Saturday, July 08, 2017

Highways England trialling different variable speed limits

Anyone driving on the M3 last week may not have realised it but they were taking part in a secret test of variable speed limits. Highways England said that though it didn’t publicise the fact, it was testing an increase from 50mph to 55mph on the new smart motorway section in Surrey and Hampshire.


Highways England is trialling different variable speed limits for certain road conditions, such as roadworks, traffic congestion and accidents. If the tests are successful, we could be seeing more variety than the standard 50 mph usually imposed as a traffic speed management measure.

Secret tests

The test took place after the government asked Highways England to observe the impact of increasing the daytime speed limits on motorways, as drivers continue to complain that they are slow and causing delays that are often unnecessary.

The agency confirmed that the speed signs were changed from 50 to 55 mph for a short time as part of a new review of speed limits taking place around the country. Construction unions, however, are concerned by the move, saying that higher speeds could lead to more accidents involving road workers, especially at night.

Not so smart motorway

This was also the first sign that the new smart motorway was operating in its designed manner, after initially being opened as a smart motorway that wasn’t so smart – with the technology being switched on ‘shortly afterwards.’ The upgrade to a 13.4-mile section of the motorway from the M25 to Farnborough has added an extra lane and work was completed on time, with the extra lane operating for traffic as scheduled. However, the smart element of the motorway was running a little behind. This led to a 50mph speed limit being kept in place.


The smart motorway concept is said to give drivers better information about road conditions ahead of them and allow everyone to enjoy a smoother journey. It is also designed to add extra capacity, thereby improving journey times and making the motorways safer.

Cynics argue that smart motorways are “money-making roads” that contain speed cameras every few hundred yards to catch out drivers who break variable speed limits or the national speed limit. The government earned £1.1 million from smart motorway fines alone in 2015. That figure is growing by 20% annually as the smart motorway network expands and is estimated to reach £2 million a year  in earnings by 2018.

Benefits of variable speed limits

This isn’t the first time variable speed limits have been trialled on UK roads – a well publicised test on the M1 that limited the speed to 60mph is one example of a trial of the idea that has been paired with smart motorway technology.

One of the potential benefits of variable speed limits is the reduction in air pollution and therefore the easing of harmful emissions in the air from cars. The move is part of a series of steps that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has suggested to reduce the effects of air pollution on health across the UK.

There are around 25,000 deaths every year in England that cite air pollution as a contributing factor – around 5% of all deaths. The health watchdog has offered a series of measures it believes will help reduce this number.

Reducing pollution

Alongside variable speed limits on motorways, NICE also suggests promoting smoother driving, building homes further away from the road and adding hedgerows to help protect cyclists on cycle paths.

Speed bumps, a current favourite with local authorities, are less favourable, as there is a chance they increase emissions rather than reduce them. Another issue is the idea of ‘no-idling’ zones around schools to stop parents leaving their cars running while waiting to pick up children.

The idea of variable speed limits is that, in traffic, cars are accelerating and decelerating. This increases the amount of emissions. However, by limiting everything to 50-60mph, cars ideally proceed at a steady rate. Suggested times and locations for the measures include all the time on the M25, Sunday on the M4 and Friday evenings on the M1.

It seems that on the surface these changes are part of a wider plan to control traffic not only to ease congestion but to help the environment at the same time.

No More Stalling From Mayor, As Department Of Transport Steps Up To The Oche.

After the Mayor's snub to the London Taxi trade by shutting the door on engagement with trade representative orgs and unions, it now seems the recent row between Sadiq Khan and transport Secretary Chris Graylin has finally come to a head, and been discussed in Parliament.

The Mayor has said in the past that he doesn't have the power to cap the number of private hire vehicles being licensed to work in the London area. But Transport Secretary Chris Graylin says the mayor has never asked for this power. Sadiq Khan argues that he has asked.

Yesterday's question in Parliament: 
Theresa Villiers, Conservative MP for Chipping Barnet, asked the Secretary of State for Transport:
"What discussions he has had with the Mayor of London on the potential merits of reforming the law to give Transport for London the power to cap the number of private hire vehicle driver licences."

Reply:
John Hayes, Minister of State (Department for Transport) said:
"There have been no discussions between the Secretary of State and the Mayor of London on reforming the law to give Transport for Londonthe power to cap the number of private hire vehicle driver licences. 

