Saturday, December 20, 2014

Saudi MoT, To Make Taxi App Mandatorily

In a new development, the Ministry of Transport has made it mandatory for taxi firms to install communication and tracking systems in their vehicles in order to reduce and eventually put an end to cabs roaming the streets, saying that the new system will increase taxi drivers’ efficiency by 20 percent.


Taxi operators have to rely on modern technology as a solution to adopt the new system. Mahmoud Fouz, CEO of Easy Taxi Middle East said, using the Easy Taxi app ensures that a customer avails of the services in a timely manner, eliminating the roaming time of taxis on the roads.

According to him, Easy Taxi, the global taxi e-hailing service, increases efficiency of taxi drivers by 20 percent by reducing taxi roaming time in the streets when customers order taxis using the application.

He said this will ensure better working conditions for their drivers as they will not incur losses or get caught in heavy traffic while searching for customers.

“Easy Taxi prides itself on connecting passengers and drivers in a convenient, easy and safe manner. The user experience is paramount for us,” he said, adding that the app allows customers to order a taxi to their location and track its progress, eliminating the long waiting time which currently accompanies the search for a taxi.

He continued: “This in turn helps drivers find fares more efficiently, cutting their need to hunt down a potential customer. There will also be fewer taxis on the roads which will lead to fewer traffic problems.”

The law gives drivers 45 days to install the systems, after which taxi cabs will only be available on-call. “If all taxis and companies followed suit and enforced tracking systems, we would cater to the demand in a very efficient manner and 20 percent fewer taxis would be needed to fulfill this demand,” Fouz added.

The app, which is freely downloadable, tracks a customer’s location. The customer just taps “Call Taxi” and there will be a vehicle available on his doorstep. 
It is quite safe as all taxi drivers are registered with the system and the passenger can see the driver’s name and picture on his phone before he takes the taxi.

    Source: ArabNews.Com

Night Tube Cannot Be Rushed Through To Suit Mayor Say RMT

Night Tube LU wants to start running it’s Friday and Saturday night-tube service from Sept 2015. 

With a completely new station staffing model demanding new grades and rosters to be introduced in early 2016 we are faced with months of upheaval. 

Any sane employer would delay Night Tube until 2016 but no one in LU management will stand up to Boris.

Night Tube presents real problems and RMT is fighting to ensure members best interests are catered for.



Your RMT reps are questioning LU on every aspect of Night Tube from both industrial and health & safety perspectives. RMT is not opposed to extending running hours in principle but this isn’t something that can be rushed through just so the Mayor can show off.

RMT says Night Tube is being used as a diversion from massive cuts plan


Download the RMT London Calling Newsletter

Help us fight to get a Taxi rank outside ever NightTube and CrossRail station exit.

What Night Tube Means for Taxi trade.

* More of our weekend night work will disappear.

* Destinations along the network will have there ticket offices turned into minicab satellite booking centres.

* Ranks at stations could be moved 250 meters away from station exits with cars given waiting areas directly outside station exits.

Westminster's City Council's survey showed that the public will use the first form of transport they come across. 

Let's make sure the first thing they see when leaving a station is a yellow "For Hire" sign. 

The RMT are the only driver org fighting on this issue. 
Help get a rank outside every station. 
Join the RMT London Taxi Drivers Branch.  

To Join, email:  rmt_londontaxi@yahoo.com



Friday, December 19, 2014

Short sighted minicab driver found guilty of killing former teacher of chef Heston Blumenthal

A short sighted minicab driver from Wembley who killed a teacher after smashing into the back of his car has been found guilty of causing his death by careless driving.


Kugannesan Balasubramaniam, 31, of Longley Avenue, collided into the classic MGB sports car driven by Nick Sennett so hard it ‘folded like a penknife’ on the A40 Westway.

Mr Sennett, who was 58-year-old and taught economics at Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith, died at the scene on January 15 this year.

Southwark Crown Court heard Balasubramaniam, had been speeding at 48mph on the 40mph road and had worked for 90 hours in the previous seven days for the cab hire company One to One.

The short-sighted driver also failed a basic numberplate-reading eye test when officers attended the scene.

 Editorial comment: 
How the hell did this man get a PH licence from TfL?
The licensing authority should also be held part responsible for the death of Mr Sennett.

Balasubramaniam had denied a single charge of causing death by dangerous driving and was convicted by the alternative charge of causing death by careless driving.

He will be sentenced on January 15.

Warning him he faces jail, Judge Jeffrey Pegden QC told Balasubramaniam: “You should understand that the law makes it clear that a custodial sentence is likely but as you are a man of previous good character I order a pre-sentence report for that day.’

