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Sunday, March 01, 2015

OUTRAGE AS GOVERNMENT REJECT RECOMMENDATION FOR PUBLIC INQUIRY WHILE THOUSANDS DIE FROM AIR POLLUTION


The Government has published a response to an Air Quality report and has gone against the recommendations of the Environmental Audit Committee by refusing a Public Inquiry to investigate failed Air Quality Strategies which have caused thousands of deaths from Air Pollution.

The purpose of the cross party Environmental Audit Committee is to audit the Governments environmental policies and it filed a report on Air Quality in December 2014.

 

One of the key recommendations of that report was that there should be an independent Public Inquiry. The report said;

‘Recommendation 17:

In the past the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution would have helped to review air pollution and make recommendations for remedial action. The Sustainable Development Commission, similarly, might have been expected to address this important sustainability issue. Both no longer exist. In the absence now of an independent body responsible for air quality, the time has come for decisive action and we therefore support calls for an independent public inquiry to look at the required urgent action on air pollution(Paragraph 93)

 

The Government replied to that recommendation;

The Government does not support the request for an independent public inquiry to look at air pollution. We are working, and will continue to work, with all the relevant organisations to ensure a consistent approach to air pollution’

 

The purpose of a Public Inquiry is to established exactly why Air Quality strategies have failed in the past so that the same mistakes are not made in the future.

The Environmental Audit Committee investigated the problems of failed Air Quality strategies and recommended a Public Inquiry following scientific evidence which shows that there has been little or no improvement in Air Quality and that thousands are dying from air pollution related diseases every year.

 

Joan Walley MP, Chair of the Committee , criticised the Government’s failure to act now after repeated warnings from the Committee:

“This was an opportunity for the Government to pledge decisive action to cut the air pollution, thought to be killing nearly as many people in the UK as smoking. But Coalition Ministers have once again failed to face up to the problem and instead passed the buck to the next Government. We have been warning that urgent action is needed for the last five years and while this Government has accepted that there is a problem it has repeatedly failed to take the tough decisions necessary to sort it out.”

Chair of the Environment Agency, Lord Chris Smith, is also supporting the campaign commented: “Air pollution is now reaching really worrying levels in London and other major urban areas.  We urgently need to identify the scale of the problem, its causes, and what solutions we need to adopt. An Inquiry could provide real help in doing so.”

 

Johns McDonnell MP wrote to the Committee in November of behalf of 25 MPs and Peers  calling for an urgent Public Inquiry commented

 

“New estimates of 1000 deaths per week in the UK from air pollution are shocking and unacceptable. I’m appalled at the government’s continued failure to act. Given existing policies to tackle air pollution are having no effect we now urgently need an inquiry into how we can tackle the mounting air pollution crisis.”

 

Dave Davies of the Campaign for Air Pollution Public Inquiry said

‘It is outrageous that the Government continues to pretend that it is taking proper action when the scientific evidence clearly shows that its air quality strategies have failed and continue to do so. Meanwhile thousands of people are dying.

On March 7th more than 40,000  people are expected to March in London protesting about Climate Change. The Government may eventually realise that voters will be reacting to their decisions on failed Air Quality strategies in May’s General Election.
If there was a train crash and 164 people were killed there would be an immediate and urgent Public Inquiry to establish exactly why it had happened and what urgent action could be taken to prevent it ever happening again.
There are 164 people dying from pollution every single day (based on the latest figures from Public Health England of 60000 deaths a year) yet absolutely nothing has been done to expose how this has been allowed to happen .
In London alone it is estimated that more than 100 people a week are dying from air pollution
It is the root cause of the failed air quality strategies that needs to be exposed. There are obvious cases like the London Taxi Age Limit. Boris Johnson stated in a report to the Environmental Audit Committee in 2011 that a new Euro 5 vehicle would create 5 times as much NO2 as a 15 year old vehicle. He then scrapped the 15 year old taxis claiming he had reduced pollution by doing so. The Mayors decisions are required by law to be evidence based, which it was clearly not. He refused to conduct any testing on taxis to prove that what he was going to do would reduce pollution. As a result the newer cabs are more polluting than those that were scrapped. The Chair of the Inquiry which led to the taxi age limit was Tim Yeo MP . He was also Chairman of the company selling new taxis which drivers were forced to buy at £40k which was a breach of Parliamentary Rules. A complaint to the Standard Commissioner was ignored.’

