated as it seemed to be the preferred choice of the public, leaving the event. 

Around 9:50, the police left the Taxis to it and departed.

To be honest, Taxi drivers should not have to be doing this. This should have been sorted out months ago.
It's a complete disgrace that our so called representatives, the ones who have the ear of TfL, the ones who are party to an engagement policy that excludes others, left this so long. 

It's no good saying, "Oh, we didn't know. No one told us". Your members pay you to be in the know.

Funny how you get meetings with London Assembly members at City Hall, attend meetings with the Mayor, splashed all over your publications yet can't arrange a ranks meeting with TfL.

TfL normally put out a ranks update leading the run up to Christmas. Did no one in the Joint Ranks Committee think it strange that this year, there was just silence. 

TfL failed to answer emails on the subject and it seems we will soon have a similar problem at Victoria Park, where no rank facilities are in place for the fourth coming WinterVille event. 

At the time of writing this post, we have been informed that a site meeting is to take place between TfL, Ranks Committee and Royal Parks on Wednesday 26 November

Taxi Leaks will keep you informed of any progress on this issue, meanwhile please follow these twitter feeds for up to date info:
@Flash_Demo and  

Well done to all drivers who took part in last nights Flash Demo, I was very proud to be there and to see this fightback from rank and file drivers, showing the UTG what true Unity really looks like. No one was excluded from Flash Demo and no one ever will be.

If we still have no word by Wednesday tonight, I believe we could see an even than just a Flash Mob. 

Remember what Bob Crow used to say:
If you fight, I can't guarantee you will win.
But if you don't fight, I guarantee you will lose.