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Thursday, April 24, 2014

French taxi wars: New plan to end bitter feud

An eagerly awaited series of proposed reforms were due out on Thursday aimed at ending the ongoing war between highly regulated taxi drivers and private hire car firms, which has wrought havoc on French roads. The proposals seek to make the rules fairer for both sides.

The proposed changes to end France's so-called taxi wars will mean tighter regulations imposed on the private hire cars, known as VTCs and a modernizing boost for traditional taxis.



The bitter feud arose as traditional taxi drivers revolted against what they see as unfair competition from private hire car firms like Uber.

With taxi unions having threatened more wild cat taxi strikes, the likes of which caused havoc on the streets of Paris last month, Socialist MP Thomas Thévenoud was tasked by France's former Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault with coming up with a set of solutions to end the row.

On Thursday he was due to turn in his report which he hopes will appease both sides and prevent any further feuding.

Here are some of the chief proposals that were leaked to the press:  



End of delay: The lawmaker proposes ditching the contested 15-minute delay before VTC's can pick up a client as well as dropping a rule for the minimum length of their trip. Thévenoud sees the limit as an infringement on the freedom of the market.

The 15 minute delay was put into place in December 2013 as means to protect the traditional bread and butter market for cabbies, the on-street pick up. However France’s top administrative law authority, the Conseil d’Etat, threw the rule out in February after deeming it unfair.

One colour for taxis: Under Thévenoud's vision of taxis as “an alternative to a personal car” the taxi infrastructure at train stations, airports and on urban roads needs to be improved for cabbies. The cars, which now can be any colour, should be required to all bear the same “sober” paint job to make them easier to identify.

More regulation for VTCs: Private hire car drivers would have to undergo training and put their cars through an inspection every six months. They would also need to be licensed at the regional level in an effort to guarantee they have the proper insurance. Under the proposal they’d also be forced to post their journey rates clearly inside the car.

Minimum charges for taxis: Based on feedback from taxi users, Thévenoud has proposed a flat minimum charge for taxis of €6.86. Presently if a passenger orders a taxi by phone the meter starts running when the driver is dispatched.

Flat rate for airport trips: Taxis tend to bunch up at Paris’s airports because those trips usually result in longer rides and a bigger fee. In order to force some of the cabs to stay in town, Thévenoud wants to create a single, flat rate for an airport run.

Bank cards have to be accepted : Under the reforms all taxis would have to be equipped to accept bank cards. Many taxis accept plastic already, but there is nothing that guarantees a passenger can pay without cash in hand.

One colour for taxis: Under Thévenoud's vision of taxis as “an alternative to a personal car” the taxi infrastructure at train stations, airports and on urban roads needs to be improved for cabbies. The cars, which now can be any colour, should be required to all bear the same “sober” paint job to make them easier to identify.

No more GPS: In what could provoke an angry response from companies like Uber, the lawmaker wants to ban VTC companies from making use of smartphone apps that allow clients to check where available vehicles are located. This ability is one of the core functionalities of ride-share services.

Whether these changes will be enough to pacify those taxi drivers who have been threatening strikes remains to be seen.

The root of their anger stems from the what they claim are unfair conditions of trade. They point to the fact that drivers can spend hundreds of thousands of euros on state-required licenses, training and insurance, while VTCs face few requirements before they operate. Cabbies have framed the struggle as a battle for their livelihood.

Nadine Annet from France's biggest taxi drivers union summed up their grievances in an interview with The Local earlier this year.

“To get set up as a self-employed taxi driver in Paris, you have to figure on spending about €150,000," she said. "There is training, the licenses, the car. But for the VTCs there is simply the cost of the car, and lord knows what kind of car it may be."


Whether these changes will be enough to pacify those taxi drivers who have been threatening strikes remains to be seen.

