Saturday, March 28, 2015

Another Bad Day For London Taxi Leaks Travel Correspondent Glenn Alutto.

of North London have been gridlocked this afternoon and this evening following accidents in Finsbury Park and on Forest Road Walthamstow. 

A woman with severe back injuries, had to be cut out of her car after it was rammed from behind by the bus. We have been informed that two passengers on the bus were also taken to hospital 

Walthamstow, Forest Road 2pm:
A man is in hospital with critical injuries after he was hit by a bus. Traffic around the North Circular was badly affected with parts gridlocked for most of the afternoon. 

On Friday, a woman was treated for serious leg injuries in hospital today after a night bus ran over her foot on London Bridge, police said.

The 31-year-old victim was walking along the bridge close to Tooley Street when an N47 bus hit her just before 2.30am today. 

She was taken to hospital by paramedics with serious injuries to her right leg, ankle and foot, a spokesman for City Police said.

Her injuries were later found to be "potentially life-changing", he added. 

The road was closed southbound while officers investigated but has since been reopened.

Police today appealed for witnesses to the collision to speak to them after the bus driver failed to stop at the scene.

Uber Customer Accounts Are for Sale On The Dark Web, For As Little As $1

For the second time in just a few weeks, Uber's data system has been hacked. This time it's more serious as customer accounts, complete with valid passwords, have shown up for sale on the Dark Web for as little as $1 each.

One seller claims he has “thousands” of user logins for sale.

A username and password is all you need to access a user’s trip history, which may include personal details such as a home address. While full credit card information is not exposed, the last four digits and expiration date of the user’s card are viewable in a user’s account.

Over on AlphaBay, a recently launched dark web site, vendor "Courvoisier" has a listing for 'x1 UBER ACCOUNT - WORLDWIDE TAXI!’ For the meager sum of $1 each, anyone can anonymously purchase an Uber username and password.

Another vendor, "ThinkingForward", has a similar offer, but for $5. He states on the listings “I will guarantee that they are valid and live. Discounts on bulk purchases".

According to Courvoisier, once you’ve bought the login, it’s a simple step to ordering a cab.

“Log in on the Uber mobile website on your phone and book a cab :)” he or she told me in a private message.

A representative for Uber said the company has found no evidence of a breach. 

A sample of names and passwords has proved to be available and verified that at least some of the accounts were active by contacting those users. The data includes names, usernames, passwords, partial credit card data, and telephone numbers for Uber customers.

One of the users whose email address and password up for sale, is James Allan, sales director for OISG, a technology solutions company.

Allan confirmed that the username and password seen were correct, as well as the expiry date on his personal credit card. He doesn’t actually use Uber anymore, and the last trip he booked was in December 2013.

“Bloody hell,” Allan said over the phone, when he was told what his password was.

He was “extremely surprised” by the revelation, he said. Allan also said that he doesn’t use the internet much for financial transactions, preferring cash “for this very reason.”

“Either someone at Uber has passed these details on for money, or they have very lax security,” Allan said. “Criminal proceedings need to be processed, I’d expect. That’s what I would like to happen.”

The second account holder, who didn’t want to have his name printed, was equally shocked.

“It’s terrifying that this information is out there. It’s a massive breach of privacy,” he said.

A third account holder, whose login information appeared to be valid, did not immediately respond to phone calls or emails.

It’s unclear where the data came from or the scale of the breach. These logins may indicate that Uber’s security was hacked or compromised somehow, although the company says it has found no evidence of a breach. It also might mean that these customers were breached individually by other means, and their Uber credentials harvested and put up for sale. 

When Courvoisier was asked where the accounts he was selling came from, he replied, simply, “Hacked accounts buddy.”

“I have thousands :)” he added.

In a statement, an Uber spokesperson said:

We are looking into this and do not have any information to share at this time. We use state of the art technology to prevent, detect, and investigate fraud. It’s important to note that attempting this type of fraud is illegal, and we take appropriate action when we confirm fraud, including notifying the proper authorities.”

Uber Update: Uber sent a second updated statement:

"We investigated and found no evidence of a breach. Attempting to fraudulently access or sell accounts is illegal and we notified the authorities about this report. This is a good opportunity to remind people to use strong and unique usernames and passwords and to avoid reusing the same credentials across multiple sites and services.

It’s worth remembering that the sale of this data may have consequences beyond any single Uber account. If an individual uses the same email address and password to sign up for other services—eBay, for example—then typing in those details on different sites may also allow easy access.

Indeed, that’s what Allan had done. “I did use the same password for Amazon only as I mentioned that I don’t trust the use of financial details on the web,” he said in a follow up email.