Mr Sennett was a former teacher of chef Heston Blumenthal OBE who attended the £15,700-a-year school.

Paying tribute to him shortly after his death, he said: “What made Nick stand out was his very calm, playful banter. He was one of those teachers you could be very comfortable around. He was really lovable, really funny, chilled out.”

Editorial comment:
Again we see lazy and in incompetent journalism as the Kilburn times called the driver a Taxi driver. 
You just can't get quality in journalism these days.
If the editor of the Kilburn times would like a lesson in the difference between minicabs and Taxis, I would be only too pleased to oblige.

Taxi leaks took the liberty of correcting the article before posting.

    Source: Kilburn Times

Delta Taxis' licence to operate in Liverpool revoked by council

Liverpool council has today revoked the licence of Delta Taxis to operate in the city.

The company was issued with a new private hire operator’s licence on November 18 to enable them to take fares in the city.

But a condition of this was there had to be a dedicated telephone booking line for Liverpool, separate from the firm’s Sefton operation.

Now the authority says it has become aware that the Liverpool booking number is not operational and the only way bookings can be made is through a phone app.

Furthermore, it says the firm’s Liverpool registered vehicles have door signs which only refer to the app and do not advertise the Liverpool number.

Liverpool cabbies have been at war with the Bootle-based private hire firm, which intends to open a Liverpool office.

Mayor Joe Anderson gave his backing to claims that taxi giant Delta was unfairly “saturating” Liverpool and taking a living away from city-registered drivers.

A Liverpool council spokesman said: “In view of the breach of the condition the decision has been made to revoke the licence.

“Delta have 21 days to appeal to the magistrates’ court against this decision.

“They will be able to continue to operate in the city during this time.”

Cabbies in Liverpool have long been infuriated by Delta drivers ‘taking fares’ in the city.

Delta had intended to take advantage of a relaxation in regulations and open up an office in the city centre.

    Source: Liverpool Echo


TfL, gathering covert photographic evidence: ... By Jim Thomas.

TfL have a camera car, taking high definition, time stamped photographs, which can be used to prosecute drivers of vehicles contravening hackney carriage laws and conditions of fitness.


Guess what they've been spending their time and our money photographing?

* Touts?..............................................no

* Clipboard Johnnies?........................no

* Minicabs parked on Taxi ranks?......no

* Minicabs forming illegal ranks?........no

Last week, my friend got a phone call from his garage asking him to bring the Taxi he rents into the garage, as they have been informed in a letter from TfL, that a stop has been placed on the vehicle. 

Apparently TfL's camera car had snapped him driving home along the A40 at 4:20 am, committing the terrible atrocity of displaying an unauthorised sticker in his rear window ( I was there in the Square).


His garage was informed that the stop on the vehicle would stay in place until they had forwarded a photo of the rear window without the sticker. Amazingly, they asked the garage to supply the name of the driver, using the vehicle at the time of the photo. The fact that the driver's ID was clearly visible in the image (which we edited out on instructions from the driver) had passed over their heads.

My friend informed me that after viewing the image, it was clear that the camera car was in fact dangerously tailgating his vehicle. He said:
"I was traveling at around 40 mph on the A40 in wet conditions at 4:20am."

In our opinion, this is positive proof TfL are still harassing drivers who took part in anti TfL demonstrations which took place earlier this year.

Staff from TfL had been seen recording details of Taxis attending both demos held in Whithall and Trafalgar Square!


 Are TfL covertly collating data on militant drivers?

The driver is now considering taking legal action against TfL and the compliance team who he feels put his safety at risk. 


He told Taxi Leaks:
"This is the second time I've had a run in with compliance, the first time was when I was flagged down by them and subjected to questioning." 
A clear breach of their authority. 

Compliance officers are not police and do not have the right to harass Taxi drivers in anyway which could compromise their safety. Only a uniformed police officer has the right to pull you over when in motion, empty or POB and that includes while you are waiting at traffic signals.
 


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Garrett Emmerson : The Final Insult...by Jim Thomas.

Garrett Emmerson's arrogant performance on London Live.


Members from both the licensed Taxi and Private Hire Trades are calling for the resignation or Garrett Emmerson, after his disastrous performance in an interview on London Live. 

After being told by the elected members of Grater London Authority Transport Committee that TfL's performance was woefully inadequate, Emmerson arrogantly refused to  accept anything was/is wrong. He then added insult to injury by exaggerating past performance results and actually lied about manpower resources. 

In the interview, Caroline Pidgeon stated cab enforcement in London is woefully under resourced. Garrett countered that the overhaul status of enforcement should include not only TfL's impotent compliance, who have no authority over licensed or unlicensed touts, but also the whole metropolitan police force. He said the actual footfall of enforcement was more in the region of 400. He would have been more accurate had he said the region of Narnia. 