The root of their anger stems from the what they claim are unfair conditions of trade. They point to the fact that drivers can spend hundreds of thousands of euros on state-required licenses, training and insurance, while VTCs face few requirements before they operate. Cabbies have framed the struggle as a battle for their livelihood.

For their part proponents of the VTCs point out they fill a void in French taxi service.

The cost of taxi fares is currently governed by pricing rules that some passengers consider outrageous. A common complaint among members ofthe public in France, especially in Paris, is that there never seems to be any free taxis on weekend evenings, despite the fact there are some 20,000 cabs in France.

Time To Bring TfL To Book: But Will You Answer The Call?

We've all heard about the mass drive-in at the Shard on the 6th of May and many have pledged their full support.
But there appears to be some drivers who are saying it's not going to work, as there is also a tube strike on that day and most of the drivers will be too busy taking money to attend any demo.

Is this what it really boils down to, a busy days wages?



It's time for drivers to stopped thinking about today, and start thinking about if they actually want a tomorrow!

Tube workers, who would be entitled to double-time plus a day off later in the year for working on the May-Day bank Holliday, will be getting set to strike for five days in the coming weeks over the ongoing dispute over ticket office closures.

Surely now is the perfect time for the Taxi trade to take action. 

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union will be walking out at 9pm on Monday April 28 for two days and from 9pm on Monday May 5 for three days. 

Your trade is asking you to give up, possibly a couple of hours max. And, it's too busy really isn't the answer.

Either you want the Taxi trade in London to continue...or you just roll over and let them take it from you...because it's a bit busy on that day.

This statement from Twitter:
The LTDA has promised action over TfL's non-enforcement of regulations concerning the Uber App.
Surely now would be the perfect time to bring London to a standstill. 

Great talking again from the LTDA, but will they put their money where their mouth is and support a united trade mass demo?

The RMT's action is in response to a continuing row over the planned closure of ticket offices which will result in the public being put at risk plus subsequent job losses. 

The LTDA say their case centres around smart phone app technology and TfL's reluctance to enforce regulations and Taxi law, which if left unchecked, will seriously jeopardise the future of the London taxi trade.

We have seen nothing but belligerent hypocrisy from TfL over enforcement matters since our Olympic troubles. At that time, the trade was literally sold down the river by the representative bodies who were involved in the gagging order known as the engagement policy. 

The promise of a Cabbies Cabinet board was hastily dropped after the Olympics, because TfL could see no viable opposition from the Cab trade and now feel they can do what ever they like to us.



After a recent self inflicted shake up of TfL, LTPH was kicked into touch and along with the cable car and Boris bikes, been bundled into Surface Transport. We have been pushed as far away from their prestigious buses and tubes as possible. 

We've recently seen on the MayorWatch blog, the contemptuous way they are now handle FOI requests (tell them nothing) and in some cases refusing to answer any question whatsoever. 

This may not seem to be immediately relevant to the Taxi trade but if your read the article it clearly shows how TFL deliberately try to avoid releasing any information and manipulate what they do release.

The RMT's acting general secretary Mick Cash has said that an opportunity to resolve their dispute through eight weeks of talks hosted by Acas, has not only been missed, it has been sabotaged.

He went on to say:
‘As a result, RMT has no option but to put on further strike action in the expectation that the management will now halt these dangerous cuts plans and engage in meaningful and serious talks on the future of a tube network running at full tilt, with further demands in the pipeline, which needs more staff and not less to operate safely.’

Members of Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) have also voted to go on strike in a separate dispute over wages and pensions.

TfL need to be bought to book. 
The 6th of May will be the start of a number of trade actions where you will be asked you step up to the plate and take to the streets en-masse.

Will you answer the call?



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

RMT hits back at "barrage of lies, smears and spin" as tube talks continue today


TUBE UNION RMT today hit back at a barrage of lies, smears and spin from tube chiefs designed to mislead both the public and staff as to the lethal impact that planned cuts to tube staffing and services will have on safety and accessibility to London Underground services as demand continues to surge and the network struggles to cope.

