Saturday, March 14, 2015

Bad Day For Buses As Another One Loses Upper Deck And One Catches Fire.

A double-decker bus has had its roof ripped off in a crash with a railway bridge in west London.

Pictures showed the dramatic aftermath of the smash in which no one is thought to have been injured.

In them the bus appears to have almost completely lost its roof in scenes reminiscent of a similar incident in Holborn last month- when a double-decker sliced off its top deck after colliding with a tree.

Emergency services were called to the crash on St John's Road in Isleworth shortly before 4pm this afternoon.

Luckily the top deck of the bus was empty when it hit the railway bridge. The driver was  checked over by an ambulance crew.

Source: Standard news on line.

Amazingly this next incident never made the media. TfL spin doctors earning their money?

Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus contained a fire in the engine of a double-decker bus outside St Paul’s Underground Station in Cheapside last night.

    Photo by Fitz 

The fire began as the No 242 from Tottenham Court Road approached St Paul’s Underground Station on its way to Homerton Hospital.  

A passenger at the back of the bus smelt smoke and alerted the driver. The driver pulled over, opened the engine cover and discovered it was well alight.

The driver helped all 20 passengers leave the bus safely and no one was injured.

      Photo by Fitz 

One fire engine and around 7 firefighters and officers from Dowgate Fire station attended the incident.


The Brigade was called at 22:29 and the fire was under control at 23:42.

Incident updates

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Editorial Comment: 

Many drivers have expressed concerns over the alleged media cover up concerning this burning bus. Had this been a Hydrogen powered bus, who knows what type of catastrophe this could have turned into. 

Diesel car 'demonisation' condemned by industry group

A campaign to combat the "demonisation" of diesel has been launched by the UK's leading motor industry association.

A campaign to combat the "demonisation" of diesel has been launched by the UK's leading motor industry association.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), along with BMW, Ford, and Jaguar Land Rover, believe fears over diesel are misplaced.

The campaign comes in response to several efforts to curb diesel cars due to the harmful pollutants they produce.

In December, the mayor of Paris called for diesel cars to be banned from the French capital by 2020.

"Today's diesel engines are the cleanest ever, and the culmination of billions of pounds of investment by manufacturers to improve air quality," said Mike Hawes, the chief executive of SMMT, in a statement.

"Bans and parking taxes on diesel vehicles therefore make no sense from an environmental point of view," he added.

But Gavin Thomson, from the Healthy Air Campaign said: "We need action from all levels of government to protect our health and substantially reduce the diesel in our towns and cities.

"This should include government supported retrofit schemes, a national network of low emission zones and support for other modes of travel."

Analysis: John Moylan, energy correspondent

Europe's carmakers fear a consumer backlash against diesel vehicles.

Analysts say that in the past two decades the industry ploughed billions into plants producing diesel engines and cars in an effort to cut CO2 emissions from vehicles.

Ford's Dagenham plant alone could soon be making close to a million diesel engines a year.

But other parts of the world, like the United States, didn't follow Europe's lead.

So did the big European brands including Peugeot, BMW and Daimler, back the wrong technology?

And what would be the consequences if moves to ban or restrict diesel cars were to start hitting sales? 

Health concerns

In the past, policy makers had encouraged consumers to purchase diesel cars, as diesel is a more efficient fuel than petrol and it emits less carbon dioxide (CO2) - a big contributor to global warming.

But diesel engines emit more nitrogen oxides (NOx) than petrol cars, and these can cause health problems, such as inflammation of the airways, reduction in lung function and exacerbation of asthma symptoms.

Yet the SMMT points out that the latest Euro-6 vehicle emission standards, affecting all new cars sold from 1 September 2015, drastically reduce NOx pollutants. 

Despite this, a YouGov poll cited by SMMT has found that 87% of UK adults are unaware of the latest standard, consequently blaming cars - instead of larger polluters like power stations - as the biggest cause of air pollution.

Nonetheless, the poll suggests that nearly three-quarters of UK motorists are against penalties for clean diesel cars.

Upgrading engines

In December, the Environmental Audit Committee argued that air pollution was a "public health crisis" and said diesel was now seen as "the most significant driver of air pollution in our cities". 

The Committee called for the government to pay for diesel drivers to upgrade their engines or for a national scrappage scheme to take the most polluting vehicles off the road.

