Tuesday, June 30, 2015
A week before 10th anniversary of London 7/7 terror attacks RMT warns of "dangerous complacency" over cuts
A week before the 10th anniversary of the London 7/7 terror attacks, the RMT has warned of "dangerous complacency" on the part of tube bosses who appear to make no connection at all between incident response times and staffing numbers on stations and platforms.
The union is also pointing out that those London Underground staff who were hailed as heroes ten years ago, as they risked their own lives to evacuate stations and get help to the wounded, are the very same staff who now see their futures and livelihoods on the line and who are being forced to reapply for their own jobs as nearly 900 station staff posts face the axe through cash-led cuts.
In the ten years since the 7/7 attacks tube passenger numbers have soared and overcrowding is rife across the network, compromising rapid response times and making a nonsense of the on-going cuts to station and platform staffing.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“As we prepare to mark the tenth anniversary of the 7/7 attacks next week, RMT is reminding the travelling public that security goes hand in hand with having adequate numbers of safety-critical staff and it is frankly appalling that those same station and platform staff who were hailed as heroes on that horrific day are having their numbers slashed.
“It appears from their statements that London Underground’s senior managers and the Mayor himself, make no connection at all between incident response times and staff numbers. That is a dangerously complacent position to adopt and flies in the face of the facts.
“The bravery of the fire fighters, ambulance staff and other public servants, working alongside our members on the day of the 7/7 bombings, must never be forgotten. Every single last one of them is a hero and they shouldn’t be facing these constant threats to their livelihoods, and the services that they provide, a decade on.”
In the same vein, as we approach the anniversary of the 7/7 bombings TfL compliance teams along with cab enforcement seem to make no connection between the attempted car bombing attacks on Tiger Tiger and Cockspur Street, with the lines of illegally ranked minicabs parked outside London's night venues.
Operation neon is a toothless dog!
A ticket on a car bomb parked on a Taxi rank will not stop it exploding. Enforcement needs to be total. Cars illegally park on ranks should be removed.
While every emergency service has been told to be more vigilant, it seems TfL compliance has become more complacent.
Monday, June 29, 2015
Uber's director general, Thibaud Simphal, and Pierre-Dimitri Gore Coty, director for Western Europe, were both held for interrogation by police on Monday. Authorities said that they were being questioned over "illicit activity".
Bernard Cazeneuve, France's miniser of the interior, has said that Uber's service is "illegal" and has ordered police to keep it off the roads.
The arrests follow a raid on Uber's Paris offices in March, during which police took computers, mobile phones and documents.
Uber has faced rising anger in several countries, particularly in France where a taxi strike last week turned violent as drivers set fire to vehicles and blocked highways, creating a headache for thousands of tourists.
In March a raid on Uber's Paris offices as part of the investigation saw police seize cellphones, computers and documents.
UberPOP has been illegal in France since January, but the law has proved difficult to enforce and it continues to operate.
On at least two occasions in Strasbourg in eastern France last week, taxi drivers posed as customers in order to lure Uber drivers to isolated spots where they were assaulted by cabbies and their vehicles damaged.
Licensed cabbies say Uber is endangering their jobs by flooding the market with low-cost drivers.
San Francisco-based Uber, which offers several types of ride-sharing services, claims to have 400,000 users of its low-cost UberPOP service in France.
Uber has become one of the world's most valuable startups, worth an estimated $50 billion, as it has expanded to more than 50 countries.
But it has faced regulatory hurdles and protests from established taxi operators in most locations where it has launched as it moved from chauffeur service to more informal car-sharing.
Uber has been hit with court injunctions in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and France, and has faced protests from taxi firms in numerous major European cities, including London and Brussels.
In France its UberPOP drivers do not pay social charges, do not need to undergo the 250 hours of training mandatory for French cabbies and do not require the same insurance as taxis.
The French investigation is also targeting Uber for allegedly keeping private data for longer than is allowed under a 1978 information law.
Uber has contested the probe and has filed complaints with the EU against France, Germany and Spain for trying to shut it down.
