Saturday, January 11, 2020

Wolverhampton Council Hands Out 15,000 Private Hire licences In One Year To Drivers Working Across The UK


Only a small fraction of the new licence holders are operating in the city, with some drivers working hundreds of miles away in Scotland.

Applications from Kilmarnock, Edinburgh, Perth and Kirkcaldy were received by Wolverhampton Council last year, as the authority granted 15,171 licences to extend its dominance over the British private hire market.

The data was provided in a Freedom of Information request.

It showed that in 2019 a total of 11,461 applications to Wolverhampton Council came from drivers based in Birmingham, while there were 2,457 from Manchester, 1,926 from Coventry, 1,279 from Leicester, 1,102 from Nottingham and 432 from Telford.

In the last five years the city council has received applications from 325 miles away in Perth – a six-hour drive from the city, and 254 miles away in Truro, Cornwall, which takes almost five hours to get to by car.

It has granted 35,035 private hire licences since 2017, pumping £8.7m into the authority’s coffers.


The overall figure for last year was up 25 per cent on 2018, and represented an 18-fold increase on the 833 licences the authority handed out in 2015.
In that year a change in the law allowed private hire drivers to operate in a different area from where they obtained a licence.

It prompted licensing bosses at Wolverhampton Council to streamline its application process and slash the prices of licences – leading to a dramatic increase in applications.

However, the authority’s dominance of the market has not gone down well with other councils, some of which have seen their own private hire applications plummet.
In 2018-19 Birmingham Council issued 1,768 private hire licences, down 11 per cent on the previous year. It currently has 4,461 drivers licensed.


Meanwhile Walsall Council received just 48 new applications for licences last year, when it had a total of 1,129 private hire drivers registered. The authority’s total income from private hire and Hackney Carriage licensing was £157,482.

Over the same period Wolverhampton Council had 1,018 applications from private hire drivers based in Walsall.
A new report to Walsall’s director of public health has outlined concerns over dwindling application numbers.

Councillor Mike Bird, the leader of Walsall Council, said he favoured a change in legislation as the current system was "making a mockery" of local authority licensing laws.

"Wolverhampton Council has cornered the market, but you have to question whether it is right that a driver can get a licence there but ply their trade hundreds of miles away," he said.

Concerns have also been raised over passenger safety. Lib Dem campaigner Ian Jenkins, said: "The council has turned a vital safety check into a cash cow.
"We need to support the private hire trade in the city and not turn ourselves into a taxi version of Gretna Green.
"It just seems like the budget line comes first above everything."

Wolverhampton Council has always defended its position, stating that it oversees enforcement operations all over the country, and that any profits it makes from licensing are ploughed back into the scheme.

Councillor Alan Bolshaw, the city’s licensing chief, said: "Councillor Bird seems to have come quite late to the party.

"There have been several consultations about the private hire trade and he appears to be playing catch up. His contribution to the debate is welcomed as much as anybody's."

Friday, January 10, 2020

Another TfL Roundel Of Death Crashes, We Ask Are TfL Not Fit To Be Regulator.


Fire crews and the ambulance services attended the scene of the accident, which happened just before 9am Friday morning, January 10.

The accident happened between junctions 23 and 24 on the clockwise carriageway. Two lanes had to be closed because of the accident.

The Jaws Of Life, Used On The Roundel Of Death...Again. 
Herts Fire and Rescue Service tweeted: "Fire Control received a call to an RTC involving 2 vehicles on the M25 between J23 and J24. Upon arrival, casualty extrication was carried out using two sets of cutting equipment.

    

This crash comes on the back of renewed calls form the Taxi trade, for TfL to release the statistics on Uber’s safety record. 

TfL promise to release deaths, rapes, sexual assaults and accident statistics year after year but have so far, fail to come up with the goods. 

It’s alleged they don’t want to put people off using Private Hire, and damage their most profitable revenue stream. 