The proof as they say is in the pudding:
Back in November, the Chair of the LCDC sent a Text to an enforcement officer he had met in a previous meeting. The text appertained to touting being carried out at the Walkabout Pub. The reply shown below shows the true extent of Cab Enforcement in London, on a Saturday night. 

     
Text published on Twitter 

The text is proof, Garrett Emmerson tried to mislead Caroline Pidgeon, chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee, over the issue of enforcement manpower. 

Amazingly he also said he finds it hard to recognise that TfL need to get the basics right. As an instance, he alleged illegal touting had reduced by 37%!!!
This is nonsense, what he should have said is, the number of convictions for illegal touting fell by 37%, a completely different aspect.

He also tried to allude that it's TfL's regulatory service, that is looked upon as the Gold Standard, when in fact it is the London Taxi Trade, which is the Gold Standard, and not because of TfL but despite TfL. 

TfL never made the Taxi Service in London the best Taxi service in the world, they inherited us from the Met.

Editorial Comment:

Emmerson's denial of the problems highlighted by this report, show's his position at TfL is untenable.

Another aspect of TfL's LTPH that needs exploring is the splitting up of Taxis and Private Hire. They are two separate trades and have different operating needs and policies. 

There is no way they should be under one directorate. 

After all, we don't have London Underground and Buses. Both are separate divisions of Transport in London with two separate directorates and Managing Directors. 


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Four cities selected to pilot driverless forms of transport

Four areas of England have been chosen to trial driverless road vehicles in a Government-backed project. 


Greenwich in London, Bristol, Milton Keynes and Coventry will share £10m from Innovate UK – the new name for the Technology Strategy Board – to help fund trials of semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicles.

Milton Keynes and Coventry are both part of the £19.2m three-year UK Autodrive project being led by consultant Arup. This will include on-road testing of passenger cars with increasing levels of autonomous capability, as well as developing and evaluating fully autonomous self-driving pods designed for pedestrian areas. 

The Transport Systems Catapult is already planning to put the pods on footpaths in Milton Keynes in 2015 and UK Autodrive will allow the project to be enlarged, with a fleet of around 40 pods using pedestrianised areas. 

Tim Armitage, Arup’s UK Autodrive project director, said: “As well as developing and testing the in-car, car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure technologies that will be required to drive cars autonomously on our roads in the future, the project will also place great emphasis on the role and perceptions of drivers, pedestrians and other road users. 


“Our plan with the practical demonstration phases is to start testing with single vehicles on closed roads, and to build up to a point where all road users, as well as legislators, the police and insurance companies are confident about how driverless pods and fully and partially autonomous cars can operate safely on UK roads.”

The UK Autodrive consortium has 12 members: Arup; Coventry City Council; Milton Keynes Council; Jaguar Land Rover; Ford Motor Company; Tata Motors European Technical Centre; RDM Group; MIRA; Oxbotica; AXA; law firm Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co; the Transport Systems Catapult; the University of Oxford; the University of Cambridge; and the Open University. 

The £8m Greenwich project, known as GATEway, will include tests of fully automated passenger shuttle transport systems and autonomous valet parking for adapted cars. It is being led by TRL. Other consortium members are the borough, Shell, Telefonica and RSA. Greenwich company Phoenix Wings will provide the automated vehicle technology. TRL’s driving simulator will also be used in the project. 

The Bristol project, known as VENTURER, is being led by consultant Atkins. Other members of the consortium are Bristol City Council; South Gloucestershire Council; AXA; Williams Advanced Engineering; Fusion Processing; the Centre for Transport and Society at the University of the West of England; the University of Bristol; and Bristol Robotics Laboratory. 

AXA Insurance, which is involved in the Coventry/Milton Keynes and Bristol projects, said the trials would inform the Government’s view of what changes to legislation are needed for semi-autonomous/autonomous vehicles, and provide an insurance template to facilitate their use.

       Source: Transport Extra

Transport for London 'woefully inadequate' over cabs. Report from the BBC.

TfL branded “woefully inadequate” at regulating Taxis and mini cabs


London's transport body has been criticised for being "woefully inadequate" when it comes to regulating the taxi and private hire industry.

A cross-party London Assembly report found fewer than half of passengers knew if a vehicle was licensed and 74% of rank spaces were north of the river.

It set out 19 recommendations for Transport for London (TfL) to consider including using signs to indicate licensed vehicles.

TfL said: "We do our best."

The committee used the answers from 1,000 passengers and 200 drivers to consider the industry which sees more than 25,000 taxi drivers utilising the "rank and hail" market and almost 71,000 private hire drivers offering pre-booked services.