Hungary became the latest country to crack down on ride-booking app Uber, with the government confirming Friday that only licensed taxi drivers would be able to use the service from 2018.
The taxi strike in France last week saw some 3,000 cabbies block access to the capital's Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports.
Ten people were arrested, seven police officers were injured and 70 vehicles were damaged in clashes between Uber drivers and taxi drivers.
US rocker Courtney Love was caught up in the chaos and tweeted that protesters "ambushed" her vehicle and "were holding our driver hostage".
The widow of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain condemned "unacceptable violence in a democracy, in a country like France" and said she would be "safer in Baghdad."
Come and show your displeasure at the way LTPH have virtually destroyed this trade.
Be there and tell everyone you know too.
For the first time ever this demo will be supported by All the taxi trade orgs.
It's gonna be big. It must be big. It needs to be big!
It needs every single one of us to attend and get this destruction of our trade STOPPED!
Also please be aware that most of the TfL/LTPH senior managers have moved to 230 Blackfriars Rd, which is a few hundred yards up on the same side. Don't forget to let them know you're there!
The posters and banners are made, the drums & horns are ready...Lets give it to them!
See you there...
It's almost ten years since the horrendous 7/7 bombings in which 52 lives were needlessly taken, leaving the lives of family and friends shattered beyond belief. The heinous acts carried out on that day touched the lives of many people. A colleague of mine Harry, a London Taxi Driver from North London, lost his beautiful wife Sue.
But what always amazes me, in times of great deserter, is the way ordinary folk step up to the mark and everyday heroes arise from within the carnage, performing exceptional acts of heroism and kindness, then disappear back into the crowd. Reports came in the next morning of how groups of Taxi drivers aided by radio circuits, had given a free service, reuniting walking wounded and hard working emergency staff with their loved ones.
The events of 7/7 touched the lives of many, including that of my late wife Christine, who was working for TfL at the time. Along with her colleagues, she volunteered to stay at her post and worked through the night on a 36 hour shift. Part of the service they provided that day/night, was to try to identify victims from belongings found at the scene. My Christine received a silver award from TfL for services that day, but never traveled on the underground again.
A Church of England priest in Bristol, Julie Nicholson gave up her ministry soon after the attack and became known as ‘the vicar who couldn’t forgive’. Few would blame Julie for struggling to forgive the men who killed her daughter Jenny and 51 others on that day.
As she mourned the death of her eldest daughter, Julie started to write down her thoughts, which later became the bestseller "A Song For Jenny", a reference to the madrigal A Silver Swan which was sung at Jenny’s funeral.
Below is an excerpt from her book that tells of an extraordinary act of kindness, performed by another unsung, everyday hero, when Julie came to London to attend the two minutes silence, held one week after the bombings.
This taxi drew up to drop someone off and as I went to jump in the back he told me he was going off duty. I begged him to take me to Paddington and I don’t know whether he saw the helplessness or the hopelessness in my face but he let me in. He asked me what I was in London for and when I told him he was very quiet for a little while.
We pulled up outside the station and Paddington was very busy.
He said, “Are you ready for this?”
I replied, “I’ll be OK when I get on the train.”
He then turned to me and said, “Why don’t you sit back where you are and I’ll drive you home.”
And so he did.
I was met in Reading by my sister and my cousin and when I asked how much I owed him he said,
“You don’t owe me anything. Just remember there’s still goodness and kindness in the world. If you can do that then you’ve paid me.”
‘I never thought to ask him his name and I tried to find him for weeks. But I believe he wanted to be anonymous. This London Taxi driver, represented all the kindness that we as a family have received in bucketloads.’
A song for Jenny has now been made into a dramatic film which will be shown on BBC1 Sunday 5th July at 9pm.
For The London Taxi Trade, it is absolutely superb news that Sir Peter Hendy has gone at last.
If it wasn't apparent a while ago that this chap simply didn't have either the experience or skills to hold the reins of such an monumental remit.......then it certainly is now!