Over the summer, London Mayor Boris Johnson floated plans to introduce an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in which drivers of diesel cars would be charged about £10 to drive into central London in addition to the existing £10 Congestion Charge.

However, newer diesel vehicles that adhere to the Euro-6 emission standard would be exempt.

Source : BBC Online.

Friday, March 13, 2015

TfL Compliance Not Doing Their Job, When It Comes To Private Hire Document Checks

              Compliance giving a driver who broke down a hard time

Over the last few months, we have seen a massive increase in the number of badge and bill checks carried out on Taxi drivers by compliance officers on behalf of TfL. Many in the trade feel this is a revenge based agenda as a direct result of the GLA inquiry that found TfL woefully inadequate as a licensing authority under the commission of Sir Peter Hendy.

While we would agree that is indeed a good idea to check drivers documentation from time to time, to weed out imitation and counterfeit documents, we would also expect TfL to do similar checks on Private Hire vehicles and drivers.

High on the heals of the news that many Private Hire drivers have not insured their vehicles for hire and reward, it has now been brought to our attention that many PH driver have negated in presenting their vehicles for the six monthly MOT inspection. No reminders are sent out and NSL are not notified if a PH vehicle does not get the required MOT. Also it does not show up on the police computer or Congestion Charge system. 

Some PH drivers are even removing their roundels to disguise the fact that they are indeed private hire vehicles.  

Our investigations show this practice is commonplace and widespread amongst private hire drivers. Surely this matter could be resolved simply, by TfL compliance carrying out similar inspections with PH as they do with Taxi badge and Bill checks. 

Mobile teams of compliance officers should be used where private hire vehicles are found standing and documentation should be checked.

                            PH parked on Taxi Rank Charing Cross Road

There is also an app, available to the general public, which can be used by compliance officers to find out immediately if the vehicles MOT or its Road Fund Licence has expired. We would suggest that compliant teams use this app.

>Click Here For App<

Used in conjunction with the TfL PH license checker and doing the maths, it takes but seconds to find out if a vehicle is in contravention of TfL's condition of licensing.

There has been much concern from the GLA about the level of enforcement from both TfL and the Met regarding private hire vehicles. 

Making sure that every private hire vehicle has a current MOT, would be an excellent first step.



Caroline Pidgeon Writes To TFL Asking For Full Transparency Concerning The Legal Advice On Uber's Legality.

We recently heard news (at the GLA meeting with Sir Peter Hendy) that because of TfL's resistance to enforce private hire legislation against Uber, other PH companies our now starting to use smartphones as Taximeters in regards the fare to passengers.

TfL insist that the apps being used, according to  advice received from an eminent QC, are perfectly legal, as the legislation was written before the invention of smartphones. However, TfL say some elements of the act are still unclear and so they will be seeking opinion from the High Court, to finally clear up the matter. In the meantime they are quiet happy for a Uber and other companies to use this technology as meters for fares.

Hendy also warned at the City Hall meeting that even if the high court ruled the app meter illegal, Uber could sidestep any ruling by placing the meter on the passengers app, rather than the drivers phone.

Many drivers attending the meeting at City Hall last month were treated to Sir Peter completely contradicting himself saying he would never use an app to call a Taxi, then a few minutes later in his "I wanna tell you a story" speach he said, "I decided to Hailo a Taxi"....

Chair of the Transport Committee, Caroline Pidgeon has now written to Sir Peter expressing concerns about the level of resources available to enforce Taxi and private hire laws.

She went on to say, the committee was deeply concerned about Sir Peter’s suggestion that some Met Borough Commanders “do not view enforcement against touts as a priority” and said colleagues on the Assembly’s police and crime committee would be picking up the issue.

Sir Peter has also been asked what steps he intends to take to address the issue that Met officers are not familiar enough with Taxi and Private Hire legislation, to carry out efficient enforcement against touting and illegal plying for hire. 

In the letter, Ms Pidgeon also asks for all legal advice on the issue of the Uber app’s legality to be released to the committee so that there can be greater understanding and transparency around TfL’s decision to licence the firm.