TfL have long been accepting drivers from countries with different driving standards without any testing to see if they are safe. But worst of all TfL take applicants from countries that can’t guarantee the driver has no serious criminal record. TfL day this situation is allowed because it’s impossible to police. If that’s true, then it shouldn’t be allowed. 

If someone turns up at TfL and applies for a private hire licence, but can’t show a record of non criminal activity.... then they should be told to jog on. Public safety must come before a licence fee.  

TfL’s regulations are regularly bypassed on many occasions bringing their suitability to be a regulator into question. 

TfL have recently swept most of what’s been going on under the table.... refusing to answer questions on what’s actually been occurring, over the last 6-7 years in regards to the UberRape app.

If you believe that TfL should be relieved of Taxi and Private Hire responsibility, and that we should return to being regulated by the Met.... then please sign the petition below...just click on the link. 


BTW, you don’t have to be a Taxi driver to sign this petition, just worried about public safety

The ITA’s Response to the Installation of a Bus Gate on Wapping High Street.



In October the ITA outlined reasons why taxis should be permitted to use the bus gate on Wapping High St

The ITA is a pressure group that aims to raise awareness about policies that coerce, discriminate or do not reflect public opinion.

Wapping Bus Gate 
ThIs document is in response to the proposed bus gate on Wapping High St (Document Reference: 5318 Date 15.05.19) and is on behalf of those who seek a greener lifestyle, who don’t own a car,  but require - or need - a demand responsive door-to door-service.  

The scheme is likely to improve cycling, walking, living and working in the Wapping area, and has the potential of reducing volumes of through-motor traffic. Currently only buses and bicycles will be exempt during operating times (weekdays 5.30am - 10.30am and 4pm - 7pm).  There are concerns however that the consultation was flawed due to the response options being recommended by Tower Hamlets Council, thus leading the survey applicant.  

Despite these concerns, the analysis confirms that there is 70% support for the Bus Gate. However, this statistic is used to justify a Bus Gate with no exemptions for residents. Further analysis confirms only 22.5% support a Bus Gate with no exemptions. 70% is achievable only if support allows exemptions. 

Our own research found that both residents and commercial business owners within the area feel strongly that their views have been dismissed by the council; most notably the decision taken to not exempt taxis from the scheme.  


Taxi Overview 

  • - Taxis (Hackney carriages) are public transport vehicles which are licensed to ‘ply for hire’. 

  • - London has one of the most developed taxi service in the EU Transport for London (TfL) is the authority in charge of granting taxi licences both to drivers and vehicles under the London Cab Order 1934. Vehicles must have a licence to operate as black cabs and these are 

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  • also issued by TfL provided that certain criteria are met. Among other requirements for a cab licence, London cab drivers are required to pass the well- known (and notoriously difficult) Topographical Knowledge of London examinations. The purpose of which is to ensure a safe, efficient, transport service.   

  • - Stringent requirements are also imposed on its purpose-built vehicle and London is the only city in the EU which provides 100% wheelchair accessibility for all the vehicles used as taxis. There are also added features such as a hearing loop and illuminated hand grips for the hearing and sight impaired.   

  • - The Knowledge test has the advantage of acting as a natural quantitative restriction barrier where take up is  based on socio-economic criteria, such as the number of inhabitants, the number of tourists and business travellers. The taxi market is also geographically controlled since licences are valid only for the area of the issuing municipality, thus allowing supply to determine the demand.   

  • - Taxis are hailed in the same way as buses, without the need to be pre-booked even though there is provision for this. Fare regulation prevents price gouging in the street hail market. The pricing structure also provides passengers with more certainty about the price they will be charged. The tariff is based on the cost-index of maintaining the aforementioned purpose-built vehicle.  

  • - New IT technologies and web applications, which provide potential passengers with real time information have the ability to display heat maps indicating intense passenger availability areas where Wapping is regularly displayed. The use of technologies often correct the asymmetry of information between passengers and service providers during busy periods. However, the lion-share of the market prefer the convenience and freedom of a non- intermediary, demand responsive service.  

