An Around Midnight Publication ©2012-2014. The truth needs to be free and we want to liberate it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Is the Mayor's unlawfully Taxi Age Limit, responsible for rise in minicab related sexual attacks?...by Jim Thomas.

Literally thousands of perfectly good London Taxis, with many more years service left in them, with better emissions than current models are being taken off the road, under the Mayors unlawful 15 year age limit scheme.

Unlawful?
The fact is, it's a requirement of Public Law that the decisions of the Mayor and TFL are evidenced based.

The Mayor and TFL conducted no testing whatsoever to prove that scrapping older taxis was a valid strategy.

After singling out Taxis as responsible for almost 30% of the recorded air pollution levels on London's roads (again without evidence) the Mayor and TfL announced that a fifteen year age limit on Taxis would be bought in to combat the ever increasing pollution levels. 

Since the Age Limit was introduced in 2012 many thousands of FX4s and TX1s have been unnecessarily removed from service as licensed Taxicabs.

There has, however been no improvement in pollution levels. In fact it's got worse.

The Defra report, released in May 2013, showed that newer taxis are no cleaner than older taxis (as for f-NO2, they were actually creating more pollution).


THE 1999 TXI -T366 WAS AS CLEAN AS THE NEW TAXIS FOR MOST EMISSIONS 
AND WAS CLEANER THAN NEARLY ALL TAXIS FOR PARTICULATE MATTER.

But it gets a lot worse, as there is a more threatening problem:
The Mayor's Taxi Age limit has thrown up a major new problem and that is a ready supply of cheap London Taxis. Under current legislation these vehicles can legal be sold on to anyone, complete with TfL licence plate.

A growing number of old vehicles, complete with TfL plate are being seeing plying for hire on London's streets. Amazingly, the same regulations apply to licensed PHVs which also can be sold on complete with TfL roundel, to anyone with the cash including sexual predators, who may be using these vehicles to obtain fresh victims by touting outside clubs and night venues.

And it gets worse:
Currently both the Met and TfL do everything in their power to manipulate and suppress the true cab related, serious sexual assault figures. 
It's alleged, if a victim is raped or sexually assaulted in an unlicensed minicab, it's not recorded as cab related. It has also been alleged that if penetration doesn't take place, then in many cases the attack is recorded as common assault. 

TfL's record of non-enforcement of PHVs is a major contribution to the sexual assault statistics. 

Solution is simple:
1. Scrap the Mayors age limit scheme and return to the requirement of requesting all TfL plates and roundels be surrendered when vehicles (Taxis and minicabs) are sold on. 
2. Return to the requirement of change of ownership inspections at NSL centres.
3. It must be a requirement that licensed Taxi and PHV owners be fit and proper to enable them to hold a licence.

This would not cure the problem completely, but it would take many unlawfully plated vehicles out of the system and would make it harder for predators to blend in, within the ranks of licensed touts and clipboard Johnnies. 

As the Rape and Sexual Assault figures continue to spiral out of control, both the Mayor and TfL's transport commissioner ( I am not a moral compass) Sir Peter Hendy, should be held to account for there disgraceful non-action on this issue.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Letters to Taxi Leaks Editor, Jim Thomas.

First letter to Jim was in reply to Leon Daniels press release yesterday:

Star Letter:
OK Leon, as the regulator you have given us a chapter an verse lesson in how (in your opinion) Uber are not doing anything illegal, as the phone app they use isn't
permanently fixed to the vehicle.

Thus (in your opinion) creating the loophole for Uber to retain their operating licence. 

We see you're desperation for getting a judicial decision before a judge chosen specially by TfL.

Would you now like to explain in a letter to every licensed taxi driver:

The legalities why PH vehicles are allowed to sit outside every bar and club throughout the capital unregulated by the police and your own enforcement officers?
And further explain WHERE in any legislation it says that TfL as the regulatory body have the authority to turn a blind eye to illegal PH ranks operating across the capital ?

A judicial decision isn't required to answer this question Leon - there is plenty of case law that proves this activity is illegal - and plenty of evidence to prove that TfL is a corrupt regulatory body that is clearly NOT FIT FOR PERPOSE! 

Name and badge number withheld at request of the driver.



Dear Jim
I'd like to bring to the attention of the trade the way some minicabs firms are now flaunting the PH conditions of fitness. A regular sight in the Merton, Kingston area are cars from an operator called KB cars, with livery on the front door panels. 


I understand that some vehicles with ultra low emission vehicles have been given special dispensation to have some firm of body livery but KB cars are virtually all ordinary cars, such as VW Sharron, Avensis and Vitos.