ThinkingForward had only sold a few accounts at the time of writing. The only bit of feedback left by a happy customer so far reads “quick and pro thanks mate.”

Courvoisier, meanwhile, has apparently sold over 100 Uber usernames and passwords, and has received plenty of positive reviews.

“Works perfect,” was the feedback left by one customer; “speedy delivery” was from another.

This isn’t the first time that Uber has had data leak in some form. As many as 50,000 of its drivers may have had personal details exposed. Uber said that in September 2014 one of the company databases “could potentially have been accessed by a third party,” according to Slate, and Uber said that only the drivers’ names and license plates could have been accessed in that breach. The twist is that Uber reportedly left the key for that database on a publicly accessible page on Github.

In another incident, Uber accidentally left part of its internal lost and found database—which included driver and customer names and some numbers—public on the open internet.

On the internet, it’s possible to purchase all sorts of digital goods: credit card numbers, PayPal accounts, and now Uber logins, all for as little as a few dollars. This item is just the latest in the long history of buying stolen data with the click of a mouse.

Editorial Comment: Our legal team asked us to advise you, dear reader, that buying stolen login info from the internet is illegal and you should definitely not do that, so don’t.

We have also been told that just deleting the app will not protect you from fraud. With Uber, it's almost impossible to delete your account data. We got this from WikiHow.

    Source : MotherBoard

Uber Drivers, Working Tax Credits And Housing Benefits... By I'm Spartacus

     As the man said 'you could not make it up'

Über a non British, non UK taxpaying company, has a labour force that through the tax credit and housing benefit system, make any meaningful comparison with our price and cost model meaningless.

Just you try and pop down the DSS or whatever it's called today, probably  Übercash and say 'I am a London taxi driver struggling to make ends meet can you help?', expect to be slung out immediately.

So before we all join in the well known motto of the cab trade 'well what can you do', maybe there is something.

We start a campaign to have the HMRC and benefit rules adjusted so that if you're a PH driver you cannot access working tax credit or housing benefit.

Why should we (the British Taxpayer) living in a country where old people are dying for want of social care, along with recent proposal to tax the disabled, stand for it any longer?

Why should we subsidise a foreign registered sweatshop?

Why should we standby and watch these pirates raid the public purse?

This is a campaign that all of us and the public will get behind.

I'm Spartacus.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Letter To The Editor. New Home For LTPH + Why Would Geely Invest In Dying Trade.

Morning Jim.

I have been an avid reader of your columns for a number of years now. I am a knowledge student and I am nearing my journey as a student and looking forward to becoming one of London’s finest. 

Im confused with what I am reading, firstly if the taxi trade is under so much pressure from outside companies (I.e, UBER, ect) and most of all TFL why are they designating a new refurbished office at 280 Blackfriars Road specifically for the trade/knowledge students?

If the time left for the trade was getting short and they had no interest in us, why would they invest all this money on a new building for it to fail (if that’s TFLs plan). And secondly why is there a brand new taxi building company about to open creating thousands of jobs and a whole fleet of new taxis, surely no manufacturer would go near the Licensed taxi trade – they must of done there research to invest all that money into building new taxis and the millions in a new factory. 

As from the start I did say I was confused and taking into account I’m not yet on the front line and get all my taxi information from you guys and LTDA magazine and the snippets I hear on the road.

Anyway if you could answer my question I would really appreciate that and look forward to your continued articles.


Ross Thomson. 

Editorial Comment:

The answer to your first question is simple.
Firstly, let me point out the new building is not at 280 but 230 and is not just for the Taxi trade and Knowledge appointments. It will house the whole of the TPH directorate, plus there will finally be a return to counter services , last seen at Penton Street, before the move to Palestra. 

Although TfL are in the process of overseeing the demise of the World's Best Taxi service, they have also expanded the PH fleet to a point whereby the end of 2015 could well see them in the 100,000s. Palestra was no longer viable and another building was deemed necessary. 

Your second question is however a paradox. 
It's also not a pretty picture with the long term future of our trade, looking extremely bleak.

With the demise of the trade as a viable occupation for full time Taxi owner drivers, Taxi Leaks is of the opinion that the end game of the Mayor/TfL is to whittle 25,000 Taxi drivers down to just a few thousand journey men, all working for garages, hiring out Geelys new TX6 vehicles on half flat at extortionate rates. We will just be there to please the tourists. Account work will go to PH operators and the right to ply for hire will disappear under new measures from the Law Commission. 