Please Sign our Petition http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/63333

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Here's How Boris Bike Sponsors- Santander and Uber Have Partnered to Get More Drivers on the Road

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is investigating Santander, the Spanish bank with US headquarters in Boston, for suspicious auto lending practices, which appear similar to, but on a less catastrophic scale, the subprime mortgage scam that led up to the collapse of the U.S. housing market in 2008. Santander Consumer USA (SCUSA), the bank's branch specializing in car loans, has been in partnership with Uber and offering low payments to potential car buyers who would like to drive on the Uber platform.

Coakley has subpoenaed the records of Santander Consumer USA for its borrowers credit scores, the interests rates they were charged, and how the loans were pitched to investors, Brad Puffer, a spokesperson for the AG told the Boston Globe, which added in its report that "Coakley took a similar approach in investigations of subprime mortgage lending a few years ago."

Santander isn't the only bank being questioned, Puffer told the Globe. Coakley has questioned a number of other auto lenders across the state. The investigation in Massachusetts coincides with similar investigations by other state attorneys general across the country.

As is usually the case with Uber, any involvement the widely popular and controversial ridesharing company may have in Santander lending loans to unlikely-to-pay borrowers would appear to be indirect. However, neither Santander nor Uber has been shy about offering low rates to prospective drivers looking to get on the road.

On its website, Uber states that one can apply for customized car financing options in order to drive for Uber. Deals would be arranged through Uber and its partner, Santander Consumer USA.

Here are the details Uber shares about the program:

  • It's available only for Uber partner drivers, who must pass a "City Knowledge Exam" at the Uber office.
  • Drivers are asked to fill out a consent form, authorizing Uber to share data with SCUSA – and only SCUSA.
  • Drivers are allowed to choose an eligible uberX, UberBLACK or UberSUV vehicle and set up an appointment with a "corresponding SCUSA Uber Select Dealer."
  • After selecting a whip and setting up an appointment, drivers must bring their down payment to the SCUSA dealer, who will "walk you through the application process." Insurance is also required.
  • Once a driver has signed a contract, he or she will be asked to provide proof of insurance to the dealer. If all checks out, then it's time to drive.

Uber's pitch: This lease-to-own financing is "Affordable, easy to qualify and simple." Partner drivers, Uber claims, can receive payment offers as low a $17 per day. Drivers can drive the miles they need in order to "earn what you want." And, at the end of the lease term, drivers who have provided a deposit can "own the car for $1."

Here's a sample of eligible Uber vehicles.


Uber has been trying aggressively to add drivers on its network, using low-rate auto financing as its hook, for more than a year. In November, 2013 blog post, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, in light of widespread expansion into new markets, announced, "in true Uber fashion, we're finding innovative ways to power billions of dollars in car purchases."

The goal of the pilot program – which was launched in Boston, San Francisco, Dallas, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia – was for Uber, in partnership with carmakers General Motors and Toyota, as well as "leading financial institutions," to lower operating costs for drivers and get more cars on the road.

Wrote Kalanick:

The key to this new platform? Uber partner-drivers have a robust, reliable cash flow through the Uber platform – every fully utilized car on the Uber system grosses over $100,000/year. That kind of cash flow lowers the risk of financing drivers and means better access to cheaper credit than otherwise available on the open market.

The business model seems simple and, at least in theory, rather brilliant: add jobs by giving people a way to finance their own business – their cars they plan to drive for Uber – for cheap. Lenders' risk would be minimized because they wouldn't just be lending borrowers money for a car; they would be kickstarting a proven money-making business.

But, since November, 2013, Uber rate cut after rate cut has been eating away at drivers' fares. In order to make the $50,000 or more a year Uber has said can be made, drivers have been forced to drive longer hours and more miles.

In response to Uberpeople.net forum member uberCHICAGO'squestion, "Any drivers Lease from Uber's Santander deal," another member wrote:

"Yes! Im trying to turn in my car right now now. Im stupid and I didn't read the contract. The interest was in there even though Uber said there woulnt be any interest. I know for next time...that there is no such thing as "no interest" when leasing. (again...Im stupid)

Uber said my chrysler 300 would be UberBlack one day in LA. Then after we get the car, we find out my car will NEVER be UberBlack in LA.

They lied about the gas milage too. 20mpg. NOT 31MPG!!!

