Friday, October 23, 2015

Brighton And Hove Council Licence Uber As PH Operator.


The company had applied for a licence to operate in the city. A decision was put on hold earlier this week. 

But earlier today we were informed that Uber will now be granted a private taxi hire operator’s licence by Brighton & Hove City Council.

The council says it is minded to grant a licence for a year from its launch date, yet to be announced. 

Councillors on the panel have agreed Uber can operate initially for a year to test their commitment to meeting the city’s taxi service standards. 

They would have to abide by all the conditions in the Blue Book – a set of guidelines for the local cab trade.

Going by Ubers past performance, they run roughshod over regulations, saying it's easier to seek forgiveness than permission. 

Uber stated at a licensing committee meeting on Monday’s that they wanted to be treated the same as every other operator in the city.  They would only be allowed to send Brighton & Hove-registered drivers to pick up customers.

Uber In Brighton: Taxi operators express  much 'concern':

Other taxi operators shared their concern at Monday's meeting about the company operating on an un-level playing field. 

However at this stage they were not able to provide detailed information about commencement dates and service details.  Work on these could not start until the firm was certain they would obtain a licence.

All Uber drivers will have to hold the same licence as any other private hire driver, which includes a check by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), successor to the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).

Uber representatives told the panel they were already licensed in 33 council areas in the UK, though not yet operating in all of them.

Panel chair Cllr Mo Marsh said:  “We want Uber to compete on a level playing field by signing up to the terms of the Blue Book.  They made a commitment to do that in public and this one-year permission will test the strength of that commitment.”

Perhaps Cllr Mo should have also insisted that each vehicle should carry hire and reward insurance as a protection to passengers and other third parties. Uber have already received fines in London for falling to oversee their "partners" ar fully insured.  

Should be very interesting to follow this story, considering the homophobic views of many of Uber's drivers.


TfL are appealing for reports of any  unlicensed taxis and minicabs in London. But can't even get capacity right! 

 Screen shot from TfL Website: 

Are they sure?

Dear TfL. Could you please tell me where I can purchase a licensed Taxi cab that has the capacity for 8 passenger seats

However, if you do see unlicensed Taxis or Minjcabs operating in London, contact TfL on >report an operator or driver<


Also, please don't forget to report sightings of any form of enforcement or compliance over his week end.

The UCG campaigns committee, invite drivers to tweet any sightings of Taxi/Minicab enforcement, either from the Police (Met and CoL) or LTPH compliance (Operation Neon) from Thursday, through to Sunday.

Please use the hashtag #SpotTFLTPH as we are compiling a deployment record of place, time and date where compliance teams are seen.

Alternatively, if you don't have a Twitter account, you can post sightings to our FaceBook page. 

Don't forget to add the hashtag #SpotTFLTPH give location, time and date,as this makes it easier to collate all the data. 

Photos are also welcome but please don't attempt to use camera or phone unless stationary.

Londoner left penniless after hackers break into Uber account

Londoner woke up on the weekend to discover his Uber profile had been hacked and his bank account emptied.

Neil Thomas, 35, from Ladbroke Grove, was billed just over £2700 for four journeys he never made.

He's adamant no one else had access to his phone, which was by his bedside all night, and is protected by a six digit pass code and touch ID fingerprint recognition.

Musician Neil noticed payments for £5, £756.03, £1395.89 and £551.97 had left his account overnight when he checked his bank statement on Saturday morning.  

Neil's Nationwide bank statement showing the three payments leaving his account on Friday 16th and Saturday 17th.

“I contacted Nationwide and was told Uber had made a number of withdrawals from my account,” Neil told us.

“I’m a struggling musician with very little money at the best of times and it crippled me.”

When he contacted Uber to find out how his account had been hacked, Neil was given a cyber security lecture.

They advised him not to use the same passwords and email addresses across different platforms.

Worryingly, they also told him: “instances like this aren’t always preventable.”

As an apology, they offered Neil £12.95 off his next Uber – over two pounds less than new customers get just for signing up!

“They gave me the usual line of ‘we take your security very seriously’,” Neil told us.

“But I want to know how somebody can go into your account and take your money.

“I’m disappointed Uber doesn’t have any safeguards against this – it’s obvious that a fare of £1,395 is suspicious.

