Formally The Anderson Shelter...An Around Midnight Publication ©2012-2014.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

London's Finest Fought Back Last Night...And Won. ... By Jim Thomas.

As yesterday afternoon drew to a close, the trade was shocked to hear the news that the meeting regarding the rank at Winter Wonderland (WW) took place without reps from the UTG, who were excluded by TfL.
As a member of both the RMT and the UCG I know exactly how that feels.

But nothing was said to the waiting trade who were under the impression that the org or union they pay their hard earned money to in the form of subscriptions, were at his meeting fighting for their right to ply for hire at the main exit of WW on South Carriage Drive (SCD) and not nearly a mile away in an almost deserted, badly illuminated part of North Carriage Drive(NCD).

It wasn't until around 5:30pm, that we were informed the trade orgs were not included in the meeting. 

Shortly after 6pm this email from TfL was made public on social media:
Email from Tfl re WINTER WONDERLAND.

Unfortunately the Royal Parks Authority would not agree to amending their current taxi rank location, regardless of the various benefits to having the rank at SCD for passengers, mobility impaired passengers and the trade.

I understand that this is not what you and your members wanted to hear, which is why I have instructed Nicole to set up a sight meeting between the Parks Authority and the Cab Ranks Committee at their earliest convenience to look to expedite the current situation. Nicole has just emailed them, so as soon as this is arranged she will be in touch with further details. ENDS.

Around 8pm messages went out on the Flash Demo twitter feed that drivers should attend en masse at the SCD entrance to WW at 9pm.

By 9.15 hundreds of Taxis had answered the call and had formed a massive rolling rank just back from the gates. The Public were coming out and using Taxis.

WW and the Royal Parks had coned off a space by the entrance, obviously for theirpreference of PH cars 

But the space remained empty as cars were put off firing an illegal rank by the presence of so many militant Taxis.

By 9.30pm the old bill had arrived and tried to move on the taxis. But after just a few minutes discussion with a few of the drivers their attitude changed. 

We were told that they would be making a report, advising the old rank be reinstated as it seemed to be the preferred choice of the public, leaving the event. Around 9:50, the police left the Taxis to it and departed.

To be honest, Taxi drivers should not have to be doing this. This should have been sorted out months ago.
It's a complete disgrace that our so called representatives, the ones who have the ear of TfL, the ones who are party to an engagement policy that excludes others, left this so long. 

It's no good saying, "Oh, we didn't know. No one told us". Your members pay you to be in the know.

Funny how you get meetings with London Assembly members at City Hall, attend meetings with the Mayor, splashed all over your publications yet can't attend a ranks meeting with TfL.

TfL normally put out a ranks update leading the run up to Christmas. Did no one in the Joint Ranks Committee think it strange that this year, there was just silence. TfL failed to answer emails on the subject and it seems we will soon have a similar problem at Victoria Park, where no rank facilities are in place for the fourth coming WinterVille event. 

At the time of writing this post, we have been informed that a site meeting is to take place between TfL, Ranks Committee and Royal Parks. No date has been given just as soon as possible. 

Taxi Leaks will keep you informed of any progress on this issue, meanwhile please follow these twitter feeds for up to date info:
@Flash_Demo and  

Well done to all drivers who took part in last nights Flash Demo, I was very proud to be there to see this fight back from rank and file drivers, showing the UTG what true Unity looks like. No one was excluded from Flash Demo and no one ever will be.

If we still have no word by 9pm tonight, I believe we could see an even bigger Flash Mob. 

Remember what Bob Crow used to say:
If you fight, I can't guarantee you will win.
But if you don't fight, I guarantee you will lose.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Prevent The Mourning ... And Heed The Warning By Semtex

I don't usually work till very late into the night. Eight or nine pm is usually my whack. However, I had to collect one of our sons from his work in the early hours, so decided to stay on till 2am.
Bloody hell, I was shocked !  Even within 18 months or so, illegal touting must have increased by 1000% !
              RD2 touting openly at Old Billingsgate with TfL's blessing

There were touts absolutely everywhere, but worse still, they don't even try to be cunning about it now, they just work their crime with impunity !
I am not accusing The Safer Transport Command Cab Enforcement Unit of not being out there, just merely saying that irrespective of whether they were or weren't, there simply isn't enough of them ! I certainly didn't see any.
Why is this happening ? After all, it is the responsible of the people taking the money for licences, to ensure that the licence holders are adhering to the rules and regulations of the said granted licence. That could be a fishing licence, a shotgun licence, a driving licence, a Hackney Carriage licence, a mini cab licence.......etc, etc.
Part of any licence fee, is to provide funding to ensure that enforcement is included, to monitor, observe and check that the terms and conditions of any licence, is strictly complied with. Without enforcement, having a licence would be a mockery.