"The Mayor has recently written to the Secretary of State for Transport requesting this reform as part of a wider package of measures."

He went on to say that the department of transport will respond to the Mayor on this and the other matters raised in due course.



Thursday, July 06, 2017

GLA Unanimously Call On Khan Not To Renew Uber's Licence.


The Mayor is facing calls to ensure the licence of car hailing app Uber is not renewed, unless the company improves its working practices.

The London Assembly is extremely concerned about the effects of these practices on other PHV operators, black cabs and even their own drivers.

A motion agreed today by the Assembly also calls for the Mayor to have the powers to cap the number of private hire licences.

David Kurten AM, who proposed the original motion said:

“The Mayor pledged in his election campaign to revoke Uber’s licence if there was just case of poor practice as he would not compromise on Londoners’ safety. 

One year on from his election he has renewed Uber’s operating licence despite grave concerns about Uber’s working practices, driver safety, increased allegations of sexual assaults by Uber drivers, tax avoidance and the potential quagmire of alleged corruption between Uber’s previous bosses and members of David Cameron’s administration. 

I believe there are now so many problems caused by Uber’s practices that they do not deserve any more chances. It is time to pull the plug on Uber in London - unless it does something dramatic about its working practices.” 

Navin Shah AM, who proposed the amended motion said:

"To say Uber’s working practices leave a lot to be desired is an understatement. We know this isn't just taking its toll on Uber drivers but on the wider private hire industry and on cabbies too.



Unless Uber begins to demonstrate better working practice, TfL shouldn't be renewing its licence in the Autumn. In the meantime, the government must respond to the Mayor’s request for a cap on private hire vehicles so their increasing numbers on London’s roads can be adequately managed."

The full text of the Motion is:

“This Assembly notes that TfL, of which the Mayor is chairman, has renewed Uber’s Operating Licence in London for a period of four months from May 2017 to September 2017.

This Assembly is appalled at some of the work practices of Uber and is extremely concerned about the effects of these practices on other PHV operators, black cabs and even their own drivers.

This Assembly supports the Mayor’s request to Government that TfL be given the powers to cap the number of PHV licences and calls on him, in his capacity as chairman of TfL, not to renew Uber’s Operating Licence in London when it comes up for renewal in September 2017 unless it improves its working practices.”

The Mayor is facing calls to ensure the licence of car hailing app Uber is not renewed, unless the company improves its working practices. The London Assembly is extremely concerned about the effects of these practices on other PHV operators, black cabs and even their own drivers. A motion agreed today by the Assembly also calls for the Mayor to have the powers to cap the number of private hire licences. David Kurten AM, who proposed the original motion said: “The Mayor pledged in his election campaign to revoke Uber’s licence if there was just case of poor practice as he would not compromise on Londoners’ safety. One year on from his election he has renewed Uber’s operating licence despite grave concerns about Uber’s working practices, driver safety, increased allegations of sexual assaults by Uber drivers, tax avoidance and the potential quagmire of alleged corruption between Uber’s previous bosses and members of David Cameron’s administration. I believe there are now so many problems caused by Uber’s practices that they do not deserve any more chances. It is time to pull the plug on Uber in London - unless it does something dramatic about its working practices.” Navin Shah AM, who proposed the amended motion said: "To say Uber’s working practices leave a lot to be desired is an understatement. We know this isn't just taking its toll on Uber drivers but on the wider private hire industry and on cabbies too. Unless Uber begins to demonstrate better working practice, TfL shouldn't be renewing its licence in the Autumn. In the meantime, the government must respond to the Mayor’s request for a cap on private hire vehicles so their increasing numbers on London’s roads can be adequately managed." The full text of the Motion is: “This Assembly notes that TfL, of which the Mayor is chairman, has renewed Uber’s Operating Licence in London for a period of four months from May 2017 to September 2017. This Assembly is appalled at some of the work practices of Uber and is extremely concerned about the effects of these practices on other PHV operators, black cabs and even their own drivers. This Assembly supports the Mayor’s request to Government that TfL be given the powers to cap the number of PHV licences and calls on him, in his capacity as chairman of TfL, not to renew Uber’s Operating Licence in London when it comes up for renewal in September 2017 unless it improves its working practices.”

GMB -Brighton And Hove Taxi Section- Confirms, Uber Is Private Hire Operator.