  • - In June 2018, the average number of taxis entering central London was 11,259 and there are approximately 400 taxi drivers who are residents of Tower Hamlets. All drivers are independent sole traders local to London with no intermediary tax liabilities based overseas. 


The manipulation of data is highly coercive and such instilled distrust in Tower Hamlets summary documents has led us to conduct our own research findings. By pushing unverified ideas into the public front the Council risks generating the same resistance that occurred with the aborted Tredegar Road Bus gate.  

Tower Hamlets own findings concluded that; 

74% (2,370) of all responders would allow taxis access through the gate, this is supported by 68% (1,528) of respondents from within the consultation area.  

Only 26% stated that taxis should not be permitted through the gate. Significantly, three quarters of Wapping residents and total respondents want taxis to be allowed an exemption.  

The Council’s decision not to exempt taxis does not reflect the views of the majority of Wapping residents or that of total respondents.  


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According to the analysis, many of the free text comments mentioned that taxis are a vital part of travel within the Wapping area. Many residents quite rightly class this mode as part of public transport. There are several comments suggesting that taxis are preferred to the 100 bus, due to its sporadic service. A lot of responders stated that if taxis were to be barred from passing through the gate that they would be unable to get around the area with ease. 


The evidence from ‘heat maps’ confirm that Wapping High Street is a vibrant area and is well served by the taxi trade. The intention of the bus gate is to tackle traffic which travels through the area with no business there ( to avoid congestion on the Highway). During the 24hr traffic survey the data revealed that 46 motor vehicles enter and exit Wapping in less than 10 minutes, indicating there is a ‘rat running’ issue. However, the most gaping discrepancy is that the traffic survey did not differentiate between vehicle types and only refer to aggregate data. 

The council is incorrect to suggest that taxis use Wapping High Street as a through route to avoid congestion on The Highway. There is a bus lane on the Commercial Road that taxis are permitted to use. The Highway is a bypass and it does not make economic sense to sit in the congestion. Taxi drivers use the local roads in Wapping to transport passengers or to ply for hire. If there wasn’t the demand there, they wouldn’t use it.  

             Values 

  • - A survey involving 200 drivers determined that 76% use the area to transport customers and 23.5% use the area to ply for hire. Those using the area as a through route amounted to less than 1%.  

  • - On average, 72% of drivers said they were likely to pick up passengers after they had dropped off in the area. Likability spiked during the morning rush and again during busy evening periods. This mirrors the London wide average.  

  • - Of those surveyed, 78% were residents who lived within the area and 22% were there for business or leisure.  


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  • - As expected, 100% of taxi users felt that taxis should be permitted access through the gate and 79% of residents or visitors surveyed on the street were in agreement, which closely reflects the council’s own positive findings.  


Feedback from residents deemed taxis to be a necessary part of the equation as other modes of transport – most notably the No.100 bus - doesn’t service the rider's destination or, is too inconvenient when the route involves two or more transfers. We consider it to be an illogical decision to exclude taxis from gates that are open to buses. Doing so discourages people from using a combination of public transit vehicles and taxis in place of automobile ownership.  


We also consider the restriction of access to breach of the Equalities Act 2010, (Pt2. Chapter 1 protected characteristics/ Chapter 2 prohibited conduct).  

The Governments Ministerial Forward states; 

“While many take for granted the ability to travel easily from A to B, this is not the reality for everyone. For our ageing population, and the fifth of people who identify as having some sort of disability, access to transport can be far from straightforward. That is why this Government is determined to make sure that disabled people have the same access to transport as everyone else, and that they are able to travel easily, confidently and without extra cost. We have a manifesto commitment to get a million more disabled people into work by 2027, and this Strategy will help to deliver that. 

I have been encouraged by the increasing awareness among transport operators of the need to design and deliver their services in a genuinely inclusive way, in particular the greater recognition that less visible disabilities such as autism, dementia or anxiety can be just as much of a barrier to travel as a visible disability”. 