“Offering me £12.95 was just insulting.”

It’s not the first time doubts have been cast over the Uber app’s security.

Earlier this year thousands of customers, including TV presenter Anthea Turner, also claimed they were charged for trips they did not make

Whilst Uber have refunded Neil, he has no way of withdrawing money because the hack prompted Nationwide to cancel his debit card.

 “I’ve had to cancel events as I can’t get there or pay entry so it’s been a major inconvenience,” Neil explained.

We contacted Uber to ask them to explain how Neil’s account was hacked and how other users can stay safe.

Here’s what they told us:

“Someone would have got access to his password and logged into his account.”

When we asked them how users can stay safe, they repeated the line they have Neil:

“Our advice to Uber customers would be - don’t use the same username and password on all your online accounts.”

Not satisfied with this response, Neil has brought his complaint to A Spokesman Said to raise awareness.

“There has been no contrition and no effort towards meaningful compensation for crippling me financially for a week.”

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Letters To The Editor : The Best Solutions, Always The Simple Ones.

The current crop of compliance officers are paid on nights far in excess of a Police constable in the Met/City Police, British transport Police or any regional force.

So why is there a problem?
Semtex quite rightly says, without powers of arrest or powers to STOP they will achieve nothing.

£38,000 for working a 37 hour a week is fantastic but what is their brief from their bosses.

I attented a meeting with Danny Sullivan and unite's Peter Bond about compliance enforcement before the Olympics with Helen Chapman and ex cab enforcement pc Paul Smithers. Paul Smithers name I had never heard of before who worked under sgt Dave Hilson. I believe he must of kept his head down running up to retirement.

So now he is Helen Chapman's consultant who told the meeting that there are 69 warranted cab enforcement officers. 

Has anyone ever seen them? 

I told Helen Chapman that compliance teams should consist of at least one Policeman/Cab Enforcement officer and two compliance officers in a van. The copper can put on a high viz coat eg in Bayswater road, he can then stop two minicabs followed by one taxi to do a compliance check.

Simple you might think.... But Helen chapman was having NONE OF IT.

The Street offences squad who patrol Oxford Street should take over the compliance teams. They know who the villains who steal from tourists in the west end and will take them 5 minutes to know the people touting in Minicabs.

Lets cut the team in half and only keep the best dedicated staff.

Tony Casey. 

Why Can't They Get It Right:

The Met say, Cab Enforcement  officers are warranted, have the power to stop/arrest but we're told they don't have the budget. So what do they do with the money TfL give them?

On the other hand, TfL compliance say have the budget to employ 82 officers! But these officers, mainly seconded from other duties such as revenue protection, don't have the power of warranted enforcement officers.

Surely the solution is simple. 
Take the budget off the toothless TfL compliance and increase the funding given to the Met Cab Enforcement. 
But with the stipulation that they only get the money, if the they have a visible effect and we see reasonable results.

What ever happened to the hi-vis stops in Bayswater Road, Charing Cross Road and Knightsbridge. How easy to check for H&R insurgence and documentation. 

Gerald Coba. 

Enforcers, Imposters or Saviours? Semtex

Nothing in life makes me more frustrated than professional incompetence. Despite our apparent prolific steps we make in technology, science, medical research, mini cab apps and much more, basic incompetence is all around us as we go about our daily lives. 

Some of it is caused because the person or persons have been inadequately trained, some of it is caused by lack of interest, despite good training, and some of it is caused by the employers, in an inexcusable effort to save money by not getting the fully trained candidates in the first place.

There are probably a million reasons for it I guess, but either way, when blatantly confronted with it, I get really wound up.
A few years ago, I was confronted with a serious road traffic collision in Moorgate outside the tube station. The road was two way then. It was a motorcyclist and a van involved. The paramedics pulled up, blues and twos on and then the ambulance just stopped. 

I was puzzled to see what the problem was for the young lady driver, and assumed there was something blocking the road, which in turn was preventing her access to the scene.
I sat patiently stationery in the cab, and so did the paramedics. The two tones were still sounding and her blue beacons were still flashing, although the ambulance was motionless. The motorcyclist at this time had gone into shock and started shaking uncontrollably. 

Professional help was only 100 yards away, but may well just as been 100 miles ! 