          Email sent to a considerably large list: 

Once again it appears we see that Uber are trying to escape the fact that they are blatantly a Private Hire Operator with insistence that they are a “Third party technology company”

However.. on May 2nd 2017 two Uber representatives attended the Brighton & Hove Taxi Trade Forum meeting:

These were:
•  Helen Fletcher - Senior Compliance & Litigation Counsel at Uber
•  Emilie Boman - Senior Public Policy Associate at Uber


The Brighton & Hove Taxi Trade representatives refused to acknowledge the presence of Uber at that meeting of May 2nd 2017 as being a legitimate trade representative .

This was based on a statement made by Mr Fed Jones  (Head of Cities for Uber) who was present  at a  previous Trade Meeting held in December 2016.

General manager Uber, South and South West Fred Jones

At that December meeting Mr Jones denied that Uber was a ‘Private Hire Operator’ insisting that it was a ‘Technology Company’.

At the meeting on May 2nd 2017 the trade read out a statement at the beginning of the meeting stating:

“Until ‘Uber Britannia Ltd’ concedes it is a ‘Private Hire Operator’ it will not be recognised by members of the BHTTFA.”

However the response from Helen Fletcher was.. as quoted in the councils own Minutes were:

“Helen Fletcher who was present as Uber’s lawyer / representative at the Forum meeting confirmed that Uber are a private hire operator in the Brighton and Hove area and are also licensed in 70 other jurisdictions in the UK”.

It is clear and evident that at the Brighton & Hove Taxi Trade Meeting on May 2nd 2017 Uber Britannia Ltd officially acknowledged that it was indeed a ‘Private Hire Operator’

If there is any necessity of proof that Uber Brittania Ltd is indeed a ‘Private Hire Operator’ then this evidence supplied directly from UBL itself should be used.


Andrew Peters
Secretary
GMB – Brighton & Hove Taxi Section

EDITORIAL EXTRA: 
MORE GOOD NEWS FROM THE FRONT LINE:


Minimum Wage Threat To Minicab Firms Like Uber And Addison Lee



Transport minister John Hayes said Uber and other private hire companies could be forced to sign up to tough new licences to ensure they pay staff the minimum wage
Uber and other private hire companies could be forced to sign up to tough new licences to ensure they pay staff the minimum wage, a minister suggested yesterday.
Transport minister John Hayes was responding to a call from a senior MP that councils should be able to minimum standards before granting firms taxi licences.
Labour's Frank Field said companies such as Uber flout the existing lax rules to get around paying drivers a decent living.
His calls in a Westminster debate were met with a positive response from Mr Hayes, who pledged to review the guidance issued to councils.
The minister said he would establish a working party under an independent chair within the Department for Transport to inquire into the pay and working conditions at Uber.
Mr Field, the former chairman of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, said: 'Uber and similar companies are registering we know in London, in Leeds, in Liverpool and in Glasgow, and getting licences, as they have to, from the transport executive of those areas.
'Is it because the legislation is unsure, difficult to interpret, that these transport executives are not in fact saying these are the minimum conditions you the company must meet if you wish us to grant you a licence to operate in our area?
'I would like to hear the minister's view on this. I think the position is quite clear, it just takes a few – or at least one – transport authority to say this is the interpretation.'
Mr Field said while Uber had made a positive contribution to the market and many workers it was also a 'destructive force for many people's living standards', accusing it of offering a 'bogus' self-employment contract.


Labour's Frank Field said companies such as Uber flout the existing lax rules to get around paying drivers a decent living
Mr Field has previously published a report which concluded that drivers working with Uber are in danger of taking home as little as £2 an hour – less than a third of the National Living Wage.
Speaking after the debate, he said: 'This is a big, big breakthrough. The government has acted on the evidence I submitted on the poverty pay and shoddy treatment meted out to some workers at the bottom of the 'gig economy', both by commissioning the Taylor Review and now by inquiring specifically around the private hire industry. 
However Uber are busy hedging their bets in case they are not relicensed by TfL in September. They are now insisting that that are not a Private Hire operator, but a third party technology company that acts as agent, putting customers in contact with drivers who then take the booking. If this is accepted by TfL then this would mean every Uber driver would need a Private Hire operator's licence. 
Source : Daily Mail 

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Taxi Drivers Protest Against Mike Browns Snub Of Trade Orgs.... By Jim Thomas


Protesting Taxi drivers brought Blackfriars Road (and most of London) to a standstill for almost three hours during Tuesday evening's rush hour, in a protest against Transport for London's commissioner Mike Brown, who has cancelled the last three scheduled Taxi Trade meetings. 

