Wednesday, April 06, 2016

iZettle Announce Their Contactless Payment Bundle.

The background

Transport for London (TfL) and Mayor Boris Johnson MP announced in November 2015 that new regulations will be imposed upon the licensed cab drivers of London. From October 2016, TfL say they will be mandating the acceptance of cards payments. 

But cabs also need to accept contactless payments from Apple Pay, Google Wallet and others. Existing chip and pin machines without contactless acceptance will be defunct.

According to the TfL regulation, any authorised Card Reader must be used together with a receipt printer, and both devices must be fixed in the cab. Why they want to impose this type of expense on drivers is anyone's guess.

To make this as easy as possible, iZettle have partnered with Unique Secure to develop a practical mount for the card reader by the passenger compartment and a Bluetooth Star Printer option for receipt printing. 

The contactless payment bundle

iZettle have put together a TfL approved contactless payment bundle, that has been tailor-made for cab drivers.

It includes a countactless reader, as well as a receipt printer and two mounts. If you already have the Card Reader Pro Contactless, you may choose to only buy the mounts and the receipt printer.

You can choose to pay £299 + VAT up front for the whole bundle. You can pay for the bundle later if you wish, through an increased transaction fee for a fixed period of time. 

Please note that iZettle's Card Reader Lite, will no longer be accepted by TfL come October.  

Private Hire Feeder Park...A Terminal Problem? I'm Spartacus.

For those in the trade years ago  who thought a phone on the wall of the local supermarket to a minicab firm wasn't a threat, just look what's happened since!

We now have Private Hire looking to have their own feeder park at LAP aided and abetted by HAL. 

Well it's probably not a problem if they only wait for an allocated booked job as they could use the short term car park anyhow.

Of course that's not the intention, they want to form an unlawful rank to wait unbooked to then respond to an e hail by touching a screen in the terminal etc, of course once this works our old friend Hendy will roll it out in every Network Rail station up and down the country, followed by TfL at every night tube stop, O2 etc etc.

If we had plying for hire(PFH) defined this could not happen.

HAL have already amended the bye laws, this seemed to have been bypassed by those from the trade who HAL choose to meet.

So wake up all, get prepared for the final reckoning.

I'm Spartacus.

Editorial Comment:
We've seen airports around the country go over to a preferred private hire service, at the expense of the local Hackney Carriage trades.

We was always told "it can't happen at Heathrow, there are bye laws which wont allow it. But in the background, while we aren't watching, the bye laws have been changed.

Arrow Cars February 14-2015 Bristol, Leeds Bradford, Manchester and East Midland Airports

The writing was on the wall back in 2011

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Update From Dada Defending Daughters : Empathy In High Places

Today I received a positive letter from my local MP, Bob Neill.

I wrote to every Mayoral candidate, the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Mayor of London, my local MP for Bromley & Chislehurst, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, Rape Crisis England & Wales, and every single Taxi Charity we serve.
I received just five replies.
Personal replies from Bob Neill and Zac Goldsmith.
And assisted replies from Sadiq Khan, George Galloway and Boris Johnson.
I thank each and every one of those named. I know they are extremely busy individuals. Three of which are on a hectic campaign trail.

Of the other Mayoral candidates; I do understand they too have a busy schedule.

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust and Rape Crisis E&W seemed more concerned with donations than doing anything positive.

Sadly I have to report that not one of our Charities acknowledged my correspondence.
I thought their board of governors or management would have been only too pleased to give something back to a trade who have worked so tirelessly on their behalf.
Patrons of charities are excellent in the art of persuasion. They could have been of valuable service to the Licensed London Taxi trade, in our hour of need.
I wonder who they would turn to, if we were no more?

Empathy from the hierarchy, is not enough to combat apathy from our own rank and file.
We must start looking after ourselves.

Do not listen to what anyone promises; including your own Union/Club/Group/Association. Look instead to what they do. Actions speak louder.
Loud speaking actions are all well and good if they ultimately achieve something.
What has your Union/Club/Group/Association actually achieved?
Very little, is the answer I keep hearing.
So let's honour our side of the bargain. And insist they honour theirs.
Be more proactive.
Be more hands on, at branch level.
Tell your Union/Club/Group/Association, through their chain of command, what you expect from them.