     Compliance officers only interested in Taxi IDs, badge and bill checks
So, with circa 80,000  mini cab licences and 26000 hackney licenses being paid for to TFL, you don't have to be a wizard from the London School of Economics, to realise that this is a staggering amount. Sure, there are admin costs involved, postal costs, staff wages etc, but considering that just one Hackney Licence is £250, this is still an awful large amount of dosh, going into the TFL coffers.
And yet................Genuine, effective and honest enforcement out there on our streets........ain't worth a toss !
Although TFL boast of nearly 8,000 arrests have been made for touting since 2003, I wonder how many of that number ended up in court and actually convicted ? 
I would be shocked if it were as many as a few hundred.
Furthermore, even though the Police have powers to seize and crush the vehicles of persistent offenders, I doubt whether the true figure of crushed mini cabs would be enough to recycle and make a rickshaw with !
In my mind, this issue is much more than TFL failing to enforce their licence holders. I view this as much more serious than just a failure of compliance.
This is an inexcusable lack of care and responsibility to National Security. A wilful lack of strategic protection to London, Londoners and the people who are in it.
Checking our National Security Threat both yesterday and today, I note that it is deemed to be SEVERE by the appointed Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre .
National Intelligence therefore in our country, have decided that an attack on the UK, probably London, is HIGHLY LIKELY.

          How long before we see a successful car bomb outside a London nightclub 
So, it is fair to say then, that our Intelligence Officers, our Security Services and our Police Services are expecting it ?
I am assuming that I am being fair enough so far ? I'm not trying to be tricky, arrogant or cocky, just saying that the people paid and chosen to protect us, are expecting an attack ?
I can forgive there being a low profile example of Police Officers with machine guns in a side road in the New Forest. I can understand a lack of visible protection for the public to witness in a town like Haworth in North Yorkshire too.
BUT..................The unchallenged illegal activity right under my nose in London's West End last night was a National Disgrace ! We are expecting an attack !
In fairness to our Police, I know for a fact that there are many undercover, armed officers out there at the moment. All with covert ear pieces and ready to deploy. In fairness, I wouldn't expect those officers to tie themselves up with mini cab issues.
But without sounding racist, the fact is, there are many many mini cab drivers, both legal and illegal, who are from Syria, Iraq, Iran and other countries whom MI5 regard as a threat.

Indeed, the biggest principle threat that MI5 are currently concerned with, is from the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant.
Not only are they threatening our safety from their lairs in Syria, but brainwashing their UK home grown cousins in London to blow us up and kill us on their behalf !
However, this presents our Security Agencies with a very difficult brief, and an operational tinder box.
It goes without saying, that there are many subjects from the countries I mention, who are professional lawyers, surgeons, academics etc, who have absolutely no intention of doing the UK any harm.

For our Police and Security Agencies to constantly harass them by virtue of their birth place, would understandably be seen to be more sinister.
However, the main priority here, is to protect our people in our country, and sadly, that may upset a few radicals along the way.
If every single min cab driver in the West End last night was apprehended and put in a warehouse, I guarantee you there would be terrorists among them.
                          Minicab on Taxi rank, outside Selfridges 

