Saturday, February 06, 2016

London Taxi Drivers are once again taking to the streets on Wednesday, the 10th of February - Whitehall 14:30Hrs to 16:00Hrs


    UNITED TAXI TRADE DEMONSTRATION 

London Taxi Drivers are once again taking to the streets on Wednesday, the 10th of February, to voice their grievance over the Government’s interference in the industry’s regulatory affairs while actively supporting a tax avoiding global corporation, Uber, that presents itself as an “IT company”. 

Some very sensible proposals were put forward by the regulator, yet they have been quashed by the Government. Naturally, this has angered decent, hard-working London Taxi Drivers who pay their taxes and conform to the strict rules and regulations. 

So the question is: why would the Government actively support a global tax avoider, a virtual company with no assets and no experience in operating the taxi trade, while providing it with a competitive advantage over its own domestic workforce? 

The answer is not one that makes our politicians look competent or above board.

But let us look at some of the statistics that paint a very gloomy picture of the way Uber operates. 

Last year it paid less tax than any four randomly selected London Taxi Drivers! Even though the company takes 25% to 35% of every journey undertaken by vehicles operating under its  umbrella. In real terms, they paid just £22,134 last year. 

The most amazing thing of all is that Uber is still not making a profit, as it is involved in undermining the competition by operating with lower fares, in the hope of establishing full control over the taxi trade.   

Which brings us to the next point about the danger that Uber poses for consumers as the future monopoly that doesn’t play by the rules. 

Once the competitors would be eliminated, prices, as it happens with all monopolies, will go up dramatically. That is how it works in the world of big business that builds its success at the expense of smaller competitors. 

And then there is the issue of sacrificing safety and quality to cut costs. Does anyone actually believe that a company that has no experience in running a taxi service and cuts costs by avoiding rules and regulations can provide safety and high quality of transportation? 

Of course not! 

Which means that customers are taking a gamble when they travel with Uber. Unlike the reliable and tested traditional purpose built London Cabs that are subject to three tests per year and with their drivers going through a very rigorous testing process over four to five years. 

And it gets worse when it comes to the attack on the interests of the London Taxi Drivers.  

The London Mayor’s Transport for London (TfL) have dropped the requirement for Private Hire Drivers to have a full CRB/DBS check

This means that TfL can now “feed the system” with 600+ new drivers every week while London Taxi Drivers are often unable to work, waiting for months for license renewals pending the mandatory requirement of a valid DBS check. 

As a result, passengers find themselves driven by people with practically no experience and of a dubious character. There are over 100 reported sexual assaults in minicabs in London every year and we know that less than 10% of rapes and sexual assaults are reported.  

Make no mistake, once Uber takes over the taxi trade in the UK it will move against other forms of transport and hundreds of thousands of jobs on the London Underground, on the railroads and in long haul deliveries will be in danger. In effect, the London Taxi Drivers are defending not only their own livelihoods but the interests of people involved in many other industries. 

As the elections of the London Mayor approach, it is time for candidates to make their views clear whose side of the argument they are on when it comes to London Taxi Drivers and Uber. We are talking about the livelihoods of tens of thousands of drivers and their families. Londoners who value their traditional taxi service should rally round it and send a signal to the candidates in the London Mayor Election that they will support those of them who give a clear pledge to put an end to the unfair practises of Uber and protect the iconic heritage of London that London Taxis represent.   

         Give this your full support, London



Further reading here:-
http://ucg-london.co.uk/2016/02/05/the-rise-and-rise-of-the-tax-avoiders/

All Press Enquiries to:

Len Martin
United Cabbies Group
0207 100 5206

France's Private Hire Drivers Protest On Heels Of Taxi Rivals


Rivals of traditional taxi drivers protested in Paris on Friday in the latest episode of a turf-war that has come to symbolise France's quest for compromise between free-for-all competition and heavy-handed regulation of economic activity.

On the heels of angry protests against them by traditional hail-down taxis, drivers relying on smartphone applications of the kind made famous by California-based Uber blocked airport access roads and a Paris roundabout to state their case.

Police had intervened overnight to halt a stone-throwing standoff between drivers of both types, police officials said, but Friday's protests were broadly peaceful.