If you are not a member of a Union/Club/Group/Association with legal cover, then you are a lone fool, and probably a member of that subservient eighty percent who hinder this trade.
If you are a member of a Union/Club/Group/Association, then you must at least meet them halfway and attend meetings, ask questions, proffer ideas, vote on issues, and answer a call to arms if need be.

We do not have to be alone.
We are legion ... if we are many.

Lenny Etheridge
Dads Defending Daughters

It's Not Just Us Affected By A Woefully Inadequate Regulator, Top End Of The Market Also Affected

Chauffeur crisis in the capital?

The chauffeur industry has a proud heritage, and nowhere more so than on the roads of London Town. But what’s gone wrong and why are so many operators completely disillusioned with the current state of our profession in the capital?

Andy Dubberley investigates just what’s going on…

There are a lot of very unhappy chauffeurs in the smoke, operators who think the chauffeur industry has lost both its high standing and its high standards. Although I’m someone who is licensed outside of town I spend much of my time in it, so looking inwards I’ve seen the industry have a tough time in the capital over the last few years and it really is a tough place to be earning a living right now.

Licensing woes

Many operators well and truly lay the blame for the state of play in the capital at the door of the Public Carriage Office and as it is they who have responsibility for licensing the taxi and private hire trade in London, disillusioned chauffeurs are now questioning whether the organisation is actually fit for purpose. There’s no doubt that the PCO certainly does have a strong case to answer and the general feeling is that they’re quite simply a law unto themselves at times and out of their depth.

Okay, it’s accepted the PCO is a large organisation with considerable responsibility, so the process isn’t going to run perfectly all of the time, but it’s clear the chaotic approach to licensing displayed over recent years has been to the detriment of good, hard working chauffeurs who certainly don’t feel that they’ve received value for money considering the high fees they’re expected to fork out.

Another complaint frequently heard from the decent chauffeurs in the capital is the licensing process simply isn’t strict enough and this fact alone has led to London becoming flooded with poor quality taxi, minicab drivers and so-called ‘chauffeurs’, (the term being used very loosely in far too many cases). This is a fair point and hard evidence strongly supports this view.

On the Chauffeur Network UK Facebook forum, we have heard first hand accounts from group members who have witnessed applicants having their topographical tests completed for them because they simply don’t have a level of English anywhere near the standard required to complete either the examinations or the accompanying forms. We’ve heard the medical examination described as a ‘joke’ and there’s an abundance of proof that certain companies specialising in fast track PCO applications are treating the whole process as a cash cow. There should be an investigation and the culprits shut down.

The licensing of individuals responsible for the safe and secure transportation of London’s paying public has become farcical and never has the old adage ‘quantity over quality’ being more apt. The PCO does indeed require radical change and a desire to serve those doing the job properly in London.

At the time of writing, the PCO has just announced some changes to tighten up on licensing, including stricter insurance requirements and English language tests but why has it taken so long to put new rules in place that have been basic requirements for other licensing authorities outside of the capital for years? The PCO has allegedly been issuing a thousand licences per week in recent times so it’s all too little too late in many respects. Boris Johnson announced the introduction of English language tests exactly twelve months ago but still things remain the same.


This unstoppable race to licence such an inordinate number of drivers has resulted in industry standards tumbling and passenger security being compromised. The chauffeur industry, once a proud and respected profession, has been lumped into the all encompassing term private hire and it’s a sad fact the dross which used to be a by product of the minicab trade is now just as likely to be found at the wheel of a luxury executive saloon.

Chauffeuring shouldn’t be a ‘job’ that people do when they can’t get anything else but that is what it’s become in some cases. It used to be a profession people looked up to, where there was some pride in being able to tell people what you did for a living, rather than being one of thousands of ‘drivers’. Of course, there are many operators who are determined to maintain those high standards but they’re not getting any credit for doing so.

Any of us regularly using the M4 back and forth between town and Heathrow will have seen a very obvious and completely shocking deterioration of driving standards and ability in recent years. Lack of simple lane discipline and general motorway driving knowledge has dropped to dangerous levels because far too many PCO licensed drivers just don’t have enough experience on UK roads to be considered safe.