Obviously, in the real world that couldn't be done. BUT, surely the next best thing would be to pay closer attention to a favourite career option of all foreign nationals........The Mini Cab Driver.
Once again, I do not generalise unrealistically either. Of course, not all mini cab drivers are foreign nationals. And not all Iranians, Syrians or Iraqis are mini cab drivers either. I bet some are bakers, jewellers, undertakers and florists, but don't try to tell me that driving a mini cab appears not to be the job of choice by a greater percentage by far. Because it is.
Only a few weeks ago, Officers from the Met's SO15 Unit apprehended and charged three men for plotting another beheading atrocity on our streets.
How many of us expected one of these to be a 25 year old white cockney son of a Docker, working in the local pie and mash shop in Bermondsey ?
Me neither. Funny that, isn't it ? And by the way, it wasn't !
The good news is that we managed to prevent that one. I was always taught in the army that we had to thwart every chance that the terrorist had. But the terrorist only needed ONE chance !
These are precarious, dangerous and worrying times that us London Taxi Drivers, Londoners and our Security Services face all over the UK today.
Our dreams of a multi culture melting pot and the reputation as one of the most tolerant countries in the world, may well have brought us more popularity. But its also brought us many multi cultural differences, and concerns Our existence and future well being therefore, depends entirely on the strength, expertise and deployment of our National Security Agencies.
It is no easy task, make no mistake about it. Senior National Security Officers and indeed our own Units such as SO15, Special Branch and Border Control have a critically important role to play, and we should be proud to pay our taxes for them.
However, driving round the West End last night honestly frightened the shit out of me. The perfect infrastructure for not only the terrorist, but also the sexual predator. They were having an absolute field day ! Unworried, Uncaring but most importantly UNCHALLENGED !

In my opinion, this needs to be addressed urgently as London nears to the Christmas festivities.
I am unaware of exactly how much TFL set aside from their licensees fees to pay for Enforcement and Compliance. One thing is for sure though, stone cold sober and driving amongst the drunken revellers in the early hours this morning, I didn't feel safe out there.
TFL seriously need to increase their Enforcement & Compliance Squad as a matter of urgency.
My offer still stands that I made 5 years ago. If they want me to do it for no salary, I would be only too pleased.
There are dozens of places in the world whereby my personal safety was compromised, but it was all in a day's work and part of the job.
Not once did I think that it would be a Friday night in Shaftesbury Avenue, London which would concern me most. I'm just glad my two daughters weren't out there as well.
Perhaps it's me. Perhaps I'm getting too old !
Be lucky and stay safe.
8829 Semtex

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Shame Of TfL: Has Taxi Trade been Sold Out, Olympic Style? ... By Jim Thomas

Winter Wonderland officially opened in London's Hyde Park, with no ranking facilities in place for Taxis.

South Carriage Drive, No Rank Facillity.

In the past a Taxi rank has always been situated by the main exit on South Carriage Drive (SCD). But on the opening day, Taxi drivers found no rank or facility to rank. Embarrass trade representatives from the United Trade Group (UTG) Ranks Committee (LTRC), hurriedly made inquiries and were told that the event company wants to move the Taxi Rank to the north side of Hyde Park on North Carriage Drive (NCD). 

But drivers decided this would be inappropriate as people leaving the venue wouldn't have a clue where the rank was and would have to walk through the darken park, almost the length of Park Lane, and so they formed a flash demo and ranked outside the main exit. 

A message was put out by the LTDA that Taxis should use both SCD and NCD, but last night curious drivers found no access to NCD as the gates were shut. 
So what's going on?

North Carriage Drive, Gates Closed

Yesterday evening, the United Cabbies Group put out this message on social media:
"Unconfirmed reports that a satellite office licence has been issued for Winter Wonderland, we are trying to confirm".

Customer services manager, Paul Ellis of PWR events, has already issued a statement saying that THEY personally will not be offering private hire booking services, but TfL can't be trusted not to have given a satellite operation licence to a PH company. 

In the past, we have seen satellite offices operating outside many venues in London ranging from roped off sections on the pavement (unlawful), an old Phone Box, even an archway next to a locked door on More Lane. 

We have to remember TfL have no shame and don't stick to the rules when issuing licence variations. 

We have now been informed that TPH general manager Helen Chapman, has asked the three representative groups making up the UTG, to encourage their members to use the rank in North Carriage Drive.

This definitely stinks of a sell out, similar to the Olympic rank sell out, where Taxi ranks were hidden away from venue exits and PH were allowed to wait outside picking off the punters. 