I have complained to TfL but I'm still waiting for any sort of acknowledgement. I believe the company operational centre is at 226 Kingston Road, New Malden.



Thanks JP, we will be bringing this to the attention of Policing and On Street Enforcement ASAP.


Camden Cookouts
Camden council, in their ultimate wisdom have decided to reintroduce family cookouts or as we like to call them, barbecues.

They said:

Many people living in Camden do not have their own gardens and we want as many people as possible to enjoy our parks over the summer. We will only be allowing portable, reusable charcoal barbecues, disposable or gas barbecues will not be allowed.

Full BBQ guidelines and bins for cooled charcoal will be provided in our parks and open spaces where BBQs prove most popular.

This will be trialed for one year.

Glen.


A refreshing change, after Taxis persistently accused of blocking the cycle lane at Findsbury Park Station Forecourt by @TfLTPH spin doctors.


Regards Gerald Coba




Monday, July 21, 2014

Minicab firms to protest new law, in Paris Taxi Wars.


The war in Paris between traditional taxis and private minicab (VTC) firms shows no sign of being resolved. After protesting taxi drivers caused traffic chaos earlier this year, Monday will see VTC drivers demonstrate in central Paris against a new law.

First it was the traditional taxi drivers in Paris who protested against what they saw as unfair competition from private hire minicabs (Véhicle de Tourisme avec Chauffeurs).

Now the tide has turned with minicab drivers set to demonstrate on Monday against a proposed government law aimed at ending the increasingly bitter battle between the two versions of taxis.

On Monday drivers from the private hire car firms like Snapcar, Chauffeur-privé, LeCab, Allocab et Supershuttle, will descend on Place Vauban in the seventh arrondissement to demonstrate.

The VTC drivers are angry at various amendments in a new law, that has already been given the green light by the National Assembly,  that was put forward after taxi drivers had complained of unfair competition from firms like Uber.


But now it is the VTC drivers who say the new rules will leave them at a disadvantage and threaten their livelihoods.

One amendment forces VTC drivers to return to a private garage or to the company’s office in between each journey, meaning they can’t park up by the side of the road.

The law also bars them from using a geo-localisation system on smartphones, like the system used by Uber, whereas taxi drivers will be able to use the technology in future.

“It’s incredible, it’s scandalous. We cannot work in these conditions,” Yan Hascoet, from the union FFTPR told Le Parisien newspaper.

Hascoet said the law will simply lead to increased costs for the VTC companies.


Taxi driver unions on the other hand defended the new law.

“Parking on public roads is reserved only for taxi drives. That’s already in the law, but VTC drivers don’t respect it.

The new law, that was inspired by a report by MP Thomas Thévenoud, will be discussed by the Senate this week

TfL Notice 7/14:...Letter to all drivers and private hire operators.


Taxi and Private Hire smartphone apps in London Letter to all drivers and private hire operators

This notice provides an update to all taxi and private hire drivers and private hire operators regarding the use of smartphone apps in London. The content of this notice has also been sent directly to all licensed drivers and operators.

The taxi and private hire trades play a vital role in London’s transport system, carrying over half a million passengers around the Capital every day.

I am conscious that the growth in the use of smart phones is changing the way many of us organise our lives, with passengers and drivers increasingly using apps that serve London’s taxi and private hire market. While apps offer tremendous potential benefits, TfL as the regulator has a duty to ensure that the way in which they operate complies with the licensing and regulatory framework in London. Over the last few months you will have seen a lot in the media about this, in particular about the Uber app, and I this note explains our current position on the use of smart phone technology.

Taximeters
As you will know, private hire vehicles in London are prohibited from being equipped with taximeters. However, it is not unlawful for a private hire operator to charge its customers on the basis of time taken and distance travelled in respect of journeys. TfL’s view is that smartphones that transmit location information (based on GPS data) between vehicles and operators, have no operational connection with the vehicles, and receive information about fares which are calculated remotely from the vehicle, are not taximeters within the meaning of the legislation (section 11 of the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998).

The main taxi and private hire trade organisations fundamentally disagree with how the law should be applied to the use of smart phones in this way. TfL has no specific vested interest in which interpretation is correct, other than that we would like clarity so we can regulate the industry and enforce effectively where necessary and appropriate.

In order for us to resolve this issue as quickly and fairly as possible, allowing all interested parties to make representations, we consider the most appropriate way forward is to invite the High Court to issue a declaration as to how the law should be applied in this area.