Talks will resume later today but RMT has set out to demolish a catalogue of bogus and misleading arguments pumped out by the politicised, tax-payer funded TFL spin machine;

*  LUL have pumped out the spurious line that "we won't push fares up to keep open Ticket offices" despite the fact that fares continue to increase and ignoring the fact that there has been a pay explosion amongst senior managers at the top of the company as their numbers also rise while those at the service end are lined up to take a kicking. 

* Transport Commissioner Sir Peter Hendy, and his boss Mayor Johnson, are on record  promising a station by station review of the cuts and closures programme. However, in the talks it has become clear that LUL are terrified of any serious review . An RMT request that all stations should be visited by local management along with union reps has been ignored despite the promises right from the very top.

* Despite all the spin and rhetoric about modernisation it is crystal clear that the only motivation of the cuts and closures plan is to save money . Essentially the workforce that is left behind after the cuts will be relocated to roles on lower salaries than existing grades and will be expected to be shifted to anywhere from one side of London to the other with a cut in pay thrown in for good measure. 

* The LU/TFL media strategy is clear; make fake concessions, create allusions of demands being met while in fact they are now proposing to take hundreds more staff out the front line than planned, reduce the head count by 953, close every single ticket office and increase the workload of the staff left behind while cutting their pay by up to £12,000 a year.
 
While the talks continue today RMT is reminding the public of the strike action that the union has been forced to take to defend jobs, safety and services in the face of TFL/LU's cash-driven assault:
 
All our members, excluding Fleet staff, not to book on for any shifts that commence between:-
 
•    21:00 hours on Monday 28th of April 2014 until 20:59 hours on Wednesday 30th April 2014; and
 
•    21:00 hours on Monday 5th of May 2014 until 20:59 hours on Thursday 8th of May 2014.
 
All members employed in the Fleet grades will be instructed not to book on for any shifts that commence between:-
 
•    18.30 hours on Monday 28th of April 2014 until 18.29 hours on Wednesday 30th April 2014; and
 
•    18.30 hours on Monday 5th of May 2014 until 18.29 hours on Thursday 8th of May 2014.
 
RMT Acting General Secretary Mick Cash said:
 
"While talks continue today it does no one any favours that the TFL management have resorted to spinning politically-motivated lies and smears at the same time as they have reneged on their promises for a full and thorough station by station review of the cuts and closures. RMT is demanding that that process be put back on track with the cuts juggernaut halted.
 
“Staff are furious that while senior management pay and staffing levels are being allowed to roar ahead the jobs and pay of the core, station based staff who are the interface with the travelling public are being torn to ribbons. The assurances that were given at the time RMT suspended the original action for a proper evaluation of the cuts plans have been ripped up and thrown back in our faces.
 
“RMT has had no option but to put on further strike action in the expectation that the management will now halt these dangerous cuts plans and engage in meaningful and serious talks on the future of a tube network running at full tilt, with further demands in the pipeline, which needs more staff and not less to operate safely

Rape of teenager in Windsor on night out leads to change in how private hire vehicles are identified

Teenager told car was a 'taxi’ leads to a change in how private hire vehicles are identified.


THE rape of a teenager who got into a car she was told was a 'taxi’ has led to a change in how private hire vehicles are identified.

Proposals have been approved to force all of the more than 950 private hire vehicles operating in the Royal Borough to display a sticker in the front window of their vehicle bearing the logo of their firm as a mark of authenticity.

The move has come as a direct result of an incident in Windsor in May last year, when a 19-year-old girl was raped after getting into a car she was told by her assailant Anshul Sharma was a taxi as she left Liquid nightclub in Victoria Street.

She was attacked in the car after it was driven to a closed petrol station. Sharma, then of Hencroft Street, Slough, was jailed for five years in October last year.
Cllr Jesse Grey, a member of the Royal Borough’s Licensing Panel which authorised the move at a meeting on Tuesday, said: “Obviously one rape is one too many so we felt that we needed to do something to just tighten up the system a little bit.”