TfL's commissioner Mike Brown, London's Mayor Sadiq Khan and deputy Mayor Val Shawcross have all turned their backs on London's Black cabs. 

Cabbies complain that TfL bosses and the Mayors Office have failed to meet them to discuss threats to the trade such as the proliferation of minicabs using Uber and similar apps.

Last month Mayor of London Sadiq Khan Lied when he gave this answer to a question tabled by UKIP AM David Kurten: "In my Taxi and Private Hire Action Plan, I committed to review engagement arrangements with the taxi trade. 

"Key trade bodies were involved in discussions about the new arrangements and these have recently been put in place (there have been no all trade discussions for 8 months).

"As part of this new plan, the major trade representatives have the opportunity to meet with my Transport Commissioner, Mike Brown, along with other senior representatives within TfL providing a direct route to the relevant operational teams". (Another lie as Mike Brown continues to cancel meetings with the trade giving no explanation)

This statement is completely untrue. Mike Brown has cancelled the last three trade meetings and given no explanation other than he was 'unavailable'.

Deputy Mayor for Transport, Val Shawcross, (who when a GLA councillors was a staunch Taxi trade supporter) suddenly became unavailable and stopped meeting trade representatives soon after her appointment.

The protest -called by the London Cab Drivers Club (LCDC) and supported by the Independant Taxi Alliance (ITA), Dads Defending Daughters, The Real LTDA and the Mayfair Mob- took the form of a large flash demo, organised and publicised on social media over night. 

Police estimate over four hundred Taxi drivers turned up and bought the area to a complete standstill. Many more Taxis were caught up in the surrounding gridlock.


The target was 230 Blackfriars House, nicknamed Rachael Grundy house by London's cabbies in honour of the £140 an hour prostitute, with whom former TfL commissioner Sir Peter Hendy had a widely publicised adulterous affair.

The protests started at 4pm and at first, police were slow to act. After 30 minutes, a motorcycle traffic unit turned up and to everyone's surprise drove along the lines of black cabs saying "if you move up, we can get more Taxis into the area of the protest. Drivers were told they could block the road between Stamford Street and Palestra. 

Unfortunately, because of the short notice, there were no placards, but these will be available at the next and subsequent demos (TBA)


Drivers were told they could park up and they did, which gave them opera unity to talk to the public who were very interested in why drivers felt the need to protest. Virtually all of the people spoken to appeared to support the drivers, even those waiting for buses which had been diverted. 

Again taxis drivers showed compassion as a disable boy and his mother were taken home by a volunteer cabby free of charge, when the found waiting at one of the bus stops close to Palestra.

All in all, the demo was continued without incident, except when a female compliance officer was found taking Taxi details. I approached the officer and asked to see her RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000). 

I told her if she carried on without the permit I would call over a police officer and have her arrested. She then called in and was told to return to Palestra. 

The overhaul behaviour from the drivers was impeccable and the police were helpful and very supportive. It was a great turnout for a flash demo, considering the timeframe, but make no mistake we will be back and next time, we will be given more notice.


It was great to see my old friend Tony making his own protest outside Palestra.

   


    TFL LICENSING DANGEROUS DRIVERS

You really couldn't make this up. An Uber car, caught in the demo outside 230 Blackfriars Road, TfL's Taxi and Licensing department, decided to:
Mount the pavement almost knocking over protesting Taxi drivers
Drive along a segregated cycle lane, almost hitting a surprised cyclist coming towards him.
Remounts pavement and exits via Burrell Street. 

Nothing new here, he's had plenty of practise

    



Sunday, July 02, 2017

London Uber Sex Assault Shame...New Freedom Of Information Request, Shows Its Getting Worse.


More bad news is on the way for driver and rider matching service Uber: hot on the heels of revelations about their drivers having to sleep in their cars, vehicles moving hundreds of miles from their licensed areas to look for business, the impasse over the company getting its operator’s licence renewed in London, and the departure of CEO Travis Kalanick, have come the figures on sexual assaults by London’s Uber drivers.

And those numbers not only look bad, but all indications suggest that they are getting worse. On top of that, the figures will be receiving much wider circulation tomorrow when the Daily Mail hits breakfast tables and news stands, as the statistics have caught the eye of hack Guy Adams. He has been on Uber’s case ever since the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre decided that the company’s behaviour had incurred his displeasure.