Analysis from BBC London's transport correspondent Tom Edwards
I can't remember such a critical report from the transport committee. It is brutal.

It calls Transport for London "not fit for purpose", "woefully inadequate" and calls for it to "get a grips with the basics".

There aren't enough ranks, enforcement of touting is "outstandingly low" and industrial relations are rock bottom.

Most cabbies and private hire operators will feel vindicated with the findings.

The question is what are Transport for London going to do about it?

It found that touting was the "single biggest...issue" with enforcement numbers "outstandingly low" and fewer than half of passengers were able to recognise a licensed vehicle.

While 58% of those questioned said the presence of a TfL licensing sticker was reassuring, trade representatives said there was concern about counterfeit stickers.

The report also criticised TfL over the "recent furore concerning Uber", a mobile phone app, which "raised serious questions...about TfL's fitness as a regulator" and which many drivers feel is a company left un-regulated.

It said trade groups had major concerns with the perception that TfL had failed to present a robust challenge to Uber as it tried to change legislation to "suit its own business interests" and may have "opened the floodgates" for future challenges.

Caroline Pidgeon, chairwoman of the transport committee, said: 
"The interest in and focus on the arrival of Uber in London has become a distraction from some very serious issues facing the taxi and private hire industries."

Four of the 19 report recommendations
Apps should be developed to enable passengers to check the status of their driver, vehicle or operator
Options to incentivise the uptake of cashless payments
Ensure that disabled passengers' needs are met
Underground stations on the 24-hour Tube network have a taxi rank in place
"TfL's performance as regulator and enforcer has been woefully inadequate and the interests of the passenger are being largely ignored."

Concern was also raised about the provision for disabled people who found taxis did not always stop when hailed and some drivers refused to carry assistance dogs.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: 
"The black taxis are one of the glories of the London transport system...and they deserve to be properly regulated."

Garrett Emmerson, TfL's chief operating officer for Surface Transport, added: 
"London's taxi and private hire services are the envy of the world and, under Transport for London's oversight, are thriving.

"The number of trips are up, customer satisfaction rates are high and, due to our stringent licensing processes and enforcement work with the police, journeys in taxi and private hire vehicles have never been safer.

"We will, of course, carefully consider the Assembly's recommendations. "

But Steve McNamara, from the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association, suggested more needed to be done.
"Londoner's are being let down badly. This report just about gets that right. We think we need a parliamentary inquiry."

Editorial Comment:
At the first ever RMT London Taxi Drivers Branch meeting in 2009, the first item on the agenda was a call for a parliamentary investigation into Tfl's handling of Taxis and private Hire. 

The motion was carried unanimously. 

It is a direct result of the work and lobbying undertaken by RMT members, that has brought this enquiry to bear.

And NOW, LTDA general secretary Steve McNamara joins with the long standing campaign by the RMT, to call for a parliamentary enquiry.

Better late than never I supposed, but it hasn't gone unnoticed that the LTDA's man on the board of TfL has stayed silent (again) on this issue.

Taxi Leaks hereby nominates John McDonnell for chair

We would also like to point out to Garrett Emmerson, that the London Taxi Trade is constantly voted the "Best TAXI Service" in the world, the jewel in the crown, not because of TfL but Inspite of TfL, a premium Taxi service that they inherited.

    Source: BBC news.



A Personal Opinion Of The London Assembly Report....From Semtex.

I have a lot of time for Caroline Pidgeon. I liked her as a young councillor when she served at Southwark in the late nineties, too.
 

She is rational, stands her corner, and holds a healthy respect for the London Licensed Taxi Trade. Furthermore, she isn't frightened of Mayor Johnson either, and will tackle him head on, as and when the need arises.
I feel that her role on the London Assembly Transport Committee is a good as we will get from somebody outside of our trade infrastructure, and most of her comments are extremely helpful to us.
 
I have read the recent report, in it's entirety, from start to finish. Most of it is what our trade have been grumbling about for years now, but there were one or two things mentioned in it, which I was astounded by.
 
One of them was the fact that during the whole of last year, only 926 ARRESTS were made for illegal touting. That figure is blurred by the Metropolitan Police themselves somewhat, for not accurately recording whether the arrests were by licensed or unlicenced touts, or whether any of our own trade were involved.
Although naturally bias then, and due to poor clarity of the figures, either deliberately or otherwise, I shall assume that the mass majority of these arrests, were concerning mini cab drivers.
 