The Department for Transport’s Strategy (achieving equal access for disabled passengers) states that taxis should; 

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“…be as accessible to disabled passengers as it is for those who are not disabled. This should mean not only that vehicles are sufficiently accessible to provide for people with a range of access needs, but that the means of hiring them is accessible, that passengers can be picked up or dropped off at a location convenient to them, and that no disabled person is ever left at the kerbside or charged extra for their journey. We also want LLAs to understand their role in helping this to happen, both through the licensing system and through other areas of influence, such as traffic”. 


Taxis provide the public with the only demand responsive door-to-door service in London. The taxi division of Taxicard enables over 80,000 members in 32 participating boroughs to take around 1.3million trips per year.  The Taxicard scheme offers London residents with mobility impairments or who are sight impaired subsidised travel.  

The scheme enables members who may have difficulty using public transport, such as+ buses, trains and tubes, to get out and about and enjoy the city. It is  a matter of personal liberty and accessibility.

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The scheme is for all journey types, including social trips such as shopping, visiting friends and family or going out to events. 


If licensed taxis are prevented from using the bus gate, what provision has the local authority put in place to ensure those with mobility issues are not forced onto costly, time-inefficient routes?  Mobility is a concern for the elderly, frail, wheelchair-dependent, sight impaired, anxious, and those carrying heavy luggage or shopping.  


The council haven’t yet expressly clarified if their equality assessment addressed disabled taxi users as well as the elderly who use taxis in the area during the bus-gate’s operational periods. The council stated that the bus-gate was being introduced following requests from residents and businesses in the local area, adding that the impact on those businesses was considered as part of the consultation analysis. Yet the findings suggest that businesses would be adversely effected if taxis were not exempted from the scheme.  

Although social media presents an arena of animosity between cyclists and taxi drivers the data shows that both cyclists and licensed taxi drivers share a very safe relationship. The taxi driver is fully conversant with the layout of London’s infrastructure which enables him or her keep their full attention on the road ahead without being distracted by various GPS systems. Taxis are factually the safest public transport option in the capital.  

The cab fleet is rapidly moving towards electric with nearly three thousand in operation in the space of just eighteen months (unlike buses that are allowed to run on diesel until 2030). All new taxis have to be zero emission capable. The trade agrees that we need to plan for the future and reduce its collective detritus but creating unnecessary barriers for taxi drivers could economically disadvantage them, impeding on his or her progress to invest in a more sustainable vehicle. It’s also worth remembering, that taxis have always conformed to the EU Emissions Strategy, and are stringently tested twice a year to ensure they uphold rigorous emission standards. 

Permitting taxis to access the bus gate is not about prioritising the driver’s needs but allows those who have chosen not to use their car (or better still, not to own one) to access transport that delivers an efficient, accessible, door-to-door service. In 2015, the *European Court of Justice ruled that the practice of permitting, in order to establish a “safe and efficient transport system, Black Cabs were to use bus lanes on public roads during the hours when traffic restrictions relating to

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those lanes were operational”. The restriction on taxis increases inefficiency and demotes the promotion of connected ‘public transport’ 

Black Cabs are subject to the rule of ‘compellability’, which requires that where a taxi has agreed to pick up a customer at a taxi rank or in the street, the taxi must take the passenger where he or she wishes to go [Act of 1831 ss. 35-36; Act of 1853 ss. 7/17; Act of 1968 s. s3; Order of 1934 art. 34]: it cannot therefore be at the discretion of the driver to determine if a passenger has a mobility issue or not. Again, crating binaries for those with mobility issues is diametrically opposed to the Dept. of Transport’s ‘inclusive’ policy and is a retrograde step that seeks to restrict legitimate freedom of choice from residents. 

The Council's decision has ignored the needs and the views of those who were consulted and is inharmonious with the findings of the consultation report. Further more, the Council has not considered the Equality Act 2010 and disregards the intentions of the Government’s Inclusive Strategy. With that, we urge the Council to reconsider their decision and exempt licensed taxis from the Wapping Bus Gate proposal. 