Dacre took exception to Uber after revelations concerning the ease at which it became established in London, and particularly the supine manner in which the capital’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson seemed to roll over in the face of the Uber PR machine - and his being leaned on by Young Dave and the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet.

Cameron and Osborne’s closeness to Rachel Whetstone, another who has now left Uber, were another item displeasing the Mail’s editor. That closeness arose mainly through her being married to Young Dave’s alleged guru Steve Hilton, now safely out of the country in West Coast USA. All of this will push the news that several Uber drivers are the subject of sexual assault allegations well up the Mail’s Monday news agenda.

So what of those numbers? Well, following an FoI request made of TfL, it has been revealed that the widely reported figure of 32 allegations of rapes and other sex attacks from 2015-16 has been eclipsed in the 2016-17 figures. Those figures, which have just been released, show that a total of 48 allegations of sexual assault, including in some cases rape, have been made against Uber drivers during that period.

That means a rate of one alleged sex assault almost every week. While it has to be conceded that some punters call any minicab “an Uber”, there is also the point that these allegations are the only ones specifying Uber - it is possible that other allegations were levelled where the complainant did not specify whether it was an Uber vehicle, because they lumped those in with other private hire operators. Swings and roundabouts.

On top of that, it has been put to me that the Metropolitan Police are investigating the possible use of TfL minicab licenses - some of which may be Uber drivers - by gangs trafficking illegal drugs, offensive and potentially illegal weapons, and sex workers around the capital. The name of a Police inspector on the investigation has been passed to Zelo Street. And much of this will be in tomorrow’s Daily Mail.

There is a good reason for taxis and minicabs to be subject to regulation, whether Uber and their cheerleaders like it or not. Now, perhaps, after Bozza, Dave and George have been swept from the scene, some action might be taken.
But by the way TfL have bent over backwards to protect Uber, I wouldn't hold your breath. 


New Calls To Halt Blight Of Long Taxi Queues


Councillor Gill Mitchell is hopeful of a solution to the problem of taxi traffic outside Brighton Station

PRESSURE is mounting on rail bosses to find a solution for the ongoing “nightmare” of long queues of taxis snaking outside Brighton Station.

Residents enduring daily disturbances have called on Govia Thameslink Railway to “pick up the slack” and find an alternative site for the busy rank.

Councillors said the current layout had been an issue for years and caused a blight on the life of residents in Surrey Street.

GTR said positive discussions with the council had been held but warned moving the rank required considerable consultation.

Relocating the rank is not backed by all taxi drivers who say it will make journeys longer for passengers and increase air pollution.

The issue of taxis blocking up and causing noise nuisance for Surrey Street has persisted despite a £1.5 million refurbishment – a move residents claim has exacerbated the problem by narrowing the street.

Green Councillor Pete West said at Tuesday’s transport committee meeting it had been an absolute blight on the lives of residents and was affecting a major transport hub. 

He added: “This issue has had a lack of progress over many years. It needs a stronger light to be shone upon it. GTR have been extremely resistant, I’m glad to hear now they are more sympathetic for a plan first proposed five years ago.”

Councillor Leo Littman said the last few years had been “totally unacceptable and a “long-term solution” would require partnership work with GTR and taxi companies.

Councillor Gill Mitchell, transport committee chairwoman, criticised the gateway refurbishment planned under the Green administration. She said: “We are shining a light on the very unfortunate consequence of the flawed gateway project. The taxi rank should have been moved to the back of the station and we are having to respond to the mess. I hope sooner rather than later we can come to an agreement with GTR.”

A GTR spokesman said tailbacks in Surrey Street were caused by the volume of traffic at the one-way system and compounded by Terminus Road traffic and the busy bus interchange. 

He said: “Positive discussions have taken place with the council and a further meeting is planned when we hope to bring a solution closer.”

He warned moving the rank to the back of the station had to be carefully thought through because of the high use of Stroudley Road for pick up and drop offs, rail replacement buses, disabled parking, the entrance to the 600 space station car park, the Jurys Inn hotel and a newly built apartment complex.

He added despite owning the road, the decision was not solely theirs but required a high degree of consultation with affected parties especially considering the unpopularity of a temporary rank in Terminus Road last year.

Source : The Argus