Of course there are bad British-born drivers, but I stand by my view that it is far too easy to swap an overseas driving licence for a British one and start earning a living carrying fare paying passengers.

I don’t care where you were born or what your skin colour is, surely the time has come to introduce a requirement to produce proof that some form of advanced driver training has been undertaken and you are actually competent behind the wheel before you’re handed a licence in London, or anywhere else for that matter.

The fact that the PH industry has been allowed to get to a point where drivers are able to buy a seven-day insurance policy and hire a Prius by the hour says everything about the lack of professionalism and pride in what they do. Let’s hope the PCO actually do crack down on this corner cutting, and soon.

The other factors

Licensing is only one issue chauffeurs in the capital are having to fight with on a daily basis. Transport for London’s obsession with forcing the car off London’s road system is making earning a living in the smoke a very difficult thing to do. Boris Johnson recently announced the Congestion Charge would need to be raised in the coming months to help reduce gridlock, a bizarre statement to say the least when he’s the one overseeing the loss of great swaths of the road network to placate the cycling fraternity.

TfL refuse point blank to listen to London’s professional drivers when they say the major cause of the gridlock is down to the so called ‘improvements’ Boris and his cronies are putting in place, but I’m convinced that in an office somewhere at TfL HQ, there are a small number of people who are already realising the negative impact these changes are having on businesses but just can’t admit it. How did the planners ever think removing entire stretches of road on the main route between West London’s major transport hubs and one of the world’s most important financial districts wasn’t going to cause complete chaos? They clearly didn’t learn anything after being forced to remove the infamous M4 bus lane all those years ago.

Who’s to blame

I’ve already pointed the finger at TfL and specifically the PCO because they have seemingly lost control of an already desperate situation. They’re not the only ones at fault in this debacle though, some of the large chauffeur firms who operate a numbers game also have to take a long hard look at themselves. I’m fully aware that a number of companies do indeed have good quality control processes in place when it comes to driver selection, but for too many others it’s nothing more than getting bums on seats and sending them out onto the streets untrained and professionally ill equipped to maintain the industry standards of the past.

The customer also has to take some responsibility because it’s their choice has to whether they want to pay the bare minimum for a ‘driver’ or a more sensible rate for a ‘chauffeur’. It’s been economically tough for a few years and budgets have been squeezed but the corporates can’t continue to use that excuse indefinitely.

I’m certainly not the only chauffeur whose heard horror stories from clients about their experiences with London drivers and the various companies who employ them, but instead of putting up with it these passengers need to take their genuine concerns to those responsible for booking their transport and insist that they go back to employing the services of high quality chauffeur firms, with high quality drivers.

Unfortunately, the big boys with their multi-vehicle private hire fleets offer the convenience many customers want in the fast moving business world and the days of being willing to pay a good daily rate to have a professional chauffeur with their S500 sat outside your office in case they were needed have long gone.

The major problem is the line between the chauffeur and private hire industries is now blurred beyond recognition and the middle ‘E-Class’ ground could either get you a really good quality, old school chauffeur or an unkempt, and sometimes unsafe ‘person at the wheel’ who barely speaks English and is totally reliant on the sat nav.

We’d all love every licensing authority to put rules in place which distinguish between chauffeurs and private hire but short of decreeing that ‘you’re only a chauffeur if you’ve got a long wheelbase car’, (which is of course both impractical and non-sensical), I’ve really no idea how we could be separated and considered more ‘elite’, if that’s the right word.

There’s a lot of talk about the advantages of proper training and advanced qualifications but the response from the old guard would be to accuse the PCO of introducing more excuses to extract money and I fear the doubters would win such an argument. Further, the sheer amount of bureaucracy required to change the legalities of licensing to accommodate professional qualifications would make your head spin. We do, however, live in continual hope.

The future

Despite me painting a rather depressing picture, I really do think there’s a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. They may not be going about it the right way, but it appears the PCO are about to make significant changes, so I hope for the sake of my London colleagues, they turn out to be radical enough to shake the PH industry up and right a few wrongs, although I’m sure many operators won’t be holding their breath.