Notice I say ARRESTS. There is no report or statistics of any future convictions or punishments recorded. But even so, 926 arrests in a year is woeful !
As an Enforcement Commander with the situation as it currently sits, I would expect 926 arrests a week !! And I'm not being flash either. The current hit is about two a day!
A decent Enforcement Officer who knows his craft well and with a honey pot like London to get his teeth into, should have no problem at all in arresting 100 touts a night, especially over the weekends !
 
In 2008, the Mayor apparently doubled the Enforcement Team from 34 officers to 68.  I specialised in surveillance all of my military life and was proud to be taught by the best experts of this field in the world. However, TFL's crack covert team have surpassed any officers I have ever known, as they are so covert, nobody has ever seen them, including the touts !
 
Even so, despite another 10,000 licences issued since 2008 on their patch, the Enforcement Unit have not increased.
 
In New York City last year, the Taxi Enforcement & Compliance Team confiscated and destroyed nearly 8000 cars !!!  THAT IS ENFORCEMENT !!!!
With respect, it is difficult to take the role of our Enforcement Teams seriously, when they spring out of nowhere for over ranking and deliberately try to fit up a bona fide London Cabby for taking a fare on his way home with his light off, isn't it ?
 
I have screamed for years that with 70 odd thousand licensed mini cabs and probably as many unlicensed touts out there, cheek by jowl with our trade, you simply HAVE to have adequate, robust and dedicated Enforcement Officers with full powers of arrest and serious vehicle seizure focus.
 
One of the issues that the Committee make that I disagree with, is the recommendation that we adopt a cashless payment system. I can see the attraction of a card facility on board, indeed, I have a card machine myself. But I worry that the machine becomes mandatory, which I strongly oppose. I believe that our trade already have the balance right. Over half of our fleet accept cards, and there are many people out there who would rather pay with cash anyway.
Not only that, you can imagine how much the card companies would exploit charges if a cashless system became mandatory?. Just as we are left with a take it or leave it arrogant attitude regarding our cab choice, I wager that the card companies will adopt the same arrogance, should we be in a position with no choice.
 
The provision of ranks was discussed at great length, and for the life of me I can't see how it costs TFL between 2 grand and 10 grand to appoint one ?
It is bad enough in the middle, so I fear for the health and future of our yellow badge colleagues. Without adequate taxi ranks to get their living from, guess who's going to slip in right in front of them ? Negotiating taxi ranks from various London Boroughs may well be challenging for TFL, but what else do they do for their hundred and odd thousand licence fees ? That's a lot of dough !  Negotiating Taxi Rank space may well prove challenging, but not half as challenging as one of our suffocating yellow badge mates hoping and praying that he isn't nicked for having two inches of his cab's arse hanging off a ridiculously short rank !
 
It's all very well the Mayor and his mob advocating and supporting a two tier system, but if that system is battered, broken and bent then the very concept of the dream is flawed from the outset, and is unworkable, which as we know is simply that.
 
On the whole, I would congratulate Caroline Pidgeon and her panel for the report and it's various recommendations. The big problem is of course, these recommendations in the main have been given till May next year to materialise and time is not a commodity our trade can afford.
 
Whatsmore, I have an inherent mistrust of Mayor Johnson. I genuinely believe that his remit and brief are more for self promotional and personal future parliamentary reasons, than honest profound concern for London and it's people.
 
These Assembly Report recommendations can be as crucial, focussed and as targeted as you like, but if the man at the top don't react to them, or finds a million excuses as to why he can't, then it will be a complete waste of time.
 
I am a cynical prehistoric grumpy old dinosaur these days. With a background of assume nothing, believe nobody and check everything, drummed into me for years, my pessimism may well be misplaced. Let's hope so !
We shall have to wait and see.......
 
Despite my pessimism and distrust of Johnson and the senior TFL command,  I would personally like to thank the Committee for their work involved in this report, and hope that it is instrumental to the future and security of our proud and platinum London Taxi profession .
 
Be lucky all. Stay safe.
 
8829 Semtex


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Future Proof: Taxi and Private Hire Services in London : The Important Bits.

TfL branded “woefully inadequate” at regulating Taxis and mini cabs

After reading the London Assembly Transport Committee report, “Future Proof: Taxi and Private Hire Services in London", Taxi Leaks feels the report, while extremely welcome, doesn't go far enough with regard to e-hailings, instant hirings and pre-bookings.
 
Change is needed and long overdue. 
It would appear that if a PH company is big enough and wealthy enough, TfL will facilitate by changing/bending the rules rather than enforcing.
 
We've seen this in the past with major PH players such as RD2, Addison Lee and Uber

More money is required desperately, to employ a substantial "Cab Enforcement" force to deal with touting. 

Needed most of all, is the political appetite to deal efficiently with the matter, presently sadly lacking.
 