Currently, private hire vehicles are only required to display identification on the exterior rear of their vehicles though many already do display a windscreen logo.

Original proposals put forward at the meeting included forcing the majority of private hire vehicles to display a door sign bearing the council’s logo and a licence number, which was strongly opposed by nearly all firms in the borough with some threatening to move their business elsewhere if the move was approved.

The firms feared a dramatic loss of custom from businesses and formal occasions if their high-spec cars were plastered with the council logo and purple and white colours.

Speaking after the meeting, Shaid Nadeem, manager at FiveStar Windsor which already has the windscreen sticker in place, said: “The signs would have been too much when you consider them on the cars we have such as our Mercedes.

“The council has been very responsive on this.”
The changes are expected to come into force next week.

Source: www.windsorobserver.co.uk

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Carrying Pushchairs In Wheelchair Accessible Taxis:

All wheelchair accessible hackney carriages please note and remember:

If you carry a pushchair in its upright position with a child in carriage you may not be covered by your insurance in the event of an accident and the child sustaining injuries thereof.


The Transport Research Laboratory, which tests crash result on many types of injuries inside the passenger compartments of many types of vehicles, including wheelchair accessible taxis, found that even wheelchair passengers could be susceptible to injury in certain vehicles. In all, due to the restraining system used and movement of chair or pushchair in the event of an accident.

So remember, if you have a passenger approach with a pushchair because you can load them straight in, it's you and your insurance/premium that will suffer if you carry them while in the upright position, with child inside and not restrained.

Source: Unite 320 Taxi Branch.

Gasoline better for environment than corn biofuels, study says.


Contrary to popular ‘green’ beliefs, a study funded by the US federal government argues that corn-based biofuels are actually worse for the environment than gasoline, as they emit more greenhouse gasses and deplete soil carbon.

The $500,000 peer-reviewed analysis by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, published in an issue of the journal Nature Climate Change, claims that cellulosic biofuels like ethanol, produced from residue, the byproduct of harvested corn (left-over leaves, cobs etc.) lead to a 7-percent increase in emissions, as well as 62 grams above the 60-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions stipulated in the law on energy targets of 2007. 

This is a setback for those lobbying for cleaner fuels, who wish to combat climate change. The federal government has been trying to push through mandates for increasing ethanol production to promote the idea of clean alternatives to gasoline. They invested over $1 billion in federal funds to support cellulosic biofuel research. But ethanol-based fuel alternatives have so far been a more expensive, cumbersome venture. 

This should make farmers happy, as soil erosion has always been a problem, as well as the issue of retaining residue for nourishing and preserving soil quality. 

According to experts in the field, the research is long overdue and is the first attempt to quantify the effect of ethanol-based biofuel on carbon depletion in soil. It looked at production in 12 Corn Belt states. 

The key conclusion is that when left to be absorbed naturally by the soil, the leaves, stalks and cobs are more beneficial for the soil than when it is later burned as fuel and the residue gives off carbon into the atmosphere. As a result, the study concludes the process contributes to global warming. 

"If less residue is removed, there is less decrease in soil carbon, but it results in a smaller biofuel energy yield," Adam Liska, the professor in charge of the study said, adding that the results of the study were in line with his expectations and that he’s “amazed [the findings have] not come out more solidly until now.” 

As a preventive measure against depriving the soil of carbon it gets from corn residue – and to reduce carbon emissions - the research suggests planting more crops to give the earth the carbon it needs; it also talks of using alternative feed stocks and sources of residue, as well as harnessing more electricity from carbon-fuel stations, as opposed to coal-operated ones. 

The study received a swift response from government officials and oil businesses, who say the research is flawed, as it uses scenarios that are firstly too simplistic, because they don’t account for variations in carbon depletion from soil in a given field; secondly, they are seen as too extreme in overestimating how much residue is removed. 