Drivers who use smartphone applications complained that their livelihoods are being endangered by excessive regulation by the public authorities in the wake of the protests by traditional licensed taxi drivers earlier in the week.

Licensed taxi drivers accuse the government of failing to ensure application of 2014 legislation that obliges users of Uber-style online booking systems to return to base after each trip and refrain from seeking hail-down business on the streets.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls has appointed a mediator to devise a solution that answers the demands of both sides - taxi drivers who have paid a high price for a licence and alternative car ride providers who say they, too, have to earn a living.

     
 

New Rules Set To Allow Hailing Of All Taxi Types In Belfast

     
The DoE will require some taxis, including public hire taxis, to display a new type of roof signage

New rules to allow people to hail all taxis in Belfast are set to come into place later this year.

Current laws only allow public hire taxis, commonly known as black taxis, to be hailed on streets in the city.

All other taxis must be booked.

But from 31 May, that will change between midnight on Friday and Saturday nights until 06:00 the next morning.

All taxis will be able to stop for passengers who have waved them down.

Modernising

The rule will apply within a two-mile radius of the city centre.

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said he was "modernising and improving" taxi regulations by making the change.

 

new law over the hailing of taxis will apply within a two-mile radius from Belfast city centre

"In effect, these changes will mean that people in the north will get a much better taxi service."

A spokesman for the Department of the Environment (DoE) said that the change was being made "because often demand outstrips supply".

But public hire taxi drivers are unhappy with the change.

Essential

Sean Beckett, of the Public Hire Coalition, said: "If this is just to clear the streets [of people], it's wrong.

"You must know that the clientele and the general public are getting into a legitimate taxi and not some renegade that doesn't have insurance, so on and so forth."

Alliance Party MLA Anna Lo said the move was long overdue, but added that the two-mile Belfast zone "could be confusing" for the public, and tourists in particular.

"In any big cities where taxis are an essential means of transport, people take it for granted they can hail them anywhere without having to book in advance or walk to a taxi rank," Ms Lo said.

"I hope this move will see such practice become the norm in Belfast."

The DoE is also introducing new roof signage that some taxis will be required to display, as well as a new test for taxi drivers.


Source U TV, BBC News :

EDITORIAL COMMENT:

Remember what Leon Daniels said on BBC news-

"There are parts of the West End and City that are heaving with people at the week ends, you can't see an orange for hire light anywhere. There's not enough Taxis at night shift at the week ends...."

It's painfully obvious the Leon doesn't get invited out much at the week end.

Last night London's West End was a disgrace. Thousands of double parked, touting Uber Prius's bought Mayfair and Soho to complete gridlock.

Marshals on 100 Wardour Street, Swallow Street and Novokovs out out calls for Taxis, a call that at times, couldn't be answered without the help of a helecopter.

Shaftesbury Ave, Piccadilly, both sides of Regent Street....complete stand still. 

Hundreds or empty buses converged at Piccadilly Circus, jumping the lights at will, causing major disruption.
The air quality in Mayfair and Soho must have been well above the legal limit just from Bus exhausts alone.


Friday, February 05, 2016

Transport for London's plan to make all Black Cabs accept card payments is great news - but the details tilts the playing field against them

By Derek Stewart co-founder of CabApp, a mobile booking and payment app for Black Cabs in the UK and licensed Taxis in Ireland.

   We all love simplicity and speed.


Last weekend I popped into my local Apple Store at Bluewater to get a new charging cable. Instead of queuing, one of the staff came over to me and I purchased the cable via her handheld mobile payment device. The VAT business receipt was automatically emailed to me. What a fantastic customer service experience.

So, I welcome TfL's decision that all black cabs by October 2016 must accept card payments, making life easier for all of us by offering a similar seamless experience.

But, although supported by the London Taxi Drivers' Association, not all in the industry are happy about the decision. As always, the devil is in the detail and there are some issues in TfL's proposals as they stand.

Chief among them is the fact that Black Cab taxi drivers will have to absorb the costs charged by their banks and card processing companies. But this is not the case for private hire licenced operators who can pass on the cost to the consumer as a surcharge.

This is in common practice in the travel sector, where companies such as EasyJet and Trainline.com can legally pass on to the consumer the payment processing costs of card payments in the form of a surcharge.