The tide is turning, albeit slowly, because clients are getting fed up of the poor standards displayed by far too many drivers and are beginning to hunt out ‘proper’ chauffeurs once again. I’ve always said that the relationship between driver and passenger is a very close one within the confines of a car and the customer in the back has every right to feel relaxed, safe and secure.

The likes of Uber have become a strange anomaly because in a relatively short time they’ve gone from representing a cost effective and convenient way to travel to becoming synonymous with a dramatic drop in standards. Perhaps this is not particularly fair as there are of course a large amount of very competent operators working for Uber but there are also plenty of atrocious ones who are forcing customers to look at better quality alternatives and that can only be good for the chauffeur industry.

It’s a very tough market out there but there’s a lot of chauffeurs who have yet to realise having the right car alone doesn’t make you a special case. What do you offer and what credentials do you have that puts you above the rest? There’s no automatic right of passage because you own an £80k car anymore, there’s way too much competition in London and elsewhere for that alone to attract potential clients.

Nothing lasts for ever and the good times chauffeurs have had in the capital are seemingly a thing of the past. Of course there’s still opportunities for the right people but starting out must be very hard work at the moment. A lot rests on what direction the PCO takes with regards to licensing and if they genuinely recognise standards have to rise dramatically to save the industry and protect the public.

One thing’s for sure, the good guys deserve a much better deal from the powers that be in their ivory towers.

Source : The Chauffeur

Dads Defending Daughters....Reply From The Mayors Office

Dear Mr Etheridge 

Thank you for your email to the Mayor dated 17 March setting out your views on the taxi and private hire trades in London. 

I would like to assure you that the Mayor is a proud supporter of London's black cabs, which he believes if the finest in the world. He knows that the Knowledge, which each and every taxi driver has undertaken, remains as valid today as it was when it was first introduced in 1865. 

The Mayor agrees with those who are concerned that the number of private hire vehicles (PHVs) licensed in London is creating a problem. We have seen a rapid growth in the private hire sector and the number of private hire drivers has risen from around 59,000 in 2009/10 to over 100,000 today. These numbers have given rise to a number of wider issues, including rising traffic congestion, illegal parking and impacts on air quality. 

Currently, Transport for London (TfL) is legally obliged to issue a licence to anyone that meets the licensing criteria and has no legal power to introduce a cap. The Mayor has been vocal with central Government about his view that it should provide further legislative powers for TfL so that a cap on the total number of licensed vehicles can be introduced. Until this is progressed, the Mayor has asked TfL to look into the impact and feasibility of removing the Congestion Charge exemption for PHVs, which you refer to in your letter. They now outnumber taxis on our roads and an estimated one in ten vehicles in the Congestion Charge zone is now a PHV. TfL is currently undertaking further research on this issue and the Mayor hopes to see this progressed at the earliest opportunity. 

London has a large and vibrant private hire sector which has been regulated by primary legislation since the early 2000s. The regulations have not been comprehensively updated since they were introduced despite widespread and rapid changes to how the industry operates. Because of this, and in recognition of the sorts of concerns you raise in your email, you may be aware that over the past year TfL has undertaken a wide-ranging consultative review of private hire regulations. TfL considered proposals for changes with overriding aims to improve passenger safety, maintain a clear distinction between the taxi and private hire trades, and improve the overall quality and accessibility of PHV provision in London.

TfL's findings were considered by the TfL Board on 17 March, and a comprehensive package of new regulations were approved that will modernise and improve the private hire industry. Taking into account the 20,000 responses the consultation attracted, alongside detailed passenger research conducted by TfL, the Mayor believes the new regulations agreed by the TfL Board strike the right balance between enhancing passenger safety and customer experience when using private hire services. You can find out more about these changes in a press release published the day after the TfL Board: 

On the specific issue of hire and reward insurance, which you mention in your letter, the Board agreed more robust insurance requirements. The Mayor acknowledges that hire and reward insurance is important to protect passengers. Without this insurance in place, passengers may not be able to reclaim costs or claim compensation following an accident or injury. Private hire vehicles were required to have this insurance only when undertaking bookings. The new regulations will change this: a policy will now have to be in place for the duration of the vehicle licence, including when the vehicle is presented for inspection to TfL. 