I decided to get out the cab and see what the problem was. By this time the motorcyclist is in a bad way. The passenger member of the ambulance crew had thankfully grabbed his bag and began a sprint to the scene, but still the lady driver medic sat behind the wheel, 100 yards from the injured parties. 

As I approached the ambulance, she too jumped out and began making her way to the collision scene. Still bemused, I asked if there was a problem with the ambulance. She looked as me as though I was an imbecile and said "How do you expect me to get the ambulance through there !?" pointing towards the more than ample gap in the traffic. 

I was utterly flabbergasted ! 
Every single one of us professional cab drivers would have got the ambulance through the gap at 70 mph, eating a bagel at the same time !  

Without thinking, I jumped in the ambulance, pulled it through the gap, drove it up to the scene, and got back into my cab. The applause from the spectating public was rapturous, but believe me, I was no hero. Furthermore, I realise my actions were not only discouraged, but illegal.

The motorcyclist and his family would have probably thought differently however. There is absolutely no way on earth, that a professional driver, let alone a professional emergency response driver, should have had any problem with that manoeuver whatsoever! But she did.

Her medical skills were probably superb, but without being able to drive both confidently and competently at speed to a motorcyclist losing blood and just gone into shock..............what is the point ?
Which leads me to my concerns. Transport For London have always had a Compliance Section for London Taxis and Private Hire, and without sounding disrespectful, they have always been useless. 

Their conviction record or rather, lack of it, speaks for itself and is dire. Their defence at any slurs that come from the likes of me however, have always been to explain that they just haven't got enough resources to deal with the problem. 

To a very small degree, I can see the point they make, but in all honesty, if any organisation issue licences for anything, be it driving, shooting, fishing, flying.......whatever, then they have to make arrangements to ENFORCE THE LAWS on the said licences that they charge for and issue, to ensure that all terms of the licences are being complied with and adhered to.
Many of our trade remember being under the control of the Metropolitan Police for our licences. Some of us loved it that way, some of us hated it, but that is not the essence of my post. 

The fact is, when our trade was under the umbrella of the Met, there is no doubt whatsoever, that they did an excellent job of both enforcing the conditions of our cab licences and making sure that our compliance to the said licences were adhered to at all times.
Now look at the state of the place!
There is not a London Taxi Driver who wont be able to reflect my opinion of how inexcusable and out of control, mini cab touting in our Capital has become.

They are everywhere, like ants ! I would like to think that even TFL themselves would admit that the situation of PHV compliance is a huge problem now and effective action needs to be launched immediately.
Personally, I think that the powers in charge make far too much of the brief. 

I applied unsuccessfully for the appointment of Head of Compliance. Had I have got the job, trust me that within a fortnight, the difference in the West End and City  would have been apparent, measureable and reducing with every weekend. 

It's not difficult to enforce the law and to be honest, any surveillance skills that the new man may have....will be wasted.
The touts are blatantly obvious !
The problem is though, the Metropolitan Police Service are currently operating on a very tight budget. 

Coppers are apparently getting buses to crime scenes, ffs !

If that is true, then naturally, mini cab touting not only comes very far down the Met's priority list, but just cannot be dealt with on the current financial structure............end of.

So what now then ?  
If the Police can't deal with the touts for whatever reason............who will ?
TFL said they will, and indeed have recruited a very capable and hard hitting ex-copper who comes with an excellent CV. 

Whatsmore, it is TFL who are selling these mini cab licences, and raking in millions of pounds at the same time. 

It is surely down to them to supply adequate enforcement to monitor compliance of the licences they are selling ?

BUT.......and this is where it gets silly..........what use are the new compliance officers under the new man's command.........UNLESS THEY HAVE FULL POWERS OF LAWFUL ARREST ?
To my mind, employing compliance officers to catch touts and deal with them APPROPRIATELY, is akin to employing the paramedic who couldn't drive the ambulance, POINTLESS !

The Met can't even train POLICE OFFICERS to the pre-Hendon standard, let alone Taxi and Private Hire Compliance Officers. 
So that's the police out of it for any realistic enforcement.
So how are we going to deal with this issue then, or rather, how are TFL going to deal with it ? The way I see it is, TFL have been on a recent recruitment drive for these pointless and toothless Compliance Officers. They will probably give it a stab to make it work, but trust me, they will achieve nothing, and at a huge public money cost.
This is why I got so frustrated for the 71.2% of the UCG's membership, who voted to suspend the successful Demos, to give the Police and TFL a chance to make it happen. 