TfL's insistence that Black Cab drivers absorb the cost further tilts the playing field against them. Already, cabbies have to bear the additional costs to uphold the high standards required to obtain their licenced status.

Another problem is the prescription by TfL that mobile chip and pin devices are mounted at the back of the cab at the cost of their operators.

Most taxi drivers already accept card payments, with 58 per cent of London's 25,200 Black Cab drivers accepting card payments, according to a TfL survey in 2014. 

Far from being luddites, Black Cab drivers want to embrace technology to provide the best customer experience. From medical checks to purpose-built and disability adapted vehicles, licenced Black Cabs already absorb the costs of measures to ensure higher standards of customer safety. But imposing this payments initiative, is in effect, forcing us into terms which aren't in place for other industries.

Ultimately, we don't want to compromise customer service provided by the iconic Black Cab industry, but we also don't want to see our drivers' margins squeezed in favour of the private hire sector.

Open Letter To TfL, Over Growing Contempt For The London Taxi Trade...by Will Grozier.


Dear Mr Bradley
 
Thank you for your invitation to comment, as a contributing respondent, to the proposal document being carried forward following the Private Hire Regulations Consultation.
 
I think I may speak for a vast majority of my fellow licensed Taxi Drivers in saying that in very simple terms, it stinks.
 
It stinks for a number of reasons chief amongst which are that it demonstrates an utter contempt on the part of TfL toward the licensed taxi trade.
 
Contempt because after a consultation period in excess of 3 months attracting some 16,000 individual responses TfL announce a fully formed set of proposals within 4 weeks of the consultation closure on 23rd December.
 
Given that half of that period was consumed by the Christmas break we are asked to believe that serious consideration has been given to the ideas and comments submitted in just 2 weeks. 
 
Even an organisation capable of dealing with 3000 new PH licences per month cannot move that fast unless of course the reality is that this avalanche of newbies are rubber stamped in the same cursory fashion as the sham 'Consultation'. 
Indeed TfL admit in the latest document that discussions with the PH trade had been on-going for months )
 
Contempt also because TfL have failed to address the most important issue concerning London's licensed taxi drivers, - the 'Elephant in the Room' - how best to provide a clear distinction between taxis and private hire and prevent cars effectively plying for hire.
 
TfL have dropped the proposal to oblige Private Hire to work on a 5 min time delay without substituting any other mechanism to ensure that current PH practice does not completely eclipse traditional cabs.
 
There are many gradations of 'stink' emanating from Palestra around this issue;
 
The malodorous stench of sulphur arising from TfL's perceived improper compact with Uber.
 
The waft of diesel fumes which daily exceeds any previous levels of air pollution experienced in central London and arises from a grossly distorted Bus population mixed with a soup of CO2 from the unprecedented exponential growth of Private Hire and the associated totally unacceptable levels of traffic congestion 
 
And finally the less discernible but nonetheless highly obnoxious scent of moral decay.
 
In addition to the explicit statutory remit TfL have a concomitant implicit responsibility to act as the  ‘good steward’ of a centuries old and world renown Taxi licensing system which they are failing to exercise.
 
The British Disease - the national habit of tearing down and failing to capitalise on that which we elevate and excel at - was a societal dysfunction that most people believed had been seen off in the last century.
 
Sadly it is alive and well and currently most recently diagnosed in SE1.
 
In this context the plight of the London Cab Trade is perhaps most eloquently captured in a sentence by a national treasure Tony Hancock.
 
In an episode of TV series 'Hancock's Half Hour' Tub is seen soliloquising upon the subject of friends,
 
'Friends, friends,' he says in a questioning manner wearing a pained and distracted expression to some place off camera
 
'I've got friends all over the world.....'
 
He then pauses for dramatic effect before continuing,
 
'None in this country, but all over the world'
 
So it is with the London Taxi, revered the world over and yet marginalised by a hostile administration at home.
 
Many taxi drivers are bewildered at what has happened to our business as a consequence of TfL's back door deregulation, it has caused financial loss and personal stress to some degree to every working cabbie and the emotions most keenly felt are betrayal and anger.
 
That discontent will be exacerbated if these proposals are not modified before implementation and the taxi trades inalienable exclusive right to ply for hire enshrined in the new regulations.
We may have been around for 350 years but without a radical rethink on the part of TfL we will not be here for another 350 days.