The implementation of temporary taxi ranks should be common practise outside major venues when large events take place. We saw only too well, the chaos that ensued when the regular Taxi rank went missing at this years Winter Wonderland. 

Although the need for more Taxi ranks was discussed, sufficient and effective ranking seem to have been overlooked by the report. Its pointless having a rank 250 meters from an exit, as licensed and fake minicab drivers will park up in front the Taxis at venues and tout. 

A survey, carried out by Westminster Council nearly a decade ago, pointed out that the public will get into the first mode of transport they come across, when leaving a venue. The recent BBC documentary "Inside Out London" also showed most night revellers don't know the difference between a minicab and a licensed Taxi. 

This report is proof that our crys of bias and incompetence at TfL's running of LTPH, haven't been unjustified. Both sides of the trade have suffered substantial damage under this administration.

The report is substantial at 67 pages so we have posted an overview covering the most important issues, plus the19 recommendations, made at the end of the report.

One thing that has come out of this report, is that the whole trade, a united trade took part.

We can only sit and wonder what type of position our trade would be in today, if only the LTDA, LCDC and Unite had said no to Masons trade splitting engagement policy back in 2010.

See full report:  

Survey results summary:

All responses:

Driver and Public submissions

Report summary

Over 300,000 journeys are made by taxi or private hire vehicle in the capital every day. Black taxis are one of the oldest and most instantly recognisable icons of London transport and, together with private hire vehicles, form a vital part of the public transport network for both visitors to, and residents of, the city. Taxis and private hire services fill a gap in public transport provision, providing services in places and at times when other forms of public transport are unavailable, and for those who are unable to access buses, the Tube, or trains due to disability or mobility impairment. Taxis and private hire are used by both the highest earning in our society and those on lower incomes, for business and leisure purposes, at every hour of the day and night.

Efforts to modernise taxi and private hire services and meet passenger expectations are being hindered by the lack of a Mayoral strategy for the future of these trades. This makes it difficult for Transport for London (TfL) to regulate the industries efficiently and effectively. Taxi and private hire services form a crucial element of London’s public transport offer, including for some of the most vulnerable passengers, but competition from new technology, and changing passenger demands, are challenging the traditional ways in which these services are delivered. London’s taxi and private hire services will need to evolve to meet these challenges. Failure to address fundamental issues affecting the trades threatens to spark a race to the bottom in terms of standards, putting the travelling public at risk, and threatening London’s reputation as a world leader for these services.

Strategy

The inherent role of the regulator, TfL, is to protect the interests of the travelling public. We call on the Mayor and TfL to preserve the distinction between the licensed taxi and private hire industries, recognising that diversity of choice is critical to meeting passengers’ differing requirements. We need a clear strategy to ensure the survival and prosperity of both of these services, which covers three critical, inter-related areas of public interest: safety, availability and accessibility.

Safety

The Committee heard that more passengers say they always feel safe and secure when travelling by licensed taxi, than private hire vehicle. A lack of supply of licensed taxi and private hire services in some locations may lead people to make unsafe transport choices; this is a particular concern in the context of cab-related sexual assaults and robberies. We call on the Mayor and TfL to develop specific public awareness campaigns on what to look out for when determining if a driver or vehicle is licensed. We also call for a comprehensive signage strategy for both taxi and private hire vehicles, and for open access to data so that tools that use technology to link drivers to vehicle and operator information can be developed. We believe that cashless payment options would benefit both the industries and their passengers, reducing the risk of crime and removing a barrier to making safer transport choices. TfL, as a regulator, can greatly advance this cause by working constructively with the trades to iron out potential difficulties, explain the wider benefits, and explore options to incentivise a transition towards cashless payment options.

Availability

People often choose to use a licensed taxi or private hire vehicle at times when other public transport is closed, or in locations where other public transport modes are not available, particularly in parts of outer London. Passenger views on availability differ from those of licensed taxi drivers. The Committee heard that there are a number of ways in which TfL could regulate the market more effectively to ensure a better match between supply and demand across the city. In particular, there is a need for better data to inform policy decisions on issues such as sector boundaries, licensing numbers, and rank space provision.

Providing taxi ranks has a number of benefits relating to safety and availability, as well as potentially reducing congestion and vehicle emissions as drivers are not forced to continually drive around to look for work. However, rank provision is chronically underfunded and under prioritised, the process of appointing ranks is too lengthy, and the needs of passengers and drivers are not prioritised when allocating kerb space. We call on the Mayor and TfL to work with the boroughs to improve and increase rank provision, especially in outer London, and to ensure that existing facilities are better publicised.

