In the 45 years I've been licensed as a London Taxi driver, I have never before had a problem applying for a renewal.
The easiest was Penton Street, just turn up, fill in the form, hand over two passport photos, pay your cash and that was it. Then when TfL took over licensing, I used the postal pack and the post office check and send. As I say, never had a problem.
But it became apparent round about seven years ago that the system wasn't running as smooth as it could be plus the commissioner Sir Peter Hendy tried to stop the issue of temporary licenses for renews arriving late.
Taxi Leaks did our bit by pointing out to Sir Peter the transport Act sec 17 subsection 11 which says once the application has been submitted and the DBS received back, your old licence stays valid until you receive the renewal or your licence is revoked.
But even so, many drivers seem to have lost work....some for weeks and in certain cases months waiting for renewals.
The orgs who should have been up in arms and sorted any problems out, seem to have been strangely quiet over this issue. But again, Taxi Leaks believe we've uncovered one particular reason why renewals done in line are failing.
Having seen a tweet from TfLTPH saying that the easiest and quickest way to renew a bill is on-line...so, I took them at their word and with the help of a colleague, I started the process with almost four months to the run up of my licence expiry date.
First I had to open a driver account with TfLTPH, forms filled out passwords implemented and documents uploaded.... failure....tried again.... another failure, then third time lucky. No explanation about the failures, but relief for us to continue to the next stage with still plenty of time in hand.
On we went to the actual application that we thought should be a piece of cake. Failure after failure as we kept getting requests back for the same items....DVLA share code and an uploaded image of certain documents.
We were offered no explanation as to why TfL Licensing wasn't getting the images or the DVLA share code, or why our emails weren't getting through.
So, after speaking to a number of drivers who had also experienced problems, I decided it may be easier to go to the “drop in licensing help desk” as time was fast running out.....only to find it's no longer a drop in help desk...and that you now need an appointment.
I explained as well as I could to the man who answered the entry phone that I only needed to give them my DVLA code and get them to scan my passport page, I told him I'd tried repeated times to email these items but the emails weren't getting through for some unknown reason. I also told him I’d tried to ring for an appointment but was repeatedly left hanging on being told the phone lines were extremely busy at this time! ....but he was adamant, no appointment, no entry, no help. So much for a help desk.
TfL logo states every journey matters but apparently my journey to the help desk wasn’t one that mattered.
I was so annoyed at this employees attitude I decided to go around the front of the building and voice my grievance to anyone I could find from TfL only to be told in the reception no one would see me without an appointment.
But just as I was about to give up, a young lady appeared from the lift and asked why I was getting so upset. I told her what had transpired. She said to me “give me your details and passport and, although it's my dinner brake, I'll go back up and complete your application”.
I couldn't believe my luck.
Five minutes later she came back to say, all done.
She also explained it was the fact I had been sending images taken with my iPhone which the TfL system doesn’t recognises, all images need to be JPEG or the email just bounces back to you. But no one had told me this and the mistake was being replicated for almost four months.
A few minutes later I received an email saying that my application was now complete.
Hopefully all done now and I'd just like to thank Maureen from TfL Licensing for taking the time to help and for the explanation she gave me.
TAXI LEAKS EXTRA BIT :
As a caveat, I renewed my DVLA driving licence online Sunday night. It took just five minutes and couldn't have been easier. Photo from my passport was acceptable so no uploading image. National Insurance number, driving licence number, name address, payment and that was it.
Why is it renewing a bill has to be so complicated?
Why can't it be as simple as renewing a driving licence with just the addition of your DBS?
We have a photo on our old bill, a badge with our licence number, an ID card with our badge number and (apparently) records are kept of any on street inspection and badge and Bill checks......so what is the problem that makes renewals such a nightmare?
Why haven't our orgs sorted this out?
Could it be that it's one thing that keep drivers paying subs, the fear aspect of tackling renewals without the protection of an org behind them.
This over complicated system of licence renewal has been going on for far to long and is completely unnecessary, it needs to be simplified ASAP.
DEMONSTRATION REMINDER :
London Taxi Protest
Wednesday 6th February
1pm-4pm parliament square
Don’t forget, Tottenham Court Road is just the thin end of the wedge.
Loads asked for a different time well here it is ....Where Buses Go, Taxis Go !