But how has it come to this? 
Surely that's why we have a London Taxi Ranks Committee, chaired by The LTDA's Richard Masset, hosted by Unite the union. 
Why was this situation, not sorted out weeks or even months ago?

We will have to wait and see what's to happen at WinterWonderland. We have been informed that there is an emergency meeting scheduled for Monday morning.

The trade must not lose this rank. 
Drivers have shown they are willing to fight, all the way if need be, to keep the right to pick up the public leaving a major events such as this. If necessary, we will bang the place up with Taxis and bring Park Lane to a complete standstill.


Join the Mob:
It is now imperative that if you are a "Taxi Driver" on Twitter you should follow both
@Flash_Demo and  @TAG_HIT_SQUAD 

Also follow @UCGup. This account will put out constant information about all work related aspects plus traffic updates and what's going on at certain venues.

We have seen in the past under the directorship of John Mason, TfL imposed a temporary Private Hire rank for a PH company using a bus stop in Cavendish Square. More recently TfL authorised the Hilton, Dorchester, Churchill and Cumberland ranks to be closed and used by an events company on some of the busiest night of the year. 

Victoria Park.
It will be interesting to see what will happen at the Winterville festival, which opens in Victoria Park on 2nd December. We have been informed that although a rank request has been placed at this venue, so far nothing has been confirmed by TfL.

In Conclusion:
This is definitely a toe in the water type case scenario. 
With the Law Commision and deregulation on the horizon, TfL will be looking to sell off major ranks to the highest bidder, especially if they find the trade has no appetite to fight back.

I can see the headlines in the trade press now: 
UTG and interested parties fight to keep station ranks. 
PH wanted the lot, but we negotiated on your behalf to keep Paddington and Victoria....what a victory 

Today 1:30 pm receiving reports that Queen Mothers Gate is closed. No access to South Carriage Road.
Who's wonderful decision was that?

Friday, November 21, 2014

LTDA's Private Prosecution Sent To The High Court.

The High Court is the ‘most appropriate venue’ to resolve a dispute between black taxi drivers and Mini-cab operator Uber, a judge ruled today (FRI). 

       Three of the drivers accused, Patrick Akinloni, Mansur Durrani and Bashir Kulmiye.
Four minicab drivers are accused of breaking the rules governing vehicles-for-hire in London in a rare private prosecution, Westminster Magistrates Court heard. 

The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association launched the litigation, a test case, alleging Uber drivers breach Section 11 of the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998. 

The association claims Uber illegally rely on a meter to calculate the cost of customers’ journeys. Uber say that as the "meter" is not fixed to the vehicle, it doesn't come under the terms and conditions of the conditions of fitness.

Leon Daniels, TfL’s Managing Director for Surface Transport, had previously stressed that TfL had undertaken “very careful investigation” into the structure of Uber’s procedures, and concluded that there were no grounds to prosecute Uber drivers. 

Surprisingly, just prior to the court hearing, it was revealed that TfL did not even possess a copy of the Uber drivers’ instruction manual, which outlined the procedure for charging passengers.

Again, this is more proof (if any were needed) that TfL are incompetent as a licensing authority. 

Boris Johnson has stated that he thinks it's a meter but his legal team were not quite sure and want to refer the matter to the high court. 

Former mayor Ken Livingston said that as mayor, Boris can obtain a legal opinion to back up any decision he wishes to make and as such he said Boris was talking bol@@xs
(Quote taken from trade publication)

The case has now been sent to the High Court. 


Breaking News...Nissan New Taxi Shelved Over Confusion With ULEZ Consultation.

Nissan today suspended plans to launch a new London taxi before Christmas amid doubts triggered by proposals for an Ultra Low Emission Zone.

The car giant said the idea had also cast doubt over its development of an advanced green electric model.

Nissan had been poised to launch its petrol-powered cab in the capital in December — with a zero-emission, electric version to follow next year.

But it said finalisation of launch plans for the two cabs was impossible until it knew the outcome of the consultation, which closes in January.

The final ULEZ scheme order will not go before the Mayor for approval until spring. The zone would not come into effect until 2020 but rules governing the sale of new cabs would come in two years earlier.