The moody announcements that Hendy's leadership has been so inspiring, that it would be criminal if his masterful talent wasn't passed on to Network Rail, and quote "take on the biggest programme of upgrades since the Victorian era" is City Hall's way of saying that it is a promotion, rather than announcing that under Hendy's guidance TFL have been criticised as WOEFUL AND INADEQUATE, and have become a lesson of how NOT to run a City Transport Infrastructure, all across Europe !
Part of the problem with Hendy and our trade of course, is a natural conflict of interest. It's understandable, but not admissible in the professional position that Hendy was in. He absolutely adores the Bus Network. He loves Buses. He has worked within the Bus world all of his professional life. He was even Knighted in 2013 for his love and commitment to Buses and services to transport, for goodness sake !
I would even wager that the stirrings beneath his silky Japanese Kimono would manifest themselves quicker, at the sight of a Routemaster, than the seductive vision of Rachel Grundy adorned in stockings, suggestively caressing a £10 Oyster Card.
Personally but not professionally, Hendy didn't want to see the travelling public of London getting off his buses and into our cabs.....did he ? Course not ! And yet his crystal clear remit would require unfavourable views, one way or the other. That most definitely hasn't been the case though, and Peter Hendy hasn't just displayed favouritism for his buses, but blatantly shown a unhealthy respect for us.
I had to chuckle when Livingstone was unseated by Johnson, and Hendy made a statement to say that despite his allegiance with the Labour party and Livingstone, he felt he actually got along with Johnson better ! Ha Ha!
So it should be clear to all then, that this man should never have been in charge of The London Taxi Trade, simply because of a professional and personal conflict of interest, if nothing else. It would be like putting me in charge, wouldn't it ?
He worries me as well. Mike, like Hendy comes from more or less the same genealogy. London Tube Underground Director and a huge Operating remit for BAA, in charge of running Heathrow Airport.
Make no mistake, that is a huge brief, and Mike is obviously no slouch and I respect him. But again, isn't there a clear conflict of interest, in that the London Taxi Trade is made up of 25000 self employed business professionals ?
Where do you expect our pecking order to be in Mike's projections?
I hate to be a doom monger, but although Hendy has gone, I wouldn't be too optimistic about our tenure security under Mike Brown's stewardship either. But we shall see.
More dramatic news this week of course, when the Mayor appeared to have reneged over the 15 year taxi scrappage scheme. Taxi Leaks and our readers however, were tipped off about this a month ago.
And whilst we are on a roll, I would also like to say, that Taxi Leaks reported by myself two weeks ago, that we would see the ferret go down the hole last week and were betting on who would bolt first from the TFL warren.
As if that wasn't enough for our trade to digest this week, it appears that the French President fearful of more action from the bona fide French Taxi Drivers, has caved in and banned Uber. As you know, I have always supported a militant challenge and just cannot find comfort from endless democratic dialogue, coffee and biscuits, and drawn out blah, blah. Its a recipe for getting shafted in my opinion.
In an ideal world, it is all very cosy and civil to approach Governments and Authorities in a polite, democratic and composed manner, of course. But when your livelihoods are in jeopardy of collapse, and you are under the control of a dubious, woeful and inadequate authority........a militant stance is the only viable option.
As an ex-serviceman in a unit who upheld this principle daily, it comes as second nature to me, and I have witnessed success by taking this stance, more times than I have failure.
One thing is for certain. Even with the Bus Lover gone, even with the erroneous smile of pseudo friendship from the betraying Mayor still very much prevailing, it is not a time to wipe our brows and think we are safe, cos we ain't !
City Hall and its murky Transport For London Department may be having a re-shuffle due to fear and panic, but that isn't enough to save the great London Taxi Trade from our scheduled and planned demise in the form that we all know it.
Uber still trade with impunity. Enforcement on London's streets is still a million miles away from satisfactory and mini cab roundels still pour out of the TFL like confetti. We are still very much at risk of oblivion.
It's been a funny old week in our London Cab Trade, that's for sure. We still need to take the challenge to the woefully inadequate though and when the shout goes up for unity, I would like to see as many of us lace our boots up to support a united show of passion and strength........just like the French did !