Wapping Bus Gate Report 

Traffic Management order 

Eventech Ltd vs The Parking Adjudicator, Judgement of the Court 

OPINION OF ADVOCATE GENERAL 

Research Ref: SPD1969 

No Such Thing As A Zero Emission Vehicle: Researchers say brakes a bigger source of particulates in roadside air than vehicle exhausts.

Brake dust produces more of the most harmful kind of air pollution than vehicle exhausts, a new study finds.

Researchers have found that the metal-particle dust created by scraping the brake pads, accounts for a fifth of tiny particulate pollution on the roads.

By contrast, tail pipe fumes only make up seven per cent of the tiny particles found in roadside air - with the rest coming from sources such as wear and tear on tyres, clutch scrapings and general road dust.

Air pollution is estimated to be responsible for 64,000 early deaths a year in the UK, of which about three-quarters are due to particulate pollution. 


Minuscule particles
These tiny particles measure less than 2.5 thousandths of a millimetre across, less than one thirtieth the width of a human hair. They can reach deep into the heart, lungs and bloodstream causing asthma, heart disease, lung cancer and strokes.

They can cause inflammation and weaken the body's immune system.

Researchers compared the damage caused by particulates from brake dust to that from diesel exhausts by looking at their effect on immune cells.
"Diesel fumes and brake dust appear to be as bad as each other in terms of toxicity. 

Immune cells protect the lung from microbes and infections and regulate inflammation, but we found that when they're exposed to brake dust they can no longer take up and destroy bacteria," said Liza Selley, of the University of Cambridge.

"Worryingly, this means that brake dust could be contributing to what I call 'London throat' - the constant froggy feeling and string of coughs and colds that city dwellers endure," added Dr Selly, who worked on the study in her previous role at the Medical Research Council's Centre for Environment and Health.


Do you have 'London Throat'? - why scrapping speed bumps could help 


Scrapping speed bumps could help protect city dwellers against ‘London throat’ because braking releases toxic dust which may trigger coughs and colds, scientists have said.



TAXI LEAKS EXTRA BIT: 
Sadiq Khan and TfL’s deregulation policy, that wasn’t thought through properly, has had a disastrous effect which has seen a depletion in the London Taxis fleet, causing a shortage of vehicles available to rent.


With the Mayoral election due in just a few weeks, any candidate for Mayor looking for the London Taxi and auxiliary trades vote, should be looking to change current rules and reintroduced the cleaner Euro 6 Vito Taxi which is currently being sold in the Provinces at a very affordable price.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

What Have Demos Ever Won For Us They Ask????


It's all getting a bit monotonous, with drivers saying demos have never won anything, or we've never got anything from protesting.

Is their memory really that bad, or have the victories been blotted out by the fake news put out by orgs who refuse to upset TfL and call any protesting Taxi Drivers 'Loonies'.

Let's just reflect on the list of victories that protests, demonstrations and Flash Mob hits have achieved. 

A massive demo and coordinated rest day in the seventies stopped us having to collect VAT for the government on Taxi fares!


Another mass protested at the old GLA HQ stopped speed bus being introduced across London in segregated bus lanes similar to the cycle lanes we see today, which would have created large no-go areas for Taxis across the capital!

We demonstrated at Westminster Council House to stop Westminster council introducing licensed Private Hire offices across the west end, it proved successful even though the LTDA told its members to stay away!

Jim Wells led many night time protests which saw:
• Mr Ali's illegal operation finally closed down
• Rank extension at the Victoria Sporting Casino
• The booking desk at the Hippodrome removed
• Cab rank outside Stringfellows
•The lines of touts moved from outside Hombre and The Sports Cafe 
• Ranks appointed in Coventry Street.


Under LCDC's chairman Jim Wells leadership, we also created a data base of the registration numbers of virtually every private hire vehicle in London. Ideas was to have an on line data base that people could check to see if secondhand cars had been used as Minicabs. 

All these victories where achieved by rank and file driver protest, flash mods and demonstration. 

When TfL sublet the bus stand in Whitcomb street to a private hire operator (WestOne Cars) with Marshals touting sending potential passengers to a booking office in Leicester Square, we had a massive demo and the cars were forced to moved into the car park on the courier of Panton Street. Once out of view, it finished them off and the Marshals (financed by Westminster) disappeared. 