It was impossible ever to happen ! They haven't got the financial budget, they haven't got the professional resources and they haven't got the powers ! So what did our colleagues think was going to happen ?
Well, even though I said it at the time, you don't need me to actually prove and show you what has happened since the Demo suspensions, do you ?
ZILCH !   
There is of course only one realistic way to combat this evolving menace, and that is by doing this.....
Part of the City Hall's budget to the Mayor, needs to be set aside for a proper, professional squad of LTPH Enforcement & Compliance Officers, headed by the same man as just been appointed. 

HOWEVER, these cannot be just any officers, they need to be chosen and plucked from either the Met or City Police, all with full powers of arrest and seconded ONLY to the LTPH Compliance Team.....NOTHING ELSE !
I have always preached it. If you have a full on, committed, lead by example Head of Compliance, backed by 20 or so hand picked police officers who actually WANT AND DESIRE to be on the team and who want to make a difference.......................
a hugely realistic and potent difference will be seen on them streets within TWO WEEKS ! YES, TWO WEEKS, JUST A FORTNIGHT!
I know I'm an anorak, but I actually dream of doing that brief ! I would honestly do it for nothing ! It would be so satisfying to clear that lot out and make a massive difference ! Anyone with half an idea on this deployment could assure promotion and huge personal satisfaction on the back of the London Mini Cab Tout problem.
As I say, the new man in charge ex- Met Superintendent Matt Bell is no slouch. He will know what is expected, know his patch and know how serious the problem is. However, its not Matt Bell who I am worried about, its the team of compliance officers that will be working with him that I have the problem with.

Without powers of arrest, what are they going to enforce ? 
If they can't nick them, what can they do ? 
Report them ? 
Give them a piece of paper that states that they are to be reported, cautioned and dealt with by law ?

That maybe all OK if the car they have stopped isn't a ringer, or belonging to somebody in Strathclyde who thought the vehicle was still outside the fish and chip shop where they left it last night !  Issuing a paperwork form to a stopped driver seen touting  is equally just as useless if it transpires that the driver has no driving licence, no legal entry into the UK and only yesterday was looking up a goat's arse hole from inside a desert tent in Syria.

Without powers to arrest the suspect, take him in for questioning, seize and crush his vehicle, keep him in remand till Monday and take him by police transport to Westminster Magistrates Court to get 6 months in the nick.....................
I have trained detection and protection dogs for over twenty years now. If you saw me remove a set of dentures out of a 55 kilo German Shepherd's mouth JUST before setting it on you...................would you be quaking in you're boots ?
I doubt it ! 
After all, if the dog can't bite you, what harm can it do you ? 
Exactly, None !
So when TFL let this new army of Compliance Officers loose with no powers of arrest, and no likelihood of vehicle seizure or custody potential for the tout onto our streets, what impact do you expect these officers to make to a hardened and habitual mini cab tout, then?

Absolutely !  No impact whatsoever ! 

They will take the paperwork, and if its thin enough and like that carbon type paper, probably roll a spliff with it ! 
They will then drive round the corner and begin touting again, likely disenchanted that they have lost 30 minutes work ! Don't forget, a lot of these touts are used to looking down the barrels of machine guns, they ain't worried, frightened or deterred about a paperwork caution !
Folks, unless TFL employ a proper team of lawful enforcers out on those streets, instead of a battalion of ill equipped imposters..................the situation will, and can only get worse and worse and worse.

I assume the 71.2% of our colleagues who called for the demo suspensions are fully aware now that the promise of adequate mini cab tout compliance is as hollow as a Tesco's Easter Egg ! 

That was merely a ruse designed for our trade to lose it's grip and combined momentum, that's all. 