The remaining Licensed Taxis will only be able to work from designated rank spaces which will be maintained by commercial third parties selling permits. 

Taxi driving will no longer be a trade for life and will become more like New York, where drivers come and go, many not bothering to renew licenses once expired. It will become an intransigent job, drivers depending on SatNav, with the knowledge reduced from years to weeks.

Too many drivers get their trade info from a sterilised Trade media source. Too many drivers do not have the apatite for confrontation, for fear of upsetting the public who have shown their loyalty towards our massive investment in purpose built wheelchair accessable vehicles, by deserting us in huge numbers. These same drivers are now on a path of self denial and self blame, stating cut rate cheaper fares, Credit Cards, all black cabs and a dress code is the answer.

The public have been allowed by TfL to desert us and use an illegall instant hail service, who's modus operandi depends heavily on drivers claiming working tax credits and other financial benifits. 

Who can possibly make a substanable living charging £33 from Hoop Lane Golders Green to Gatwich?

As for Geely, they are investing in Coventry as a European base, to produce vehicles designed with the whole European market in mind. They will hold London up as the Jewel in the Crown, a model of how the Licensed Taxi market can be manipulated for the greatest profit. Further age limits will be introduced to generate demand for new vehicles with older vehicles sold on to third world markets who also have  massive pollution problems.

Don't forget this factory has an output of 34,000 vehicles a year. Geelys priority will be building its Eco-Van, with Taxis as a side line.

This has never been about a solution to pollution. As the Yeo scandal illustrated, its profit generated, for the benifit of certain individuals with financial interests.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

David Cameron: Visiting the London Taxi Company with Boris Johnson

A question I would like to ask both David Cameron and Boris Johnson:

You've both bent over backwards to facilitate a foreign company that disregards all forms of regulation world wide and in the words of your own London Assembly members should never have been licensed in the first place.

One who pays its Tax in Holland and has driven down the earnings of the London taxi trade to a level far below he seasonal norm.

Who the hell do you think is going to be able to afford these new greener, cleaner Taxis?

More Smoke And Mirrors From TfL, As Val Shawcross Calls For Action On Minicab Touting.

Assembly member Valerie Shawcross, has called for more to be done to stop illegal touting by unlicensed cab drivers.

              Assembly Member Val Shawcross celebrating St George's day

The Labour assembly member said touts are "getting away with it all the time", adding: "There are two cab-related sexual assaults a week and touting is all part and parcel of that risk." 

This number as this blog has pointed out many times befor, is just the reported cases. Met police estimate that up to 90% of attacks go unreported, which could equate to as many as 20 minicab related sexual assaults weekly.

She also complained the problem is "massively under-enforced, with only 14 TfL compliance officers on duty at night".

Worst still were the reports from the Chairman of the LCDC Grant Davis, that one particular Saturday night when he was working, there were only 2 cab enforcement officers available on duty.

Speaking at the a mayors Question Time at City Hall yesterday, Mr Johnson said she had made "a valid and powerful point" and insisted efforts would not just be redoubled but "multiplied many times" to improve matters. Unfortunately a broken promise heard many times before from Boris.

"I'm going to put my hands up here and say we need to be doing more," he added. (Didn't he say that last month/last year/the year before?)

Helen Chapman, general manager of taxi and private hire, said the English language test was being examined as a possible way of improving minicab services for Londoners. How on earth can TfL justify licensing a person to deal with the general public who doesn't speak the countries language, it's unacceptable and scandalous. 

                        Helen Chapman, former Deputy Director LTPH

She said: “There is currently no statutory requirement for private hire drivers to speak a specified level of English, although all drivers must undertake a map reading test conducted in English. This statement doesn't hold water as TfL can evoke their powers to reject any applicant under the fit and proper person requirement.

"We are always looking at ways to improve the service we offer to our customers and we are putting forward a proposal to introduce a new English language requirement that all drivers must meet before becoming licensed.  

It's amazing how quickly amendments were made to the London cab act to put IDs on the statute, yet this argument has been dragging on for years. Presently, there seems no political apatite to solve this issue.

"This is one element of a wide-ranging consultation on Private Hire Regulations that we expect to launch in the near future. And that's the key words "In the near future", a term that neatly always's been shelved. More proof that the present directorate at TfL have been and still are woefully inadequate. 

There are rumours that a knowledge examiner has been suspending for refusing to see knowledge students using interpreters. 

Letter To The Editor : Towards Trade Peace.... By I'm Spartacus

There have been encouraging signs of late that the trade organisations and unions whilst they might not all be singing the same tune, at least have gathered around the same piano.