Regarding your concerns about sexual assaults committed by drivers, allegations against any licensed driver should be reported to the police in the first instance. TfL works closely with the police and may suspend or revoke a driver's licence on information disclosed by the police about reports of sexual offences. The Mayor has also ensured that illegal cab issues are given greater attention from the officers across the recently established 2,300-officer Roads Traffic Policing Command (RTPC). The creation of the RTPC brings with it the opportunity to significantly increase cab enforcement activity, mobilising hundreds of officers to focus on priority issues such as touting and cab-related sexual offences. All taxi and private hire driver applicants are subject to exactly the same enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks prior to becoming licensed. 

You also raise concerns in your letter about the tax paid by Uber. TfL's remit as a licensing body and regulator is to ensure the safe delivery of PHV services in London, while issues of tax are generally a matter for HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). However, in appropriate cases, TfL will bring specific concerns to its attention, as it did in the case of Uber. At TfL Board last week, it was agreed that TfL would consider whether any additional information should be brought to the attention of HMRC. 

I hope that this email assures you of how seriously the Mayor is taking the concerns of the taxi trade and the range of actions being put in place in response. 

Thank you again for writing to the Mayor. 

Yours sincerely 

Liz Ashby 
Public Liaison Unit 

Editorial Comment:
My Reply From My MP Gareth Thomas.

Dear Jim

Thanks for your email.

I met with Steve McNamara last December to discuss this issue, and I do share the concerns at the current unequal playing field.

You may be aware that I supported my colleague, Wes Streeting, in introducing a Bill recently that proposes action to improve passenger safety and makes competition fairer. The Bill contains provisions on training requirements for private hire drivers, insurance, and tax liabilites.

If you have not already seen it, you can read Wes' speech here:

I will continue to monitor this issue closely and, if you feel it would be helpful, I would be happy to meet you in order to discuss these issues further. If you'd like to make an appointment, please call my office (Phone no withheld)

Yours sincerely

Gareth Thomas MP (Harrow West)
House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA

Sunday, April 03, 2016

It could happen to anyone. NothWest Taxis To The Rescue

A couple of weeks ago, I accidentally did something stupid, that would turn out to cost me dearly. 

I made the mistake of putting petrol in the cab instead of diesel. Not the first time I might add, but in the past I've always spotted the mistake and manage to stop before too much petrol was delivered. 

Having filled the tank from almost empty, it was a disaster waiting to happen. 

The cab performed ok fir th first few hours of the night shift, but I did notice something was not quite right, when stopped on Sketch rank in Conduit Street and turned off the engine. I was only there a short time, but when I tried to start, the engine, it didn't seem to want to catch and the starter churned over and over.

I was about to give up and ask the passenger to get the cab behind (wondering where my AA card was) when it fired up and to be honest, seemed to perform quite well for the rest of the shift.

I realised I had big trouble after stopping at Camley Street for tea break. After a short tea break, the cab wouldn't start. I thought the battery was about to give up the ghost, but just as it was about to die on me, it fired up. But this time all was not OK.

Driving away from the Cross the cab was sluggish and I had almost no acceleration. So I drove very slowly to the Hyde near Edgware, to my Garrage North West Taxis. 

On rout, I managed to flag down a passing Cab who agreed to follow me to the garage and then take me home. 

It was around 4 am and I didn't fancy spending the night in the cab waiting till the garage opened. 
At this point I had no idea what I'd done, just thought there was a problem with the engine management system. 

To my surprise the driver, who I'd never met before, recognised me from Twitter and Facebook. Arriving home in Harrow, he flatly refused to take any money for the fare. 
Peter you really are a gentleman, you are a true Knight of the road and I'm proud to be a colleague. 

Next day, I phoned Paula at NorthWest Taxis, who said the battery was completely knackered and after putting it on test, recommended a new one. So I agreed.
But as I was getting ready to leave for the trip back to the garrage, the phone rang again with the news "Jim, you've  filled up with petrol".

I got to the garage expecting to hear the worst, or at least a new fuel pump.

Paula asked me to leave the cab over night and said she would get her top engineer to sort it out for me the next day. 

Paula agreed to loan me a brand spanking new euro 6 TX4 -Well I have been a good customer for many years- completely unexpected but very welcome.

The new TX4s are not the straight forward put the key in and drive off type vehicle they always were. 

