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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.


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.


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 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?


Sunday, April 20, 2014

TfL...Totally Failing London. Public Safety Put At Jim Thomas.

Tiger Tiger has now reverted back to a free for all at weekends. Drivers from Diamond Chauffeurs Ltd, who have the licence variation to operate the satellite office at the Nightclub/bar, are parking their vehicles in the 24 hour bus lane, both on the Bus Stand and also on the licensed Taxi rank.

Diamond Chauffeurs also use the Taxi rank on the corner of Jermaine Street and Haymarket, as well as parking on the double yellow lines and loading bay opposite the club.

Private hire vehicles are not allowed, by law, to illegally park and wait to become hired. This constitutes illegal plying for hire. It carries the same penalty as Touting, plus if a fare is achieved in this manner, the vehicles insurance is void and the passengers are not legally covered by the drivers policy. 
(As seen with Birmingham Taxi police's twitter postings. In Birmingham the driver is arrested and the vehicle impounded).

Unfortunately our licensing authority take no action against these new breed of operating centres, concentrating their efforts only on over-ranking of licensed Taxis at certain stations, plus badge & bill checks on Taxi ranks. PH are left to do what ever they like, regardless of the law.

Good Friday night, PHVs from Diamond were parked both sides of the Haymarket. I decided to park up and flag down a passing police car. The first car told me it was not a priority and sped off before I could answer. The second was a van. The driver explained they were carrying a prisoner on board so couldn't help. 

The third was a minibus with a half-dozen officers onboard. After speaking to the female driver, she told me "it's not police business". 
I then explained it was a police matter as the cars were In fact committing a number of criminal acts, namely illegally plying for hire, criminal obstruction on a bus stand and Taxi rank. By the time I got half way through explaining about insurance contraventions, she gave in and said she would get them moved.

The officers were extremely polite to the minicab drivers who were reluctant to move but did eventually go. When I tried to speak to an officer to tell him the cars on the right hand side were also breaking the law he shot me a look and said "we've already heard from you sir, we don't need to be told our job".

I also spoke with Diamond Chauffeurs booking agent, who was standing outside the club, illegally taking bookings on the pavement and he told me this:
"We need to park outside as touts are nicking our work".

As I walked back towards my Taxi, aware that the police were about to leave, I was approached by a group of touts who were shouting obscenities at me and one said if you return again I will stab you. 

So there you have it.

Even after a car bomb was placed outside

Even though the rate of minicab related serious sexual assaults are running at an all time high of 25 per week (Met a Police Statistics)

The Met Police, Local Council and the Licensing Authority are all turning a blind eye and facilitating these PHV operators to break the law. 

The publics safety is being compromised on a nightly basis. 
This cannot be right. 

We need a parliamentary review of the way TfL administer Taxis and Private Hire. 

And we need it now.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Nissan, burned on taxi deal, teases New Yorkers with a new prototype

First New York reneged on its contract to make the Nissan NV200 the city's official taxi last year. Now the cops want to write it a ticket.

Stiff-upper-lipped Nissan rolled out a couple of mock NV200 yellow New York taxis this week to carry visitors and VIPs around the city during the New York auto show. The pretend taxis looked a little too much like the real deal. And in the rain, snow and cold of auto show week, New Yorkers kept trying to hail the private show car drivers as they rolled down Manhattan's streets.

"Sorry, this isn't a real taxi," the drivers kept having to tell people through the windows. "I can't pick you up."

Then New York's Finest attempted to weigh in after one driver refused to wait his turn in the taxi queues at the airport.

"I'm not a real taxi," the driver protested as a policewoman started to write him a ticket for breaking taxi rules.

Even though a court voided its lucrative 10-year, billion-dollar Taxi of Tomorrow contract with the city last October, Nissan has gone ahead with sales here. Nissan officials believe cabbies still will want the Nissan contender, which was designed specifically to meet the city's contract requirements.

Judging from the irritated expressions of New Yorkers who couldn't catch the show cars, a fair number of consumers would also like to ride in them.