According to Jan Koninckx, who is the global business director for bio refineries at DuPont, a chemical company, “no responsible farmer or business would ever employ [the study’s suggestions], because it would ruin both the land and the long-term supply of feedstock. It makes no agronomic or business sense.” 

But Liska believes that this is, in fact, the first study that got the carbon depletion math as close to the truth as possible. 

And, as professor David Tilman of the University of Minnesota said in support of the study: “It will be very hard to make a biofuel that has a better greenhouse gas impact than gasoline using corn residue,” as cited by The Associated Press.

Source RT.com 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Uber bumps into more roadblocks in Europe

After running into trouble trying to launch its car-for-hire service in France, Uber faces a new hurdle in Spain, according to blog site Tech.Eu.

Taxis protesting car services like Uber or AlloCab blocked traffic in Paris.

Uber recently launched its car-hailing service in Spain. There's only one problem. It's apparently illegal.

Uber provides a service through which those seeking a ride can find people willing to drive them, oftentimes for less than the cost of a traditional taxi or car service. Need a ride? Just tap into Uber's mobile app to track down a nearby driver. The company offers such options as UberTaxi and UberBlack, both of which require that the driver have a commercial license.

But for its UberPop service, the drivers themselves are just ordinary drivers, essentially anyone who's licensed to drive a car, has the necessary insurance, and owns a car. And that's what's causing trouble in Spain, says Tech.Eu.

As translated below, article 101 of Spain's transportation legislation outlaws any type of for-profit private transportation:

"Private transportation is qualified as such if it is used for personal or domestic transportation needs of the owner or close relatives. [...] Under no circumstances, will the private driver receive any kind of direct or indirect remuneration except for food, money, or transportation costs."

Also labeling Uber as illegal are taxi drivers in Spain, who are threatening protests across the country. As translated by Tech.Eu, a press release from the Spanish Taxi Confederation stated the following:

"[Uber] is, to the best of our knowledge, a totally illegal business that incites the use of 'pirate' transportation without any guarantee for the consumers as well as fomenting the black economy as none of those transactions are registered as economic activity or under administrative control [...] If no immediate correction measures are taken, we might be on the verge of an imminent nationwide protest."

Uber and similar services have already faced protests from taxi drivers in Paris. One such protest in January turned violent with smashed windows and flat tires.

In a blog posted Friday, Uber challenged the protests of the taxi drivers and vowed to continue its expansion around the world.

"That taxis are choosing to protest against our arrival is their choice," wrote the company. "However, the status quo is benefiting no one -- not the people, not the drivers, not the city. Safety, reliability, and choice, not protesting, are what draws customers towards innovative forms of transportation.

"Uber is active in over 90 cities around the world, and we're not stopping anytime soon, despite attempts by the taxi industry's biggest players to fight innovation and consumer choice. Operations continue in every Uber city and to overwhelming consumer and driver demand."

TFL NEED TO GET THEIR PRIORITIES RIGHT: Bully Boy Tactics From Compliance Officer At Morden Station.

Saturday night:
While confrontation with violent touts raged outside Central London's Tiger Tiger, the scene of the 2007 car bomb attack, LTPH's ace trouble shooter, ex police officer of 30 years and now compliance officer, single handedly took on the mighty challenge of a couple of suburban Taxi drivers (one of whom is over 70), outside Morden Station. 


Apparently there had been a complaint from a LT bus driver about cabs being on the forecourt. This seems to be purely a bus problem, as local drivers have spoken to LUL station master, who is quite happy to have Taxis outside waiting for passengers from the trains late at night. 