The IRA used that ploy dozens of times in the 70's. It gives them TIME !
There is no doubt whatsoever, that the touting situation in London by both licensed and unlicensed mini cabs is epidemic. Unless something realistic and viable is deployed very soon to thwart it, there will be an uprising on our London streets. And that will be unhelpful to everyone.
There is and always has been something in my mind that I worry about in relation to all this though. How about if TFL had absolutely no intention of stopping the touting problem in the first place, and were merely going through the motions to make it look like they were concerned ?
On the other hand, I'm a pessimistic old dinosaur these days, and in the real world that I increasingly shirk from, that wouldn't or couldn't really happen.   Would it ? Could it ?  Course not !  I shall just have to keep taking my tablets !
Be Lucky all.
8829 Semtex.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Taxi and Private Car Hire Market, Last Nights Short Debate Over PH Proposals.

  Lord Callanan, wants to do away with the knowledge!

Lord Bradshore asked Her Majesty’s Government what proposals they have for bringing up to date the regulation of the taxi and private car hire market.

First, it is important to decide where the taxi business should be regulated. 

There is a difference in some parts of legislation between national issues and the parts that are devolved, as are most parts in London, to the mayor. 

With the creation of combined authorities, when the opportunity comes, it would be as well for the Government to consider devolving powers over taxis and private hire cars to those authorities.

The existing legislation is very old and a lot of it begins in the 19th century. These laws have not held very well in these days of information technology and apps, by which people can summon private hire cars. 

I want to make it clear that I and, I think, those on my side of this House support the freedom of choice for the passenger and acknowledge the benefits that have been brought to many people who use Addison Lee, Uber and other such bodies.

Read whole Debate, 9 Speeches. 

                >Click Here<

Watch Debate on Parliament TV player.

                 >Click Here<

LTC Unveil TX5 Hybrid Prototype At Lancaster House Today.

New London taxi unveiled by Geely

London Taxi Company of Coventry has revealed the all-new TX5 cab it hopes will capture a major slice of the London taxi market, and carve itself a much larger international export business when it hits the market in 2017.

The unveiling is timed to coincide with a UK meeting today between David Cameron and the Chinese premier, Xi Jinping, who will be first to see the all-new design in the flesh.

Engineered from the ground up on a new plug-in hybrid platform - to give the zero-emissions performance required of all new cabs in London from 2018 - the new LTC design is part of a £250m effort by its new owner, Chinese manufacturer Geely, to revitalise the venerable Coventry-based firm. Li Shufu, Geely's chairman, will also be on hand for the new taxi's debut.

The recent expenditure includes £50m to build an all-new factory that will make at least 36,000 cars a year and will eventually build up to seven different electric vehicles based on the same architecture, an all-aluminium spaceframe clad with composite panels. The current London demand for cabs is only about 3500 units a year.

Geely has so far given no details of the new TX5's mechanical layout beyond the fact that it is a hybrid that uses a nose-mounted four-cylinder petrol engine as a key component, but can run for an extended period entirely on battery power. It obeys all the well-known London taxi requirements for wheelchair access, luggage capacity beside the driver, a tiny turning circle and face-to-face passenger seating (for six people, not five).

"It is little taller and a little longer than its ancestors", says Geely group design boss Peter Horbury, who oversaw the project. "But it's no wider; taxi drivers we talked to told us that was important."

The new taxi was styled at Geely's (formerly Volvo's) design studio in central Barcelona, run by David Ancona, using a mechanical package created at LTC in Coventry. Ancona describes the task of replacing "the only singular taxi in the world" as a deceptively simple brief that gets harder the more you work at it.

Using design influences from the FX4 from 1958, which Ancona and Horbury believe has a greater authenticity than later designs, Geely's designers produced many iterations and two complete designs before they were satisfied, discarding their first major proposal because they felt it lacked gravitas.

"Our first car did the job, re-interpreting things like the vertical grille, the haunches, the bustle-back and the forward opening passenger doors," says Horbury, "but it was a bit too cute. A London cab has to fit effortlessly into the modern scene; to have an air of authority and trustworthiness. We're confident we have that now."

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Met Stick Two Fingers Up, At Taxi Rank Complaints : Good News, Forge Taxi Rank Extension

Didn't take long for the Met police to go back on their word of making an effort for a better understanding of the problems Taxi drivers are facing around London' West End. 

Over the last 8 months drivers attached to the Mayfair mob have regularly been calling 101, to report cars/minicabs parked on our ranks at venues around the West End. Callers were given a CAD number which is recorded as a complaint that can and has (in certain cases) resulted in a site visit.