Trade politics will always attract a heady mixture of the sincere, pompous, deranged or down right shifty, no matter the more we meet together the less those with self interest can prosper.

The next steps must be as follows:

1. An agreed trade wide 'manifesto' is published.

2. The Joint Ranks Committee is reconstituted to include those currently excluded, even the existing members would admit it needs new blood and more people.

3. Any and all talks with TfL, The Mayor, BAA , London Councils etc. must have representation across the trade and those who currently attend this or that should agree not to unless the others are included.

4. Government, Mayor, GLA and TfL etc. informed that this new trade body (London Taxi Congress?) is the 'voice of the trade'.

5. It won't mean that everyone goes to every meeting except those that do carry a mandate from us all and report back to us all.

Of course some will have to surrender some perceived status and others not.  Some will have to 'sell' their organisation or union on its benefits, democratic structure etc. etc. It should of course always have been so and some need to set aside personal ambition, old hatreds or just plain obstinacy.

There can be no more pathetic 'we're in your out' nonsense that only serves those who wish to see us divided and in fact, diminishes us all.

So trade leaders, can you now walk the walk?

To paraphrase:
"Think not what the cab trade can do for you, but what you can do for the cab trade"

Here's hoping.

I'm Spartacus

The most honest cabbie in the world? Taxi driver hands in forgotten bag - containing £10k cash

We've all left things in Taxis - mobile phones, spare change, the odd shopping bag.

But one Taxi driver in Walsall ended up with a rather more valuable forgotten item - a bag containing £10,000 cash.

Mohammed Nisar picked up one of his regular customers from Hereford at Walsall train station and drove him to his normal destination of British Car Auctions in Green Lane, thinking no more about it. However, soon afterwards, a call came in from the council saying that something important had been left behind.

Thinking nothing of it and without looking inside, father-of-three Mohammed simply reached for the innocuous looking shoulder bag and placed it on the front passenger seat.

It was only when the flustered passenger returned to the rank in another taxi less than half an hour later that he realised something was out of the ordinary.

"He nearly had a heart attack, he was really worried," said Mr Nisar, aged 55 from Hatherton. "He came up to me and said 'do you realise what is in that bag?'.

"He was very, very thankful. He had just bought a car but forgot the money."

It is not the first time Mr Nisar, who has been a cabbie for 15 years and works for himself, has found things in the back of his car.

Mobile phones regularly slip out of pockets, while purses are also frequently left behind. Only two years ago one passenger left a wallet containing £150 in, but Mr Nasir drove straight back to the man's home in Darlaston and returned it.

Now, following his latest find, he is urging fellow taxi drivers to do the same if they find themselves in the same situation.

Mr Nisar said: "At the end of the day honesty is the best policy. There are some drivers who don't return things but what is the point.

"If the council had not have called me and no-one had have claimed it after 12 or 24 hours I would have taken that bag straight to the police station. It is better me going to them rather than them coming to visit you.

"Mobile phones are the most common thing left behind but most of them now can be traced anyway.

"My message is to encourage all my taxi driving brothers that if they find something valuable just give it back."

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Minicab driver handed community order for threatening to kidnap 14-year-old girl in Bromley

A minicab driver, who threatened a teenage girl in Bromley before two women came to her rescue, has been handed a community order.

Abdul-Muhib Hannan, of Imperial Way, Chislehurst, pulled up in a silver saloon car alongside the 14-year-old girl, who was walking along Turpington Lane at around 3.30pm on January 14.

The 26-year-old threatened her in an attempt to get her into his vehicle but two women waiting at a nearby bus stop in Brosse Way intervened.

Officers arrested Hannan on suspicion of attempted kidnap but he was later charged with a public order offence.

He pleaded guilty at Bromley Magistrates’ Court to using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour towards another person intending to cause them harassment, alarm or distress.

Hannan was sentenced at the same court on March 20 to a community order requiring him to undertake 150 hours of unpaid work.

He was also ordered to pay a £60 victim surcharge and £85 court costs.

Nissan Taxi delay: Good news and bad news for Midlands firms

It seems that Nissan has suspended development of its new London black cab, because its petrol version it won't meet standards for London's proposed Ultra-Low Emission Zone.

Its plans for a new black cab for London appear to be on hold and will remain so unless Boris Johnson’s proposed Ultra Low Emission Zone in London is not given the go ahead. A decision on the zone is expected fairly soon.

The zone would not come into effect until 2020 but rules governing the sale of new cabs would come in two years earlier.

Nissan fears that regulations outlined in the consultation, requiring all new taxis registered in London to be zero-emission by 2018, would mean that its new petrol cab would effectively be obsolete in three years.