Amazingly, after many years of complaints from Taxi drivers, over the illegal lines of minicab touts outside virtually ever club/bar in Central London, our heroes chose not to visit the violent touts at Tiger Tiger, who were threatening to stab Taxi drivers, but instead they made the brave decision to drive down to Morden and tackle a couple of licensed Taxi Drivers doing no more than waiting for late night passengers alighting from the late evening trains

A Carriage Officer who boasted of being a copper for over 30 years, told the errant drivers: 
"Anyone caught over on the station front will be suspended. You have been warned".

One of the drivers reminded him London Transport and PCO are obsolete and unless it was a written notification then his orders were unprecedented. This remark seemed to hit a nerve and the CO kicked off big time, becoming rude and very aggressive speaking to one of the Green Badged drivers, who incidentally is in his 70s.

One driver told our roving reporter: 
"He tried proper bully boy tactics shouting wildly at myself, my friend and old Roy. When we tried to questioned him, he kept walking away back to his white Prius. Eventually he told us that was it and we'd been told. He then said if we think we've got problems we should see what's in store for the Shard guys".

He also said:
 "The CO said he was a copper for 30 yrs, I told him, well your not now and theres no need to be so rude and aggressive".

 "At one point I thought he was going to punch Rich (one of the drivers). We only got to see his ID because the 3 of us asked, even then his collegue shouted at him to leave it and get back in the car."

"When we mentioned about the minicab touts blocking our licensed Taxi rank, placed ridiculously hundreds of yards away from the station forecourt, plus the driver being threatened with stabbing at the Haymarket incident, he told us he nicks 30+ touts a week". 

As TfL's records show, just one single conviction over the last 14 years for illegal plying for hire. Think we can safely assume super-cops comments are slightly inaccurate."

After the TfL Prius left, the drivers carried on as normal. One driver  went and spoke to station master who said he welcomes the licensed Taxi drivers at The kerb of the station.

20 mins after the confrontation, a London busses inspector turned up and on observing the Taxi drivers, spoke to them on the level.
He told them a few bus drivers had complained because lots of taxis (mainly when RTG are waiting for LUL staff) come into the forecourt and park anywhere, blocking bus standings, The bus drivers have all been told by TfL that ANY CAB coming into the forecourt should have their plate and id number taken and reported to LTPH. This has come direct from LTPH he said. 

When asked if he was willing to compromise they said yes, but it needs to be official ie. 
 * a member of LUL Busses
 * local drivers representatives
 * and LTPH 

The Local driver said "We have tried to get a rank here in a reasonable position, but have had no help or response and the one they have put in is miles away and used by local minicabs. The CO's attitude and bully tactics were disgusting and disgraceful. He told us this was LT land and up to them. When I spoke to the london busses inspector he told me it was in fact TFLs land and their call not his.

Editorial Comment:
TfL see lincensed Taxis waiting outside a station to pick up passengers from late night trains, in a fashion they have done for many years, as a priority for a visit from their compliance team.

The are incensed that licensed Taxis have parked on a bus stand. Yet every night for many years now, they have said not one word to minicabs from Diamond Chauffeurs Ltd parked on the bus strand in the Haymarket. Not one word to minicabs from RD2.com regularly parked in the bus lane in Regent Street by Swallow Street. Not one word to the minicabs on Charing Cross Road parked in the bus stand and loading bays.

In Central London, illegal plying for hire from touts has reached epidemic proportion. A nightly free-for-all where licensed Taxi drivers personal safety is regularly threatened by illegal touts. Incidents of sexual assaults including rapes, personal attacks and robberies on passengers picked up illegally outside clubs and bars. 

The Met Police, Local Authorities and TfL have adopted a policy of turning a blind eye. 

Must we wait for another car bomb to go off?
Must we wait till they are picking body parts off the street?
Even after an MP's daughter suffered a sexusl attack in a touts minicab, we still have no effective enforcement in the Clapham area.

Who has to be raped before the police and TfL sit up, see sense, get their priorities in order and step up enforcement?

Do we have to wait till this appears on the 6o/c news, before they get their priorities right?