Well it now seems the police have taken it upon themselves to downgrade our complaints. Callers using 101 to complain about rank contraventions, will now be given a CAH number. 

This means that future calls will only be recorded as a phone call, rather than a complaint. Also site visits will no longer be afforded to drivers complaining about cars refusing to move off our ranks. 

In fact this looks to all intent and propose that the Met are sticking two fingers up to the Taxi trade, saying "just get on with it". Not the first time we've seen the Met attempting to massage their complaint problems.

On a brighter note, the promised extension of the Forge rank from two spaces to four, has now been marked out and fully approved. In spite of fierce opposition from our competitors, the rank extension is a direct result of the Mayfair Mobs expansion into the City, with regular "hits" at this establishment, resulting in work being won back from the touts.

The rank has been extended forward leaving little space for the cars to illegally plying for hire .

A big thank you must go to @davebenidorm166 who has been relentless in pursuing the City of London Corporation over this extension. Well done Dave.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Myths, Lies And Statistics? A Report On Compliance And Enforcement

Every Licensed Taxi driver in London is aware of the shocking under performance of TfL compliance. We've even had this confirmed by the GLA report "Future Proof", where TfL were found to be woefully inadequate.

In the report a number of recommendations were made by the GLA transport committee, but after a year since the publication of the report, we are still waiting for these recommendations to be implemented. TfL tell us they're working on introducing some of the recommendations. A complete unsatisfactory state of affairs from our regulatory licensing authority. 

But now, to add insult to injury, in a recent announcement on their website, TfL have managed to out do any previous inadequacies aimed at the licensed Taxi trade and sprinkled it with misinformation.

In the report, TfL state that annual licensing inspection includes the checking of insurance for taxis and private hire vehicles. This would give the impression that to get a Taxi or Private Hire vehicle licensed, the Hire and reward insurgence would have to be in place integral to the inspection. While this is most certainly the case for Taxis (who also have to display a cover note inside the vehicle), this is not the case for PHVs. It is possible to licence a vehicle for use as a PHV, while only being insured with standard cover. 

This is born out by the next sentence

Insurance for PHVs is also something being considered as part of the regulatory review of private hire services which is currently underway.
Being considered!!!
Public safety, being considered!!!

So they admit the error and are considering making a change to regulations.....sometime in the future.

Misinformation : TfL prosecutions
TfL say that between 1 January to 30 April 2015, they successfully prosecuted 33 drivers for illegally plying for hire and other illegal activity. The misleading bit is "and other illegal activity". Misleading by the fact this statistic isn't broken down or further explained. 

Within the corridors of the PR spin doctors, this is known as double accounting, where statistics already used, can be bundled in with the not so impressive figures to make them look better.

Funny how TfL can give the exact number of parking tickets they gave out, or the exact number of cars they moved on and even the exact number of drivers who were sent home because they didn't have their ID. But they can't offer the exact number of PHV drivers, convicted of illegally plying for hire!

Operation Neon:
Since the launch of the ongoing Operation Neon on 8 May 2015, there have been a total of 48 operations. These have resulted in: blah blah blah.

We are then treated to a list of numbers representing supposed offences. All the figures given relate to vehicles and individuals being "reported".

Their are no statistics offered of any conviction, or revocations resulting from the reports. There is however no mention of the disastrous Eddie Nestor photo opportunity, where senior TfL officers were openly touted live on air, resulting in guessed it nothing.

Then the final insult.
TfL compliance desperately try to back up Leon Daniels ridiculous statement that PH drivers have "switch on switch off" hire and reward insurance.  After making inquiries to the Association of British Insurers, we know no that such policies exist. 

But TfL still put this in their statement:
Taxis need to have Hire and Reward insurance in place at all times. Current regulations require private hire drivers to have Hire and Reward insurance in place whenever they are undertaking a private hire journey. 

They then wipe their hands of the responsibility of insuring all passengers are fully covered, by passing the buck!
"It is the private hire operator's responsibility to ensure that the appropriate Hire and Reward insurance is in place for vehicles used for private hire bookings."

Woefully inadequate and Totally Failing London.

The UCG are currently observing and documenting the performance of TfL compliance. Please read their article