They lied about "no penalties" for canceling the lease. Lies and more lies. Now I gotta pay $2,100+ just to give the car back.....but first santander has to get off their asses and "OK" it to the car dealer before I can turn in, otherwise its a liability for the dealer.

I feel like a shmuck.

Oh yeah! ...and also I quit working because of these shitty new rates.....so yeah. Im done with driving...at least with this crappy lease and way too expensive car.

I wish someone else would come forward and admit they got suckered too so I don't feel as bad."

In response to that, another member commented:

I feel sorry that you gotten taken advantage so badly. The promoters of the Santander deal should be criminally prosecuted for fraud. Yes, lying in that way constitutes fraud. And LYING is a core corporate value of Uber, it is the fundamental premise on which the business has been built.

Other commenters provided mixed reviews about Uber-Santander car financing. "I am on the Santander program and have not noticed much of a difference in being able to make it out here," one commenter wrote.

"I almost took the Santander deal," wrote another, adding: "Very glad i did not, to really make a dollar you have to hustle, not to mention be all over town. Trust me I will find a way for Uber to work for me, on my terms... I see the company is not looking our for their 'partners.'"

Santander Consumer USA, Uber's partner, has received the most complaints for auto lenders in the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s database, according to the Globe report. Through September of this year, the company has repossessed 166,000 cars, which is about 12 percent of the total amount – 1.4 million – cars repossessed by US lenders in all of 2013.

Editorial Comment :
This story was buried over the Christmas Holidays and would have slipped by unnoticed, if it hadn't been spotted by our ace researcher J. 

            Source : Bostinno.Streetwise.co

Friday, February 27, 2015

Boris bikes’ to be painted red under Santander deal


London’s blue “Boris bikes” are to be painted red under a seven-year sponsorship deal with Santander worth around £7m a year, it has been announced.

The Spanish bank will take over the branding of the cycle hire scheme from Barclays, marking the end of a contract that attracted criticism for failing to cover the costs of the scheme, as the UK capital’s mayor, Boris Johnson, had pledged.

Questions were also asked about how Johnson had arranged the original deal, which Barclays decided to cut short rather than pursue until 2018.

The scheme, which enables short bike trips between docking stations around central London, has proved increasingly popular since it started in 2010, with more than 10m hires in 2014.

Santander will pay £6.25m a year for the rights and contribute a further annual £1m to promote and grow the scheme.

The mayor said the money would pay for new bikes, extra docking stations and a new app to make the scheme easier to use. Johnson added: “If anyone still persists in calling them ‘Boris bikes’ rather than Santander I will change my name to Santander Johnson.”

He said the money would not cover the entire costs, but said: “We have got to defray the costs to the taxpayer with a great big dollop of private sector cash.”

Asked whether the red colour-scheme was a belated recognition of his predecessor Ken Livingstone’s launch of the cycle hire plan in 2008, Johnson said: “It was never a plan. He had no budget, no sponsorship and no idea what to do.”

He added: “The colour has no political significance whatsoever. The bikes will now match London’s buses, phone boxes, and everything else that’s red.” 

Green politicians in London welcomed the extra money for cycling and called for the scheme to be expanded, especially in parts of south London, but said there were “concerns over some of Santander’s international activities and its suitability as a sponsor”.

Assembly member Darren Johnson said: “The mayor should be using the extra money to review the whole way that cycle hire works. There are still complaints about over charging and the lack of compatibility with Oyster or wave and pay.” 

Construction will start on two new segregated cycle superhighways in the next two months, to be completed later this year. 

Johnson said the investment in cycling would improve safety. He said cyclists also needed to change their behaviour, adding: “It’s to do with educating cyclists, nabbing people who jump the lights and put themselves at risk. People can come hideously to grief.”


    Source : The Guardian 

Ford Motor Company, Could Launch Its Own 'Uber-Like' App In London

Ford is experimenting with its own "Uber-like" ride-sharing app, the Washington Post reports.


The US car manufacturer is toying with the idea of rolling out its own fleet of cars in what it calls a "dynamic social shuttle."

According to the Washington Post, Ford's app and vehicles could be tested on the streets of London as early as this year. Nothing is certain at this point and plans are still in development, but speculation has begun about when and how the company will roll out the project.

It looks like Ford is trying to tap into the area between complete city coverage, as taxis and black cabs do, and buses and routed public transport.