There is a process you have to go through, or the cab just won't start. 
I'm told the cab now has a new immobilisation system which makes this very expensive vehicle, extreme hard to take and drive away, even if you've got the key.

The cab allegedly has a bigger better engine and now has two power mode settings, high end and eco. 
In eco setting, the acceleration is slightly slower than normal but fuel savings are noticeable compared with the high end setting which delivers a performance akin to a formula one car. 

Inside th driver compartment, he only difference I could find from my TX4 euro 4 was the extra button for the power mode on the dash, and in the rear, little stickers on the seat to show stupid people where to stick the end of the seat belt. 
After the mistake I'd made, I probably fit into this category. 

Renting out Taxis is a new venture for NorthWest who have just taken delivery of 12 new Tx4 Euro 6. Paula said that they will guarantee the first 12 drivers a new Taxi after 12 months of hire. 
They offer competitive rates to other garages renting out brand new TX4s. 

Happy ending for me though, my only outlay, was a new battery and another tank of fuel....diesel this time of course. 

A big thank you to Paula and Lee who have always been there for me. 
But also a big thank you to Peter, my knight of the road. 

Dads Defending Daughters Say...... LET'S TAKE THE FIGHT TO THEM.


Like most of you, I have heard about this impending Demo to close LAP for twenty four hours.
And like most of you, I welcome it.
If you intend to Demo, get Union cover. I have joined the RMT.
Why the RMT? Because they seem to share our sense of urgency.

Street Demos by the UCG have galvanised the Pro20. But unfortunately, apart from that, they have achieved very little success or media coverage.
Sitting silently, listening to the toothless GLA discuss our demise, has not helped our cause either.
We have lobbied en masse and on a daily basis, to no avail.
We have written to and emailed our MPs, with little to no response.
Before the school holidays last year, we were promised by Tom Watson and Unite the Union that something positive will be happening. Well eight months later the only positives I can see are all on the opposition's scoreboard.

The LTDA have lured us into this mess. I lay this, perilous situation we now find ourselves, firmly at the door of Taxi House.
Anyone who is still a member of that culpable association needs their apathetic heads examined.

Opponents of upping the ante, say that it will be a Public Relations disaster.
Which public is that?
The public who waves his phone at scabs, whilst you roast on a rank?
Or the public who buy your Big Issue, as you stand outside Novikov, watching scabs doing your job, as you wish you did more?

There have been calls to block every bridge from Tower to Wandsworth, and bring London to a standstill.
Boris has already done this with his CSH Blitzkrieg. Who would notice the difference?
Anyhow why stop London, when you can stop the World? Let's see the BBC refuse to cover that event.

Yes we will get bad press. At the moment we are getting no press.
Before Dads Defending Daughters turned up on the last Demo, with placards and banners, people would approach us asking why we were there.
Let's face facts, no one knows about our plight.
And moreover, very few care about our plight.
How many of us, not directly connected, gave much attention to the Miners or the Print Workers?
But we do care about the Firemen and the Steelworkers. Why? Because we have empathy, born from a common injustice.

You cannot sit on your hands, hoping everything will turn out rosy, while the Mayfair Mob, Shoreditch Mob, Flash Demo and the LCDC/UCG do all your bidding.
There comes a time when you have to play your part, and become part of the solution and not the problem.
You are either with us or against us. There is no just cause for abstention.

Uber cannot compete with Licensed London Taxis. They are just a plastic Addison Lee.
But they are competing, and driving us out of business, in an extreme form of professional genocide. Uber have achieved this, due to the incestuous personal and professional relationship they have with your Prime Minister, Chancellor and Mayor. Aided by many MPs, on both sides of the House, who place profit before public safety.
Uber are backed by massive corporations who wish to purloin our livelihood.
And still some of you want us to carry on regardless, head in the sand, hoping it will all just go away.

It is time to man up. And stand up to these bullies.
Let's be able to tell our Grandchildren, 'I was there. I fought for my rights. I was part of that Movement.'
Win or lose, I promise you, you will be saying those words with pride.
If we are going down, let's go down in history!

Lenny Etheridge 

See Dads Defending Daughters Blog. 

Marc Turner's reply to a tweet on Twitter.