The written requests of TfL include:

  • Provide the legal advice upon which the decision to licence Uber London was made;
  • Provide any additional independent or in-house legal advice relating to this decision;
  • Explain the role and scope of the new ‘Taxi and Private Hire Terms of Reference Group’ that TfL is setting up;
  • Fully explore options to increase funding for the Cab Enforcement Unit, in consultation with the trades; and
  • Provide the current prioritised list of rank requests and an update on how negotiations are progressing with each of the relevant boroughs

The requests of the Mayor include:

  • Open up the Cabbies Cabinet to scrutiny allowing Assembly Members to observe the proceedings and for full minutes to be made public; and
  • Give further consideration to seeking joint meetings with taxi and private hire representatives, who share many of the same concerns.

Caroline Pidgeon AM, said;

“We welcome TfL’s commitment to implement many of the recommendations in our report - however we await further transparency on a number of issues. The apparent secrecy around the Uber issue is unacceptable and we’re still very concerned about the level of dedicated resources available for enforcement in London, as the powers of TfL’s own compliance officers are extremely limited.

The very least the cab trades and the Committee deserve is openness and constructive communication about these important and often divisive issues.”


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Coming Soon...Project Kipper.

Project Kipper is an ongoing project. 

This video was just a bit of fun, to try out new equipment. But next time it will be clearer and filmed over an entire evening. 

In this trailer, three Uber drivers were approach and asked to take a passenger to Shepherds Bush green. 

 1st driver said no problem and gave a price of £15.

 2nd driver was a bit cagey and wanted to give our man the price at destination (??).

 3rd driver wanted our man to download the Uber app first but when our man started to walk away the driver said he was available for hire and offered to take him.

Interestingly, not one Uber driver approached told our man they couldn't take him.


Project Kipper : A small team of Taxi drivers working undercover

This team caught three touts bang to rights in the space of half an hour. 

The TfL funded Met Police Cab Enforcement Unit of over 60 officers convict approx 3 touts per month (TfL statistics 2013-2014).

Perhaps TfL should be looking to employ Taxi drivers to work closely with both TfL Compliance and Cab Enforcement.

At present TfL's results are woefully inadequate.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Uber Wars : A New Hope


Russell Howarth's campaign needs the backing of every Taxi driver who wants to save his job.

If nothing is done to combat the threat of Uber, within just a few months Taxi drivers could be earning just 25% of what they were earning this time last year. Don't beleive it...speak to drivers in California where Uber has devastated their industry, even though in most states they operate outside the law

Let's not forget that in London, Uber give the impression they are totally legal.

The Taxi trade has seen egos and tribal behaviour fragment the trade, with the majority of drivers trust lost in Trade Orgs who in the past have sold out their members, solely to be included in an engagement policy agenda set up by TfL to diversify the trade to a point of impotency.

What we desperately need is a man with a plan and Taxi Leaks believes that Russell Howarth is that man.

Please try to set aside 45 mins and listen to Jamies interview. It's certainly put new fire in my belly.

SuperCabby Podcast

Arresting Uber Interview – SuperCabby Podcast Episode 28

[Read More...]


Remembering Bob.

One year ago today, the trade union movement lost a lion. 
Bob Crow 13 June 1961 - 11 March 2014.

RIP Bob. Forever remembered.


Bob Crow.

If You Thought The GLA Report Would Change Anything....Think Again... By Jim Thomas

The Taxi trade applauded the findings of the GLA transport committee which was publish just before Christmas last year. Most drivers believed that things would now have to change after the damning report found TfL woefully inadequate. Or did it.

It was all over the media, both national and in the trade press. 
But it would seem that TfL's Leon Daniels believes otherwise.

Taxi Leaks has always thought that the GLA report would be no more than slap on the wrist and that TfL, after a respectable pause, would just revert to the same standard of practise we witnessed pre report. Hendy and Daniels would come out with a few sound bites, massage a few tired old statistics pulled out of thin air and carry on regardless.

Four months on since the report was made public and.....still nothing.

We now have proof that TfL will treat the GLA report with contempt. Below is a letter from Daniels sent in reply to the MP of one of our readers. 

Daniels is at pains to point out that the phrase "Woefully Inadequate" doesn't actually appear in the report. However he neglects to mention that the phrase was all over the TV and Radio plus appeared wholesale in the national and Taxi/Private Hire media. 

Daniels used to be the main spokesperson for Taxi related matters, yet as soon as it was announced there was to be a GLA inquiry, Daniels seemed to disappear, keeping his head down and passing the buck onto Garret Emmerson. 