Be lucky all.
Sunday, June 28, 2015
'OK, what do you know about running trains?'
'Nothing at all but I can cause congestion by running half empty buses and umpteen private hire cars on the streets'
'Could be the kind of person they are looking for, what about looking after public money?'
'No problem there, I can offer up the cable car and the hydrogen bus as examples of wise spending'
'Ok, Start Monday.
Saturday, June 27, 2015
French President Francois Hollande has called for the Uber taxi service to be shut down and its vehicles seized.
But Uber is refusing to stop the service until a ruling by the country's top court.
The stand-off, and a violence-marred taxi strike in Paris, reflects wider tensions in France over how to regulate fast-moving technology and stay globally competitive while ensuring labour protections.
France's top security official, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, said today that Uber is facing multiple investigations. He spoke to RTL radio a day after striking taxi drivers attacked Uber livery cars and set fire to tyres on a major artery around Paris.
Some taxi drivers continued the protest today, but the strike did not appear to seriously disrupt morning travel around Paris, and no violence was immediately reported.
Uber's cheapest service, called UberPop in France, has been banned, but Uber officials insist they will continue their activities until France's highest court rules on the service.
Mr Cazeneuve called that "cynical and arrogant".
Mr Hollande said today: "The UberPop group must be dissolved and declared illegal, and the vehicles must be seized." But he said the executive branch cannot do that without further action through the courts.
The president, speaking at an EU summit in Brussels, accused Uber of not respecting "social and fiscal rules".
Uber argues that the French taxi system is outdated and needs reform to keep up with apps and geolocalisation, and that traditional taxis are just trying to quash competition.
The company faces similar legal challenges and criticism from taxi drivers' associations around the world.
Furious taxi drivers in France say the low-cost UberPop service is ruining their livelihood. Uber drivers have been repeatedly ambushed, sometimes with customers inside.
There were reports of groups of taxi drivers “hunting down” suspected Uber drivers at Charles de Gaulle and Roissy Airports.
Limousines allegedly operating for Uber were overturned at Charles de Gaulle and Porte Maillot, on the outskirts of the French capital. Other areas of Paris and other cities were also affected, as taxi drivers struck out against unfair competition from the UberPOP service.
The app has already been banned in the Netherlands and Spain, and is appealing bans in France and Germany.
Back in May, Uber launched it's 160 euros a pop ‘hail’ helicopter service at Cannes Film Festival
The Uber app offered helicopter taxis during the Cannes Film Festival.
The first of its kind service in France allowed guests to catch a helicopter ride from Nice-Côte d’Azur airport to Cannes for about 160 euros.
The company signed a deal with the French helicopter firm Helipass to offer Sky Taxis throughout the Cannes Film Festival, according to French news channel BFMTV.
The flight service was included in the Uber app as a separate icon on the first day of the festival.
Meanwhile in London:
Tension has risen in London over Uber
Black cab drivers have criticised Mayor Boris Johnson for failing to regulate the taxi trade effectively.
Cabbies also claim Uber does not pay UK taxes and is not subject to the same restrictions as traditional Taxis or Private Hire operators
UCG Condem Paris Uber Protest Violence:
The United Cabbies Group, the fastest growing trade body for the black cab industry, condemn violence at the Paris "Uber protest".
The UCG, who will stage peaceful industrial action outside Palestra, the headquarters for Transport for London (TfL), next week, have condemned the recent violence at the Paris protest against the $50 billion American company as "horrendous and unacceptable."
Len Martin, Chair of the UCG, said on Friday night:
"What this minority of Paris drivers have done by turning to violence is 100% unacceptable. Violence is never the way. That's why we're calling for a parliamentary inquiry into TfL - amid rumours of institutional corruption.
Sir Peter Hendy may have disappeared in a puff of smoke yesterday, but we will not."
The UCG stress their strategy of non-violent protest is an action of last resort and call for "reasoned debate" with political leaders from across the spectrum in order to avert further industrial action.