However, we are now aware that the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) has commenced private prosecutions in the Magistrates’ Court against a number of individual drivers who use the Uber app. These cases will delay the resolution of this issue as the High Court cannot be invited to issue a declaration while there are ongoing criminal proceedings. Nor will the private prosecutions provide a definitive legal position on this issue, as the decisions of one Magistrates’ Court are not binding on another.

Rather than resolving this issue quickly and fairly, we believe that the LTDA actions are prolonging the inherent uncertainty on this issue and are unfairly pursuing a small number of licensed private hire drivers which we are of the view is not in the public interest.

It would be preferable for the LTDA to withdraw their private prosecutions and work with us to get the issues before the High Court as soon as possible in order to get a definitive resolution.

Record keeping and recording of destination
The Licensed Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA) assert that the regulations relating to record keeping for private hire operators require a destination to be recorded before the commencement of a journey on all occasions.

TfL is of the view that the law as it currently stands only requires operators to record a destination if a passenger specifies one at the time of booking and not otherwise. 

We do however agree that these regulations are unclear on this point. 

The power to make the regulations is now vested in TfL. We therefore intend to consult on potential revisions to the regulations to provide clarity and help ensure the highest standards of public safety and customer service are maintained. 

More details of this consultation will be publicised later this year.

Uber’s operating model
Concerns have been raised regarding the nature of Uber’s business operating model in London. While it is right that TfL takes into account the reasoned views of others as to how the law should be applied, our role as regulator is to reach an independent view of the law, without improper influence, taking into account all relevant considerations. 

In April we carried out TfL’s largest ever compliance inspection and at the time of that inspection Uber met all requirements for a private hire operation in relation to record keeping. We have also been in extensive correspondence with Uber to understand precisely how their business model operates in London.

Following this review, we have reached the conclusion that the way Uber operates in London is in accordance with the law as it applies to private hire operators and specifically in the way bookings are accepted and invited. 

However, TfL is aware of one incidence where it appears that a driver may have carried out private hire bookings for Uber using a vehicle without insurance and that matter is being dealt with appropriately.

Technology continues to advance quickly and we will continue to monitor developments in way that the market develops in London to ensure that operators and drivers remain compliant.

I would like to emphasise that TfL continues to recognise, and defend, the important distinction between the services provided by taxis and private hire vehicles. TfL is therefore continuing to defend the right of taxis to utilise bus lanes in the ongoing litigation including at the European Court of Justice.

Leon Daniels

Managing Director – Surface Transport
Transport for London



Editorial Comment: from Jim Thomas Editor, Taxi Leaks.

TfL have always been aware that Uber did not/does not comply with conditions of fitness as PH operator.

TfL have bent over backwards to accommodate this billion dollar company. Uber have unfairly been given over two years grace, to get their London operation in order.

On the 19th of June 2014 Garret Emmerson stated Uber had changed certain terms and conditions with their relationship regarding passengers, but that TfL were still not happy with certain aspects of  Uber's London operation. 

Even so, they still refused to suspend Uber's operating licence.

If Uber were a Licensed Taxi company, they would not have a current licence.

On the 19 June 2014, Grant Davis, chairman of the LCDC, said they were talking with the LTDA, about a second date for further action....but we've heard nothing since.

Our French comrades threatened to block the airport on a weekly basis and now their licensing authority has recently banned Uber from operating in Paris.

The issue regarding Uber using a smart phone as a meter should never have gone to court. 
It will change nothing, win or lose.

The issue we should have gone to court on is that smart phone apps are not a pre booking, they are instant hails. By accepting instant hails Uber drivers are plying for hire, something that at present only licensed Taxi drivers can accept.

This could change shortly as the Law Commision want to scrap the licensed Taxi trades sole right to ply for hire.

What are our trade orgs waiting for, what are they scared of?

TfL are not operating fairly, clearly or transparent. 
They operate more like a private corporation than a licensing authority, with scant disregard to and total bias against the licensed Taxi trade.




Saturday, July 19, 2014

Hailo partnership to provide free navigation and pricing system to their Minicab drivers. (Let's face it, they need it).

London black cab app Hailo has partnered up with Citymapper, to provide a much needed free city navigation system for their minicabs.
Citymapper, is available on Android and iOS.

Hailo are now trying to compete with private car hire app Über, who are in partnership with Google Maps.


Citymapper, although only currently available for London, New York, Paris, Berlin, Washington DC, Boston, Madrid and Barcelona, is becoming a staple fixture in Apple's travel app category.

The latest version of the app now fully integrates Hailo in the travel section, where users can store a number of addresses to their profile and then select a travel option, which includes walking, public transport, driving.