In effect, London’s Mayor Boris Johnson is proposing to make all London taxis zero-emissions capable by 2018. Nissan's design, based on its NV200 van-based MPV, is powered by a 1.6-litre petrol engine.

News of the hold-up was noted by a few auto magazines at the end of last year and start of this year, but have not been picked up more widely.

James Wright, Managing Director of Nissan Motor GB, was quoted late last year stating that the firm had "suspended the project until the regulation of the market has been decided".

It was also reported as stating that until it knew the requirements for new cabs under the zone, such as the range needed for an electric taxi and guidance on charging points, it would have to suspend development of its greener London cab.

The NV200 taxi is already in service in cities such as New York and Barcelona, but a suite of styling and engineering changes were being made for the London version.

The hold-up seems an odd decision, as Nissan has already developed and launched an electric version of the underpinning van for the project, called the e-NV200, which would meet these emissions standards.

However, it seems that Nissan wants five years to break into the market with its petrol-based taxi before going all electric, and a big concern may be around how many charging points there will be available in London from 2018.

I had expected the Nissan cab to take significant market share, and am thus surprised at the firm putting the project on hold.

While the firm had planned to sell the cab initially with a 1.6-litre petrol engine, it had hoped that longer term electric versions of the cab will be viable as the fast-charging infrastructure in London develops.

And it was going to be one of just three options for licensed cab drivers, alongside the Mercedes-Benz Vito and the London Taxi Company’s TX4.

Of course, Nissan may decide to re-enter the London market with its electric van once it knows how any new zone might shape up. But, as things stand, all this means bad news and good news for Midlands-based firms.

It’s good news for the Geely-owned and Coventry-based London Taxi Company. The latter is planning a £250m investment in a new plant and an electric taxi to be built at Ansty, near Coventry.

A Nissan pull out would mean less competition for its new electric TX5 cab.

But the Nissan hold-up is bad news for ADV Manufacturing, the Coventry-based firm responsible for the final assembly of the Nissan cab.

The base vehicle was meant to to be sourced from Nissan’s Barcelona factory and shipped to the ADV plant in Coventry for final taxi assembly. The extensive taxi transformation was going to involve new bodywork, an interior refit and revised suspension and steering.

Less than a year ago, Brendan O’Toole, the Chief Executive of ADV Manufacturing said: “This is great news for ADV and indeed for the City of Coventry. The company is already taking on more engineers, technicians and other specialist staff to reinforce our product development group”.

He went on: “We will be expanding and training our production team to build taxis from the early summer. We anticipate the Nissan taxi will become the new market standard and thereby underpin sustainable jobs at ADV for many years”.

Quite where the Nissan hold up leaves the ADV-Nissan joint venture is an interesting question.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

RAC Claim Diesel Users Being Taken For A Ride.

Motorists with diesel vehicles are being 'taken for a ride' by retailers who are charging too much, the RAC has said.

The motorists' organisation said that even though the wholesale price of diesel has gone down over the last month, the price at the pump has risen.

The RAC is now calling for a price cut on diesel of 4 pence a litre.

However petrol retailers said the RAC was wrong - and that profit margins on diesel sales were mostly tiny.

Over the last month, the gap between wholesale petrol and diesel prices - in other words what the retailers pay - has narrowed to 0.97p.

Yet motorists are still paying 6p a litre more for diesel than they are for petrol, according to the RAC.

The RAC said that companies - which tend to rely more on diesel vehicles - were being charged too much.

"It's hard not to think that business is being taken for a ride by the fuel retailers," said Simon Williams, the RAC's fuel spokesman.

"Retailers have maintained a higher margin on diesel, perhaps to subsidise petrol sales," he said. 

But the industry said that the RAC had misunderstood how profits are made.

"We are extremely disappointed that the RAC made a number of assumptions that are palpably erroneous," said Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association, which represents independent forecourts.

He said that most business users who buy diesel use discount cards.

That results in profit margins for retailers of between just 0.8p and 1.3p a litre, less than they need to stay in business.

"We have to bear in mind that 900 independent sites closed between 2009 and 2013,".

He said that margins on petrol sales had also collapsed "by 50%" in the last two months.

Currently a Taxi buying 43 litres of diesel at £1.15.9 (Sainsburys Alperton) 
Total cost £49.88 which is 0.55 more than the average price over the UK.

Amazingly without Tax, the same fuel would cost only £16.34.

No wonder then that the government are not in too much hurry to find a cheaper, cleaner, healthier fuel source.