On Wednesday 10th February the taxi trade will make it’s displeasure very visible in a demonstration in Whitehall.


The blame for the ensuing traffic disruption to London on this and increasingly frequent future occasions, must rest squarely at the door of 197 Blackfriars Road SE1 8JZ
 
Yours sincerely
 
W J Grozier
 
Proud Licensed London Taxi Driver
 

LTDA's General Secretary Steve McNamara, Confirms Support For United Taxi Trade Demo


A few weeks ago I promised an update on the many things happening within our trade and the LTDA’s lobbying and other involvement.


Credit Cards

The response to Transport for London’s (TfL’s) consultation into Credit Card acceptance in taxis was massively in favour of universal mandation from all stakeholders including taxi drivers. As a result, from October this year, every taxi will have to accept credit cards as payment for fares. I am currently trying to get precise details of the mandation but am aware that there will be a plethora of choice available to drivers. Paypal, Izettle and Levenpay, in addition to the more traditional fixed and wired units, such as those supplied by Verifone, Cabvision and Taxiworld, will all be acceptable.


In order to offset the credit card cost to drivers, there will be a 20p surcharge added to all fares by increasing the meter drop from £2.40 to £2.60, and a slight adjustment to the running rate of the meter. The Tariff 3 rate will now end at 5am instead of 6am. I am aware that most of our members already accept card payments; but it is expected that, in line with other countries where cards have been mandated, there will be a significant increase in the number of people choosing to use taxis. There is a whole generation of Londoners, primarily the under 35’s, who do not carry cash and therefore do not ever consider hailing a taxi. Many of this ‘cashless’ generation use our competitors such as Uber as their first choice of transport provider purely because they can pay by card, and it must be remembered that Uber do not even accept cash!


Legal Action

We are still awaiting the judgement on our Judicial Review of the Cycle Super Highway. Our Judicial Review into TfL’s licensing of Uber is progressing, and the City law firm engaged are currently communicating with TfL’s lawyers and the High Court regarding possible outcomes, costs and actions. There is no guarantee that we will be granted permission to have this action heard or that we will win if it does go ahead. The press have already extensively reported aspects of the case in articles similar to this one:- http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jan/29/londons-black-cab-drivers-consider-court-action-against-uber


As I explained in my last email, we are also reviewing other options in the criminal courts, which again are being progressed, and in addition we will continue to review the possibility of assisting the crowd funding campaign being organised by the savetaxis group.


Raising the Trade’s Profile Politically

Traditionally the taxi trade has had little experience in communicating with law makers and parliamentarians, but we have learnt fast as the lobbying and influence of our competitors became apparent. The LTDA has engaged a professional communications and messaging company to assist us in engaging with MPs and other decision makers, in order to reinforce our positive messages and raise our concerns at the highest level. In recent months I have met with dozens of, mainly London, MPs, the leaders of many councils, and all the mayoral candidates. My next scheduled meeting is with the prime minister’s senior advisor.

I am hopeful that we will shortly see a ten minute Bill, scheduled in support of our trade and an Early Day Motion (EDM) supported by most of London’s MPs.


Demonstrations

The LTDA has been asked to support a demonstration being organised by other trade groups on the 10thFebruary, aimed at highlighting the involvement of Whitehall and Number 10 in lobbying TfL and the Mayor to dilute some of the more important aspects of the recent Private Hire Regulations Review. The LTDA were not involved in any of the planning for this action and I only had it officially confirmed when I met all the trade groups on Monday.


Opinion in the trade is divided over demonstrations, there are those who have reservations about how these actions reflect on the trade and are reported in the media and question the likely benefits. Others see militant action as a valid option.


The demonstration on the 10th is being supported by all the other trade groups and if the LTDA, by far the biggest trade body, did not support the action, our position could, and probably will be, viewed as being indicative of disunity within our industry. 


For this reason we will be supporting the action on the 10th which takes the form of a drive-in, in Whitehall, between Parliament Square and Trafalgar Square at 2.30pm

Best Regards

 

Steve McNamara

General Secretary


Published with kind permission of Steve McNamara 


            STRONGER TOGETHER 


Thursday, February 04, 2016

The Mayfair Mob, Taking The Ranks Back.