Taxi driver numbers have remained static for the last decade, while the number of licensed private hire drivers has more than tripled. Some industry experts have questioned whether administration of the Knowledge creates an artificially high barrier to entry for taxi drivers, and, conversely, whether the explosion in private hire driver numbers in the last decade is because the entry requirements to this market are artificially low. We urge the Mayor and TfL to assess entry requirements into both markets to ensure that they are fit for purpose, that the requirements are relevant to the specific demands of each industry, and to ensure protection for passengers, drivers, and other road users.

Accessibility

Large parts of the public transport network are still unusable for many older and disabled Londoners, and taxis and accessible private hire vehicles are a vitally important part of ensuring good quality of life for disabled and older Londoners. Disabled people told us about a range of problems in accessing these services, including taxis not stopping when hailed in the street by disabled people, broken equipment, refusal to carry assistance dogs and insufficient numbers of wheelchair accessible private hire vehicles. Alongside efforts to increase the supply of accessible vehicles, TfL should work with disability campaigners and the trades to improve disability awareness amongst both drivers and booking staff, and adopt a zero tolerance policy towards drivers and operators who discriminate against disabled passengers.

New technology

The rise of new technologies has immense potential to change the way in which transport services are used. There is significant appetite for new technology among both passengers and drivers, especially when it comes to booking and paying. TfL must ensure that it has the regulatory muscle, and the political will, to hold the line against developments which threaten the interests of passengers. An unbalanced market may ultimately lead to a reduction, rather than an expansion, of passenger choice. The Mayor and TfL need to be prepared for the inevitable consequences of a transport environment in which technology is evolving faster than the legislation that is needed to govern its use.

Enforcement

Touting is viewed by both industries as the single biggest enforcement and passenger safety issue affecting the trades. Enforcement numbers are ‘outstandingly low’, compared with other world cities. Trade representatives have raised the possibility of the trades paying higher licence fees if this would guarantee better enforcement, and there are opportunities to improve enforcement through better use of technology. The Committee is deeply concerned that specific TfL policies, such as those around satellite offices and booking destinations, could be creating more problems than they solve. We urge the Mayor and TfL to re-evaluate their enforcement strategy and to explore ways in which enforcement resources could be increased and better deployed. Current enforcement activity is disjointed due to the different enforcement powers available to police and borough enforcement officers. The strategy should contain specific actions that the Mayor and TfL, along with partner organisations and the trades, will take to ensure that the laws and regulations governing these industries are properly enforced. This should include closer working with the criminal justice system, and lobbying Government for the use of stiffer penalties for touting and greater enforcement powers including vehicle seizure powers.

Governance and Communication

Mass demonstrations on the street and votes of no confidence from trade organisations are not generally indicators of a healthy relationship between industries and their regulators. Effective communication between TfL and the trades is vital to implementing changes to the industry that will benefit passengers, but communication appears to have hit rock bottom in the last year. Many within the industries feel that, at a senior level, TfL is simply not listening to their concerns. The Mayor and TfL urgently need to address the widespread view that they are out of touch with the needs of the industries. TfL’s Taxi and Private Hire Unit’s current structure lays itself open to accusations of an inherent conflict of interests. The Mayor’s office, TfL and the trades should develop and publish a Memorandum of Understanding which clearly sets out terms of reference and defines the respective roles, responsibilities and expectations of each party.

Passenger engagement

Failure to address passenger concerns damages the long term interests of the trades, and TfL’s reputation as their regulator. The ultimate survival of both taxi and private hire industries will depend on them providing the standard of service that passengers want. The public can provide crucial feedback on drivers, operators and organisations that can help detect illegal activity, identify poor behaviours, and provide suggestions for how to improve services. We call for improved systems for passengers to make complaints and give feedback on both taxi and private hire services.

Appendix 1 – Recommendations

Recommendation 1
By May 2015, the Mayor should publish a long term strategy for the development of both taxi and private hire industries. The strategy should clearly set out the Mayor’s position on the continued role of taxi and private hire services in London, and actions that will improve passenger and driver safety, guarantee a sufficient number of high quality drivers and vehicles across the city, and ensure that all services meet the highest possible standards for accessibility. The strategy should also set out how TfL will strengthen its enforcement and clamp down on illegal activity, within a clear and transparent governance and decision-making framework.

Recommendation 2
By May 2015, the Mayor should publish a long term strategy for the development of both taxi and private hire industries. The strategy should clearly set out the Mayor’s position on the continued role of taxi and private hire services in London, and actions that will improve passenger and driver safety, guarantee a sufficient number of high quality drivers and vehicles across the city, and ensure that all services meet the highest possible standards for accessibility. The strategy should also set out how TfL will strengthen its enforcement and clamp down on illegal activity, within a clear and transparent governance and decision-making framework.