Hailo will be using the app to show customers price differential between Minicabs/Licensed Taxis and will show the availability of cars to passenger location.



Über has not had it easy. There have been huge protests from taxi drivers in most major cities against the app's use. Traditional taxi services say the app is creating unfair competition by riding roughshod over licensing laws.

Protests even became violent, with Über cars being attacked en-route and the company's headquarters vandalised. 

Hailo's offices have also recently been sprayed with graffiti for the same reasons, as Taxi drivers who made this app such a huge success were sold out by the very people they once put their trust in.

As the greed from investors escalates into a feeding frenzy, most financial experts believe that the inflated valuations put on these companies are synonymous with pyramid selling techniques. 

Eventually the bubble will burst.
On the 18th of June 2014, Aswath Damodaran, a finance professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business, published an article on FiveThirtyEight titled: 
“Uber Isn’t Worth $17 Billion.” 

His post was a shortened version of a more detailed article he had written for his own blog titled:
“A Disruptive Cab Ride to Riches: The Uber Payoff.”

Using a combination of market data, maths, and financial analysis, Professor Damodaran concluded that Uber's value is far short of the publicised $17billion and is more likely to be less than a third of this value.



Friday, July 18, 2014

UberX drivers slam new low rates aimed at undercutting taxis

About two dozen Uber drivers honking mad over a cut in fare gathered outside the tech company's Queens office Wednesday in protest.



Drivers are partners:
The "driver-partners" behind the wheel of the low-cost UberX service spoke with the San Francisco-based company's management outside its Long Island City Office about the 20% rate cut aimed to undercut yellow taxis' business. They were upset that the new low prices were sprung on them via email the night before the change went into effect the morning of July 7.

Drivers complained that the price cut being piloted during a slow season is making them work more hours for the same pay.

Shoaib Ashraf, a 29-year-old former yellow taxi driver who joined Uber three months ago, said he saw his take-home pay cut from $150-200 a day to about $100 to $150 a day.

"They shouldn't, first of all, cut the price without letting us know," said Ashraf, of South Amboy, New Jersey. If drivers are partners like Uber calls them, he said, "you have to ask them."

He suggested that Uber take just 10% less of the fare than it does now. Drivers said Uber takes 20% of the payment, but they pay 10% for taxes, leaving 70% of the money for pay and expenses like gas, tolls and cleaning.

Evelyn, a 53-year-old driver from East Harlem who did not want to give her last name, said she noticed an uptake in rides now that UberX undercut yellow taxis.

"I believe it's drawn more customers," she said.
Yet the boost in ridership doesn't mean the new prices were beneficial, she said.
"It's still drastic," she said, adding it is unfair to target only UberX drivers.

Drivers to start their own driver base Org:
R.J., an Uber driver who declined to give his full name due to his job security, said he is trying to organize other drivers. He had 1,420 sign up on a website, driversnetwork.org, last week and estimated that the number of drivers is more than 1,500 drivers now.

"This is a great concept, don't get me wrong," he added, but complained that Uber has been operating in a "my-way-or-the-highway mentality."

Several Uber NYC officials, including its general manager Josh Mohrer, went outside to speak with the drivers to defend the rate cut.

In an interview, Mohrer said that rate cuts in other cities and here are giving drivers more riders per hour, letting them make up the difference, though he understood it can be "unintuitive" that cheaper fares means more money for drivers.

"The vast majority of our driver partners are having that experience, and actually kind of liking it," Mohrer said, adding that he showed drivers data proving they are not losing any money.

"They were legitimately surprised to see that their gross fare an hour has been the same or more prior to the cut," he said.
Bharat Lama, a 45-year-old driver from Jackson Heights who saw the data and spoke with amNewYork at Mohrer's suggestion, said he made the same amount the week of July 8, but drove 70 hours, compared to 40 hours the week before. He said he expects his hours to scale back once business picks back up in September.

"They are not on the road," Lama said. "When they are on the road, then they will realize."


   Source many.com


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Update: Lovebox, Victoria Park, 18-19 July 2014 – taxi rank trial results.

Good news for suburban drivers in the London Borough of Newham.


 TfL and Tower Hamlets has recently conducted a review of the taxi service provision at Victoria Park during the Field Day Festival which took place earlier this year. This is in response to concerns raised that there is not an adequate enough supply of taxis to cope with the volume of passengers leaving the event via the exit to the North of the park.