With the help of Hammersmith council, the Mayfair Mob managed to get the Shepard's Bush Taxi rank repainted last night.

This will clearly show private cars, delivery vans and of course Touts, that this is a working Licensed Taxi Rank and not for free parking. 

Also it is not acceptable for Taxis to park here and go shopping in Westfield. 
Please respect your fellow drivers. 

If you are passing and the rank is empty, please put on and give it ten minutes. 
Use it or lose it.

We have also been told Enforcement will be stepped up.
#Mayfairmob on the front line, taking the ranks back.



THE BLACK CAB KNOWLEDGE OF LONDON, Producing the best taxi drivers in the world

I've been send this article which appeared in the Dutch Media, giving support to the London Taxi trade and its drivers’.  

 

The wife of a green badge who is Dutch saw this and has kindly translated it into English and thought it should be published for the London trade to read.:


THE BLACK CAB KNOWLEDGE OF LONDON.

 

Every month there are about a 1000 more private hire vehicles coming onto the streets London: mini cabs + Uber.

 

Resulting in even more queues and congestions in an already clogged-up ancient City with it narrow streets. Therefore, is it possible for the Black Cab to survive under these conditions with its highly regulated driver, vehicle and overheads?

 

Written by Titia Ketelaar,  29 December 2015.

Translation Marian Di Lieto.

 

This is what a Cabbie, the iconic driver of the famous London Black Cab knows by heart;

How to go from the centre: the Statue of Charles the I Island at Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross, to about 25000 streets within a 6 Mile radius.

 

Where, in the middle of the night, you can find a Chemist open. Or, how to find the quickest way through a web of streets from Mayfair to the Ritz Hotel at Green Park and the Lost and Found Property Office by Baker Street.

 

Where to drop off at the forever disrupted Liverpool Street Station.

 

Which pub is the nearest to whatever office, and that Kings Road and Kings Place are two completely different destinations!

 

It is simpler to let an Elephant fly than to learn the Knowledge, according to a Cabbie in the making. He still has to do another 5 month, before he hopes to gain his Licence.

 

Every day he goes out on his scooter to learn a new area and street plan, like all the Cabbies before him since the end nineteen century.

 

The London Black Cab driver unlike the private hire driver does not gain their licence until they have satisfied the Knowledge Examiner that they are of the high standard that the licencing authority requires of them. This allows them to accept immediate hiring’s from a rank or street hail.

 

All other forms of cars in London using route planners or not must be booked beforehand via a licensed operating centre, its App or telephone system.  This gives the private hire driver ample time to work out a route prior to undertaking the journey.

 

We’re talking about private hire licensed vehicles and unlicensed mini cabs and Uber Cars.

 

But there is one big problem according to London Cabbies and Cabbies all over the World.

 

The App to book Uber cars is really waving down or hailing on the side of the road, because they’re arriving so quickly.

 

Because of this we’re losing our privilege says Steve Mepham from the United Cabbie Group. The choice between studying the knowledge for (3-4 years) or making money straight away is the easy choice for most.

 

This means that a part of London’s soul is slipping away!

 

The amount of Cabbies in training is down by 60%. In the meantime the amount of different private hire vehicles is rising by a 1000 per month!!!

 

There are now (18th  January 2016) in London 96.890 private hire drivers and 75,394 private hire vehicles , 18.000 of which are Uber Cars and only 25.077 Black Cab drivers with 22,127 Black Cab taxis.

 

Applications:

Application volumes for licences - 539 applications are awaiting initial assessment. Of those applications, 457 are new (9 taxi and 448 private hire) and 82 are renewal applications (26 taxi and 56 private hire). Renewal applications are prioritised over new applications.

 

Sorcehttps://tfl.gov.uk/info-for/taxis-and-private-hire/licensing/licensing-information

 

That is why the Laws need to be changed to protect the London Cabbies.


 

UNFAIR COMPETITION.

 

The rules need to be changed and it is for the government to make that decision for change. 

 

The rising amount of private hire vehicles as you can see from the above figures is causing queues and blocking up the roads in a City which is already congested.

 

The rules were laid down before the last King died (1953) says Steve Mepham. In fact the first act was London Hackney Carriage Act 1831. 

