In light of the ongoing dispute between London's Black Taxis and the business activities of Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) operators – a brand new trade organisation with a difference has been formed.
Spearheaded by cabby’s wife, Artemis Mercer, thousands of families and trade supporters of licensed Black Taxi Drivers have united against what they describe as the “woeful failure of Transport for London (TFL) to fairly regulate the taxi and private hire market”.
With the aim of garnering further support from the public and highlighting the demoralising effects of TFL's lack of regulation and enforcement which is having on families, consumer choice, congestion, air quality and public safety - Facebook’s ‘Save Our Black Taxis’ has gained almost 13,000 supporters in a few months and close to 4000 followers on Twitter as @SaveTaxi.
Such is the severity of the problem, the taxi trade is now in steep decline with many taxi drivers leaving the trade seeking other employment. Also, the number of people applying to do the Knowledge has dropped by a third so far this year. Our iconic London taxi revered all over the world is in serious threat. London taxis own regulator is doing nothing to protect them as it seems TFL is putting money and corporate greed first.
TFL introduced the congestion charge to reduce traffic in London. Despite this, they are currently issuing an average of over 600 PHV licences per week with no plans to stop. Since 2012 when Uber London was licensed, our capital has gone from 8th to 1st place now being Europe’s most congested city. This has significantly increased NO2 levels more than any other European city and 9000 Londoners are now dying each year from air pollution. For how long can this continue?
Furthermore, illegal touting has become rife and PHV’s are coming into London from other areas to work. Even when TFL is presented with photographic evidence of this they have failed to take adequate action, if any. This is a huge concern as these drivers are not traceable if crimes are committed. Disturbingly, there have also been over 10,000 complaints involving Uber in the last 18 months, in addition the Metropolitan Police have a record of over 600 criminal offences involving Uber in the last 12 months and furthermore Police figures also show that 214 women were sexually assaulted in London last year after getting into illegal minicabs and 54 were raped.
TFL have no database of PHV drivers awaiting criminal proceedings or a database for background checks, causing a serious risk to public safety, why? Also, there is no database of PHV drivers dismissed for sexual misconduct against passengers, why? Any PHV driver could be on bail awaiting trial for sexual assault and yet TFL have no record. If they are dismissed from one mini cab company for sexual allegations, they can move to another mini cab company without further checks.
Why are these issues not being addressed by our own regulator and why are TFL's own regulations which are there to protect public safety not being enforced. Yet, on the other hand the taxi drivers are totally over regulated in comparison? A recent example of this was TFL sending letters threatening legal action to taxi drivers for displaying a Totally Failing London sticker in their taxis whilst off duty.
Whilst the number of taxi licences have always been restricted to around 25,000, at the current rate of new PHV licences being issued there will be 100,000 mini cabs by the end of this year. With a fee of £250 for a new PHV licence, is it a case of TFL putting the pound before passenger safety?
This is of paramount public interest thus Save Our Black Taxis are holding a family demo on 5 September between 1-3pm outside Downing Street to publicise TFL's incompetence and their perceived contempt for the London taxi trade. This campaign would benefit from having our side of the story heard.