The letter goes on to say:

Waffle, waffle, then again, more buck passing as Daniels uses the old excuse, it's not me, I love the Taxi trade, I'm a big user of Taxis, you future is not in my hands but the hands of you customers. 
 It's crystal clear that nothing is going to be achieved by this report. The time for engagement is over and there is only one tool left in our arsenal.


Letters To Taxi Leaks Editor

Open Letter To Sir Peter Hendy CBE.

Sir Peter,

We have watched either by attendance or by online video your appearance before the GLA.

We have also witnessed your complaint to them about allegations and accusations that you find unfair by some in the London Taxi Trade.

Firstly as the 'front man' for your department, it's clear that any dissatisfaction will manifest itself in what may be seen as personal attack .

Could we ask however that you reflect on how these unfortunate happenings have come about.

1. TfL continued failure to engage with the trade in an open and transparent manner, choosing who, when and how you do so. (This is a matter you failed to address when you met the GLA).

2. Whenever you or your department is challenged about lack of enforcement over touting etc. the same stale statistics giving the impression that there are hundreds of police and enforcement officers out there, when you and we know the truth that it's little more than a handful on any given night.

3. Your department decision to award Über an operating licence when they (in contravention of YOUR conditions of licensing NOT OURS) when they used an unlicensed premises as an operating centre (twice), no landline (an absolute condition) and now it seems no Hire and Reward Insurance validity check for vehicles. 
There has been a recent prosecution over the insurance matter, we are left to wonder about TfL's much vaunted 'one strike and your out' policy ever meant anything except a sound bite.

4. The absolute contemptuous way we were dealt with during the Olympics where the cab trade was effectively erased from the street scene, so much for an integrated transport policy!

5. Year on year reductions in ranking space leading to pollution and lack of provision of a service causing vulnerable passenger to be prey to the unlicensed or unscrupulous PH drivers. 

Still is seems to us TFL's policy is one of plausible deniability to any criticism that the cab trade (and it seems the GLA) brings forward rather than any real effort to confront the real issues.

We can of course carry on with the hostile atmosphere that pervades, we can continue with the playground tactics of 'they said it first' or move forward as a transport professionals and meet with us all (regardless of 'personalities') to seek solutions.

You said 'it would not half help if the cab trade spoke with one voice', well TfL have hardly been constructive in bringing that about have they?

No matter, Jaw Jaw is better than War War so let's give things another crack.

Tfl facilitate an independently chaired conference with us with all the representative groups and a balloted selection of 'non affiliated' drivers.

The ball is in your court Sir Peter.

Yours Sincerely 

Name and Badge No withheld on request.

Letter to the Editor

Operation choke point

News is now emerging in the USA, of a government initiative to make it hard for types of businesses it doesn't agree with, to do business.

The government is pressuring the financial industry to cut off the companies' access to banking services, without first having shown that the targeted companies are violating the law.

For example:
The government knows it cannot simply ban guns, so it goes after the bank or the ammo manufacturer who the gun maker does business with, thus making it harder for the old established business to continue.

The same applies to tobacco, alcohol, retailers and  "adult" entertainment businesses. 

The London taxi business cannot be banned, so life is made very difficult for it to flourish:

a) Stagnation of driver numbers
b) Reduction of ranks
c) The virtual legalisation of touts outside night time businesses (Satellite offices) 
d) The encouragement of the PH business to the point it now outnumbers the London taxi  by 3/1

I believe the same philosophy is being applied here in London by TFL to the London taxi trade albeit under a different name
We've had the rug pulled from under our feet and now there is only one place to go....

Mick Smith

Dear Jim
It's been pointed out on many occasions that most Uber drivers do not have full hire and reward insurance. 
They operate on private use insurance when empty and when they have a passenger, they are supposed to be covered by a blanket company policy. 

Uber have just lost a court case to TfL for allowing drivers to use their app without the correct insurance and have said they will change the practise. 

But last week I saw a crash involving a PH using the Uber app. The driver had an Uber air freshener dangling from the rear view mirror. As soon as the incident took place, the driver shot out of the car and immediately removed the rear PH roundal. I watched him them remove the Uber dangle and front roundal, hiding all evidence that this Prius was in fact a minicab. 