 

Victoria Park is located within an All London area and as such only green badge drivers are usually able to serve the taxi rank at Royal Gate West. However, in 2013 TfL announced that this rank would be treated as an ‘Island rank’ for special events and that Suburban drivers with the Hackney Extension would also be able to use the rank to cover large festivals or events taking place at the park. Observations at the recent Field Day Festival showed that only one green badge driver worked this rank each day of the two day festival and only 100 taxis in total used the rank.

 

It has now been decided that a trial will take place to also allow taxi drivers licensed for the London Borough of Newham to use the taxi rank at Royal Gate West in Victoria Park. This trial will be for the weekend of 18 & 19 July 2014to cover the Lovebox festival.

 

The taxi rank, shown on the map below by the red star, can be accessed via Lauriston Road and taxis will be allowed past the road closure opposite The Royal Inn on the Park pub.

 


 

This arrangement is being made on a trial basis only and the service at the taxi rank will be monitored during the festival in order to assess whether this arrangement should be made permanent for large events or the trial extended.  

 

The taxi rank will be operational and  marshalled between 21:00 and 00:00 on Friday and Saturday. Drivers licensed for the Hackney Extension area or for Newham are not permitted to ply for hire anywhere else outside of their licence area and should only use the taxi rank at Royal Gate West.

 

Although taxi drivers will be allowed past the road closure to access the taxi rank the area around the taxi rank and in Lauriston Road will be extremely busy with pedestrians following the end of the festival.

 

TfL’s taxi and private hire enforcement officers will be conducting compliance operations in the area to help prevent touting and illegal cabs

Exclusive: New issue of ID cards on the way....by Jim Thomas

Taxi Leaks has been informed, newly designed IDs will be issued to all drivers, commencing September 2014. 
The news came after we made inquiries over a compliance issue, where drivers who had laminated their IDs were having them removed by Police and compliance staff, telling drivers they would be sent replacements and to work on without IDs or cover notes. 

Although drivers have been informed not to confront other drivers without IDs in their initial cover letter, confrontation has been a big problem of late.

Siwan Hayward, TfL's Deputy Director, Enforcement and On-street Transport for London has contacted Taxi Leaks to say:
"All drivers are to receive a set of newly designed IDs. Along with the new style IDs, drivers will receive a covering letter explaining that the cards must not in future be laminated".

We received this email from General Manager LTPH, Helen Chapman:

Dear Jim
Thank you for your follow up email regarding the licence area identifiers. I hope you are well!
 
Your email is timely as we are actually in the process of redesigning the identifiers to include additional security features. We will be issuing  them to all drivers later this year and we hope to start the roll out from September. When we send them to drivers we will make it clear that these identifiers are to be displayed in vehicles in their original format (e.g. not laminated, copied or otherwise).
 
I hope this helps but if you have any follow up questions then I am happy to give you a call.
 
Kind regards
Helen
 
Helen Chapman
General Manager
London Taxi & Private Hire Directorate | Transport for London

I wrote back to Helen asking if drivers could carry on using IDs if Laminate (or should they remove and apply for new ones), as she hadn't made this clear.

I then received this reply from Siwan Hayward. 

Hi Jim

As Helen says, the new Identifiers are being rolled out from September, so we would advise waiting for the new ones. When the new identifiers are rolled out they will come with clear guidance not to laminate, alter, change, or deface in anyway.

From compliance we advise that drivers carry on displaying identifiers even if they have laminated them. If a driver with laminated identifiers is stopped by Compliance we will verify ID through other checks and not take away laminated identifiers. We will put a message to the Police to take the same approach.

It is more important to us that identifiers are displayed by all drivers when working.

Hope that assists

Regards Siwan 
Siwan Hayward 
Deputy Director, Enforcement and On-street 
Transport for London.

Editorial Comment:
I would like to take this opportunity to thank both Siwan Hayward and Helen Chapman for the swift reply to our inquiries. 

Unfortunately, after talking this through with a few cabby friends we can see a massive problem looming in the coming months.

The ‘older style’ IDs may well fall into the hands of less scrupulous chancers and at the rate of current Bill and badge checks then it may well take years to clear up the mess created by the issue of the new IDs whilst leaving the old style IDs in possible dubious circulation.

Taxi leaks will be suggesting that a prepaid envelope is included in the new ID pack with a note explaining that the old IDs should be returned to TPH to save then falling into the wrong hands.

Previously we were informed, from March 2013 new IDs containing holograms and barcodes would be issued to all drivers. Unfortunately this didn't run to plan. We can only hope the new issue for September 2014 will be handled more efficiently

We will of course keep our readers informed of any update on this matter.