Nissan fears regulations outlined in the consultation, requiring all new taxis registered in London to be zero-emission by 2018, mean its new petrol cab would be obsolete in three years. The NV200 has cost millions to develop.

It also said that until it knew the requirements for new cabs under the ULEZ, such as the range needed for an electric taxi and guidance on charging points, it would have to suspend development of its greener London cab.

Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, said: “I suspect the main reason Nissan are not proceeding with the project is that there is no proper infrastructure for charging electric vehicles in London. There’s not one rapid charger within six miles of Charing Cross, leaving London falling behind the rest of the world.”

A Nissan spokesman said: “Nissan is a strong supporter of air quality and CO2 reduction measures and is encouraged to see the recent consultation launched by the Mayor’s office.

 “However if this were implemented then our planned petrol taxi, designed to meet the challenging London taxi standards, would be obsolete a few years after introduction”

Garrett Emmerson, Chief Operating Officer for Surface Transport at TfL, said: “Nissan are one of a number of manufacturers we’ve been working closely with to develop a zero emission capable taxi. We welcome their support for our proposals to introduce an Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London from 2020 and their continuing commitment to develop zero emission capable electric vehicles. We look forward to continuing to work closely with them in the future.”

     Source Evening Standard

Winter Wonderland, Or Winter Of Discontent? ... By Jim Thomas

              Winter Wonderland Hyde Park.

With all the problems currently facing the Taxi trade, London has become a tinder box, just waiting for a small spark. 

Yesterday afternoon, a member of the joint ranks committee posted a statement that the organisers of the Winter Wonderland festival held annually in Hyde Park, have decided they no longer require a Taxi rank in South Carriage Drive and have requested that the rank be moved to North Carriage Drive.

This is completely unacceptable and even TfL's Taxi Rank & Interchange Manager, Nicole Harris is in agreement that the rank should remain in South Carriage Drive in front of Apsley House where it has always traditionally been sited. 

In an emale sent out today, Ms Harris said:

We would like to have the taxi rank for Winter Wonderland at the gate by Apsley House as it has been for the past few years. However, the organisers of Winter Wonderland have informed us that they have changed the ingress and egress plans and the taxi rank needs to be moved to North Carriage drive.

We are not supportive of this decision as a location for the taxi rank and are therefore in ongoing dialogue with them in order to ask them to put the taxi rank back at Apsley House. If a positive decision is made about this then we will let drivers know.

Kind regards,

Nicole Harris I Taxi Rank & Interchange Manager
London Taxi and Private Hire
Transport for London.

But, why has this information been kept quiet till now?
Surely members if the UTG's joint ranks committee knew about this?
Why have they failed to mention?

Private Hire companies are continuing to over step the mark and last night saw Flash Demo and TAG hit Squad, hit Novikov's. More discord as it kicked off at the Shard, which became over run by PH drivers chancing their arm and touting guests leaving the establishment.

The reason for this insurgence of touts is the complete lack of enforcement from TfL who seemed to be more worried about if Taxi drivers have changed their old IDs for the new issue. TfL, by their non action, are putting public safety at risk and it seems they have absolutely no intention if changing their operational stance on illegal plying for hire.

              Taking the proverbial, minicabs using Taxi ranks as pick up locations

Many in the a Taxi trade are of the opinion that corruption is now wide spread through out TfL. You only have to look at the support top TfL officers have given to the licensing of PH companies not strickly adhering to TfL licensing policy. Also many in the trade are concerned by the non action of certain trade representative bodies who have the ear of TfL through an unfair engagement policy which excludes more militant groups.

If you are on twitter, please make sure you follow
@Flash_Demo and  @TAG_HIT_SQUAD 

Other hot spots where PH companies are operating outside of the PH act and are fully supported by TfL by non enforcement are poping up daily. 

This can't continue.

Because of TfL's failure to manage the situation, there will be more action to come as the situation on the street warms up. 

                  TOTALLY FAILING LONDON 


                !!!!!!!  Latest news flash:  !!!!!

Around 4pm tonight, Friday, the LTDA announced in there Twitter Time line that there will be ranks at both North Carriage Drive and South Carriage Drive.

But this evening, drivers are reporting that there is no rank or access at North Carriage Drive.