So it would seem, that Uber drivers are still circumnavigating the low, as is their usual practise in many other countries, some where they have been banned. 

These vehicles are registered for the congestion charge and are picked up on the CC cameras. The data base should be expanded to cover full hire and reward insurance. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Uber vigilante Russell Howarth has 'high hopes' of shutting down Uber's London operations, after TfL bottle it.

A vigilante private hire car driver who gained notoriety in Australia for performing citizens arrests on Uber drivers has come to London with the intention of toppling Uber's empire.

Russell Howarth, a former riot police officer, founded the campaign Aresring Uberin 2014 in protest to unlicensed drivers transporting passengers illegally.

He has come to London to meet with taxi driver unions and Transport for London (TfL) to draw attention to what he refers to as Uber's "blatant flouting of the law".

Howarth explains: 

"I have high expectations that Uber's licence to operate in London will be revoked. The question is, will they just continue to operate illegally like they do in other cities?"

It is claimed around 20,000 Uber drivers operating in London received a message from Uber warning them of Howarth's presence in the capital. It followed an altercation earlier in March between Howarth and an Uber driver after he accused the driver of being illegally parked. 

"We have been made aware that there is a person in London who has approached Uber partners and attempted to provoke them," the message states. "He has made claims that Uber London is some way illegal - this is not true.

"We would like to take this opportunity to reassure you that Uber is 100% legal and compliant with all TfL requirements, as was confirmed in the letter that TfL sent all PCO-licensed drivers last summer."

Without naming Howarth directly, drivers are urged in the message to lock their doors and call the police if they are approached.

Uber has not yet responded to multiple requests for comments. 

Howarth recognises Uber is technically legal in London but believes the manner in which it infringes regulations and flouts private car hire rules means it will not be for long.

A meeting is scheduled with TfL CEO Leon Daniels later in March in which Howarth plans to draw attention to these infringements, which are also widely shared by taxi and private hire car drivers in London.

In December 2014, the head of the UK's biggest cab firm, Addison Lee, said TfL had let down taxi drivers by allowing Uber into the capital.

"TfL completely and utterly bottled it," Liam Griffin, Addison Lee's chief executive, told the Evening Standard. "They decided that they would fold and not enforce regulations that they have done to us for a long, long time on the basis that they are worried about being sued by Uber."

Howarth is meeting with the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) and the United Cabbies Group (UCG) on 9 March to discuss potential measures that can be taken if TfL refuse to heed their concerns. Howarth claims to already have around 3,500 black taxi drivers "loosely committed" to any action that might be taken

    Source : IBTimes

Uber Says Goodbye to Japan After Government Ruling

Uber Technologies Inc., whose taxi-hailing app faces regulatory challenges globally, shut down a ride- sharing trial in southwestern Japan after the government called it illegal.

Uber yesterday halted operation of Everyone’s Uber, a program that let users in Fukuoka city share rides, Evelyn Tay, a Singapore-based spokeswoman for the company, said in an e- mailed statement today. 

Uber will consult the Transport Ministry on ways to structure the program to meet official requirements, she said.

The move is a fresh blow to San Francisco-based Uber, whose ride-sharing functions are under scrutiny in cities from Paris to Seoul. Until now, the company avoided regulatory obstacles in Japan by working with taxi and hire-car operators in Tokyo. 

The Fukuoka program marked its first expansion outside Japan’s capital, where local taxi firms are pressuring Uber with their own apps.

Customers of the pilot program received free rides, while Uber paid drivers a fee for participating as it collected traffic and usage data. The service was illegal because it let drivers without taxi licenses profit by providing transport, ministry official Hidetaka Sakai said this week.

Uber has said it will revise the compensation model and continue to negotiate with authorities.
The purpose of the program, started jointly on Feb. 5 with the Kyushu Technology Licensing Organization, was to collect data to understand local transportation needs, Masami Takahashi, chief executive officer of Uber’s Japan unit, said in an interview last month.

Uber was able to “collect meaningful data for analysis that will shed light on transportation patterns in various areas (including underserved) of the city,” the company said today in a statement. “In the next phase, we will focus on better understanding specific transportation needs from the data collected.”

Uber’s presence in Tokyo is still small, partly due to increasing competition from apps introduced by local taxi operators and the city’s availability of 50,000 taxis — almost four times the number in New York.

    Source :Bloomberg