Recommendation 3
By May 2015, TfL should further develop the database that links drivers to vehicle and operator information. TfL should work with app developers to produce a tool that will enable passengers to check the status of their driver, vehicle or operator.

Recommendation 4
By May 2015, TfL should produce a signage strategy for the licensed taxi and private hire industries, including plans to pilot number plate-based fixed signage.

Recommendation 5
By March 2015, The Mayor and TfL should report back to the Assembly on options to incentivise the uptake of cashless payment options, for both the taxi and private hire industries.

Recommendation 6
By May 2015, the Mayor and TfL should set out how they intend to monitor and improve supply and demand, for both taxi and private hire industries, across London. This should include a specific study into potential demand for taxi services in outer London town centre locations.

Recommendation 7
By May 2015, the Mayor and TfL should set out plans to ensure that all Underground stations located on the 24-hour Tube network have a taxi rank in place by the launch of the programme in September 2015, and suburban Underground and National Rail stations have a rank by May 2016. TfL should also prioritise rank provision in outer London town centre locations with unmet demand. Rank locations should be included on TfL journey planning tools and TfL should explore options for increasing the visibility of ranks through distinctive signage. The Mayor and TfL should also set out clear guidance for event planners to ensure that taxi and private hire provision is explicitly contained in transport planning for major events and attractions.

Recommendation 8
By May 2015, the Mayor and TfL should satisfy this Committee that the entry requirements into each market are fit for purpose. This should include providing evidence that there are no artificial barriers to entry, that the requirements are relevant to the specific demands of each industry and that they ensure protection for passengers, drivers, and other road users.

Recommendation 9
The Mayor and TfL should ensure that disabled taxi and private hire passengers’ needs are met by taking steps to incentivise the provision of wheelchair accessible private hire vehicles (for example, through reduced vehicle licensing fees) with a view to reaching 25 per cent wheelchair accessibility across the private hire fleet by 2018. By May 2015, TfL should also introduce requirements for all taxi and private hire drivers and operators to undertake mandatory disability awareness training as part of the licensing process. TfL should also enforce a zero-tolerance approach to drivers and operators across both industries who illegally refuse to carry disabled passengers, and increase the visibility of its complaints process so that disabled passengers can name and shame providers who break the law. Drivers and operators who are found to not comply with these regulations should face suspension of their licences.

Recommendation 10
By March 2015, the Metropolitan Police should improve the information it collects on cab-related crime, to ensure greater understanding of whether offences are committed by licensed taxis, private hire vehicles and Pedicabs, and by licensed or unlicensed drivers/vehicles.

Recommendation 11
By May 2015, The Mayor and TfL should provide the Committee with a definitive assessment of the resources currently devoted to enforcement, setting out costed plans to increase these where necessary and address funding gaps. This should include options to increase licence fees to ensure adequate enforcement resources are available.

Recommendation 12
By March 2015, The Mayor and TfL and the Metropolitan Police should set out specific steps that will be taken to improve the efficiency and visibility of non-covert night-time operations.

Recommendation 13
The Mayor and TfL should immediately clarify the policy on destination bookings and reinstate the requirement for private hire drivers and operators to record a destination at time of booking.

Recommendation 14
By March 2015, The Mayor and TfL should conduct a full review of the policy on ‘satellite offices’, identifying and securing the enforcement resources required to regulate these effectively, including plans to clamp down on unlicensed ‘marshals’. Any further satellite office applications should be suspended until this has been achieved.

Recommendation 15
By May 2015, the Mayor and TfL should enable greater joined-up working on enforcement, including working with the private hire trade and boroughs to develop a cohesive, pan-London policy on picking up/setting down arrangements.

Recommendation 16
The Government should act upon the findings of the Law Commission Review and propose legislation that introduces stiffer penalties for touting, and greater enforcement powers for borough and police officers, including higher fines and vehicle seizure powers.

Recommendation 17
By May 2015, The Mayor’s office, TfL and the trades should develop and publish a Memorandum of Understanding which clearly sets out terms of reference and defines the respective roles, responsibilities and expectations of each party. This should include specific service level agreements.

Recommendation 18
By March 2015, TfL should revise its driver engagement activity to ensure that it is as widely representative as possible, and improve the transparency of taxi and private hire policy and decision making processes by routinely publishing the minutes of meetings with the trades. TfL should also provide and publish a detailed breakdown of annual licence fee spending.

Recommendation 19
By March 2015, the Mayor and TfL should set out how it will increase the visibility and accessibility of its complaints process, and improve systems for passengers to give feedback and make complaints about both taxi and private hire services. Complaints data should be reported to the TfL Board on a quarterly basis.