 

The Big question is…will the Government and TFL protect the special place and position of the London Black Cabs.

 

“We understand the pressure Black Cabs feel because of us, but they need to lower the rules” according to a statement from Uber.

 

It’s not that the Cabbies are luddites and against digitalising, which was said by Mayor Boris Johnson at City Hall last September.

 

Steve Mepham’s reaction: We created Radio Circuits and recently HAILO, an App to order Black Cabs, that was 2 years before Uber came to London.

 

THE HUMAN FORM OF GPS

 

In his Cab Steve Mepham has an I-phone so he is able to pick-up Hailo customers, an I-pad for the Get-Taxi passengers and a Blue tooth connection to offer a Credit Card service.

 

Half of my passengers are coming via my App said Steve. They like to be picked-up from home and they know that the map of London is in my head and the shortest and most direct route will be taken which is far superior to a GPS.

 

Cabbies are not against other door to door transport services; Steve Mepham reckons that 10 years ago there were 25.000 Black Cabs and 7.5 Million Londoners. Now there are 8.6 Million Londoners, so if you stop other taxi drivers from working here, we would not be able to cope with the demand.

 

And yes…Black Cabs are more expansive than a mini cab—which again is more expensive than Uber.

 

But there is a market for both. When Primart opened the doors opposite Selfridges, Selfridges didn’t go down in quality. They both have they’re purpose.

 

Steve Mepham is very proud of the service that he and his colleague Cabbies are giving to the Public.

 

“When I drop you off, I will always look and make sure you get safely through the building door.”

 

A lot of trainee Cabbies are Uber or private hire drivers or working as Couriers to learn the City/Town. Jamie Holmes was a Lorry driver and Gary Freeman use to deliver Pizza’s.

 

They are attending The Knowledge Point one of the many schools where Cabbie’s studying the enormous Map and testing each other’s Knowledge.

The school was on the verge of closing down (being demolished) but they found another smaller venue enabling them to carry on.

 

BAROMETER OF UNEMPLOYMENT.

 

In a room upstairs at the Knowledge School is teacher Derek O’Reilly examining trainees. 30 questions need to be answered by the nine Men and one Woman (2% of Cabbies are Woman). In the early days this room would be packed out. We use to be the Barometer of unemployment in this City. When Ford motor car plant cut down we had Mechanics coming through the door, when the City slimmed down we had Bank staff coming in and now we see a lot more Policeman and Firefighters signing on.

 

The Knowledge is an expensive study, about £30.000 on average. Having to buy a scooter and pay the insurance, petrol etc. and often without a fulltime employment.

 

ARCHAIC KNOWLEDGE.

 

During the study they also have to learn things like:

The staff at Harrods Department Store needs to be dropped off one street further then their customers as there is a passageway under the street from their canteen to the Store. They also know that the West part of London is richer than the East, so there are more trips being made on the Westside of town.

 

The question if the Knowledge is, in this time of GPS irrelevant, there is a protest!

The Conservative Party called the Knowledge Archaic. But Jimmy Jeffrey says: we know all the road works, queues etc. which the GPS doesn’t! 

 

James Holmes says that he does not have to feed other addresses into the GPS machine when the meter is running, but maybe it won’t take long before there is a app for that as well.

 

THE OLDEST TAXI IN THE WORLD.

 

The London Hackney Carriages (the official name of Black Cabs) are the oldest taxi service in the world! In 1636 Charles I gave 50 carriages from Hackney consent to pick-up people off the street. The Knowledge started in1851 because Police Commissioner Richard Mayne was upset by the amount of Hackney Carriage drivers who didn’t know they’re way around the City. For them to gain London Hackney Carriage drivers licence from then on they had to study the roads.

 

A Black Cab driver knows all the roads within a radius of 6 miles from Charing Cross. Through Roads are called Oranges and Lemons according to the colour on the map, derived from the Children’s nursery rhyme:  ”Oranges and Lemmon’s says the Bells of St. Clements”

 

The Hippocampus, a part of the brain where orientation ability is situated is in cabbies significantly larger than in other humans. This was the result of tests that were carried out at the University College London in 2006.

 

At the start of the Knowledge the Hippocampus was the same size as in other human beings but after 3-4 years of study it was found to have become enlarged! 


With thanks to Les Hoath.