Killer on the Knowledge fiasco : 
We then heard through in insider at TfL, there was a Private Hire driver, (who had murdered his wife and also seriously assaulted his daughter) on the knowledge, we held two mass demos outside Penton Street and not only was he slung off the KoL, but the Managing Director for TfLTPH (Ed Thomson), was moved on. 



The TaG hit squads Flash demos at Tiger Tiger, Charing Cross Road and Swallow street led to new ranks being appointed as did the driver led action from the Mayfair Mob at Nobu, Hakassan and Novikov in the WestEnd and the Forge rank in the City. 

Not forgetting the night time demos and flash mob protests at Smithfield to get ranks at Smiths and Fabrics.

 I had a conversation over the weekend with a driver sitting on the Shard taxi rank who said "demos don't work". I pointed out to him, that the only reason he was able to sit comfortably on the Shard rank, was the fact that the LCDC had organised a protest at Palestra over Peter Hendy saying it was impossible to have a rank in St Thomas street for the Shard.



If protesting for the salvation of the trade that gives you and your family a living makes you a Loonie in the eyes of the LTDA general Secretary, then sign me up to the asylum

In my eyes appeasement for an easy ride and a seat at the table, is treason towards your trade and your fellow drivers.

TAXI LEAKS EXTRA BIT : by Lenny Etheridge. 

Let's not underestimate the great British right to protest.

If the police got lemon - it would show the world how undemocratic the United Kingdom  is (not via the BBC obviously).

The last #ITA 5 day demo got our message into the newspapers and onto TV, on all 5 consecutive days!

How do you think the rape stats got into the media and public consciousness?

Proper on foot #DDD marches with bespoke placards, banners and leaflets.

The public and TV cameras could not unsee our message.

The Christmas sticker campaign went smashingly.
I still see them around London, eighteen months later!

A demo without a message, is worthlessness.

TAXI LEAKS AND FINALLY BIT : by LTR



On merit, the LTDA COM should GO. The systematic erosion to our industry has culminated in over 100,000 minicabs plotting up all over the Capital. Evidence- if it were needed- of the LTDA’s utter failure to defend the best interests of the cab trade

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

STATEMENT FROM THE ITA, REGARDING THE RESUMPTION OF PROTESTS. WHERE BUSES GO, TAXIS GO.


Next week Wednesday, the 15th of January 2020, the Independent Taxi Alliance (ITA) will resume their protest against restriction of access in certain London boroughs. Assembly point will be Parliament Square at 13:00 and the protest will end at 16:00. 

It appears talks with the Metropolitan police may have broken down, so please keep a lookout on trade social media platforms such as, Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp groups. 

The ITA say they will have a few announcements to make, closer to that date

In the event of a total breakdown with the police, please be ready to move all over London and attend flash demo’s called to strategic points as and when the messages go out.

Destinations will be given by word of mouth and through social media groups. 


TAXI LEAKS EXTRA BIT: 
In just a few weeks Taxis will be excluded along with all traffic (except buses and cycles) from Tottenham Court Road. 
Also Tower Hamlets and Hackney have made plans to exclude us from many streets in their boroughs. 

This we feel is a restriction of trade and we will no longer be able to offer the quickest route to passengers, plus as we are the capitals only 100% wheelchair accessible service, disabled passengers will also be discriminated against. 


We’ve had no support from TfL or the London Assembly, so far our pleas have fallen on deaf ears. 

Our largest org again, wants us to “Wait and See”...but we’ve seen exactly what waiting and seeing does, with the Bank Junction. 

Don’t wait till it’s too late 
Once you lose access, you will never get it back

We need to win this one and we need to win quick, before it’s too late. As Sean Paul Day says, your future in this trade is in your hands. If We Don’t Defend Our Working Practices Today, We Won’t Have The Collective Strength To Do So Tomorrow.

Let’s make it thousands not hundreds, turn up and protest.