John Abernethy, Ford's project lead in the UK, told the Washington Post: "There is a white space for a new product. Between a taxi and a bus is a space for something else." Ford says the service could be faster than taking a bus, but cheaper than an UberX — yet nestled neatly in between the two, in terms of market and customer use. 

Ford announced this project as one of a host of developments in January. Venturebeat says the motor company is hoping to carry out 25 experiments in cities around the world to test new driving models and initiatives. Most involved car sharing, Venturebeat adds.

At the time, CEO Mark Fields appeared to hint that Ford's plans were inspired by the likes of Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar. There's a huge trend for ride-sharing and Ford's CEO noted during CES that today's demographic seems less inclined to actually own cars. 

Nobody knows when we'll see "Uber-like" Ford vehicles rolling around London. As the Washington Post notes, Abernethy and his team haven't yet identified who a Ford app customer would be, and what cars would best suit the service. (The Ford Transit has been noted as a possibility.)

At this point, it looks as though shuttle buses directly to airports are the most likely first step. Ford has been putting together an app that matches riders with a mode of transport, probably a sort of "premium mini-bus." The Washington Post highlights this as the company's vision: A high-end, on-demand pooling system. Whatever it's doing, Ford could really shake up public travel. 



Thursday, February 26, 2015

TfL's Response To The GLA Inquiry And Suburban Review.


Mayor and TfL take action to boost taxi trade 
25 February 2015

The Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) have confirmed plans to develop and expand the number of taxi ranks in the capital as part of ongoing work to support the trade and to better meet the needs of drivers and passengers.

Today, Transport for London (TfL) formally responded to the London Assembly Transport Committee's 'Future Proof' report, which examined taxi and private hire services in the Capital. Sir Peter Hendy CBE, London's Transport Commissioner, gave evidence to the Transport Committee and announced the publication of two action plans that will develop taxi ranking arrangements and the provision of taxi services in the suburbs.

More than a third of the 70 million taxi journeys completed in London each year originate from a taxi rank. Ranks are also of particular importance to passengers with mobility issues or those starting their journey in suburban areas. In recognition of this, TfL has today published a Taxi Rank Action Plan. The Plan sets out ambitious plans to expand the network of 500 taxi ranks that TfL has appointed, with £600,000 funding to further increase the number of ranks by 20% by 2020.

TfL has also confirmed it will undertake a strategic review of rank provision across the Capital - which will be completed by early 2016 - and will inform plans to introduce new ranks. A dedicated taxi ranks web page will be created - to inform both drivers and passengers - and this information will be made available to app developers. The Plan also contains a proposal to explore sponsorship of late night marshals at key taxi ranks.

Of the 25,000 licensed taxi drivers in London, around 3,500 are suburban drivers who are licensed to work in one of nine suburban sectors - providing a valuable service to passengers in outer London. Following a review of suburban taxi service, which included two trade workshops and a public consultation, TfL has today launched a Suburban Action Plan. This sets out plans to ensure that suburban taxi services continue to cater for demand in outer London as the population of the capital continues to grow.

The Plan explores the possibility of creating more Island Ranks - that allow suburban drivers to pick up passengers on the edge of their licensed area. TfL has established seven Island Ranks, including Finsbury Park, Putney Station and Garrett Lane, and plan to introduce more - informed by the strategic review of rank provision. It also includes a commitment to complete a survey to ensure a better understanding of supply and demand and inform future policy.

In addition, as part of a new approach by the Mayor and TfL to work with the industry on the issues it faces, a new Taxi and Private Hire Terms of Reference Group will be created to consider the future developments of both the taxi and private hire trades. TfL will also establish a regular forum to discuss taxi issues with suburban drivers alongside established trade representatives.

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: `These plans deliver on my commitment to listen to the taxi trade and to help it to continue to offer passengers a first rate service that is the envy of the world. Boosting the number and the type of taxi ranks we have - particularly in the suburbs - is central to this aim and will help to ensure better business for cabbies and an even better service for customers.'

Sir Peter Hendy CBE, London's Transport Commissioner, said: `London's taxi and private hire services are the envy of the world and, under our oversight, are thriving. Customer satisfaction rates are high and our robust enforcement work with police colleagues means journeys in taxi and private hire vehicles have never been safer.

`However, we are not complacent and recognise that both the taxi and private hire trades must move with the times and keep pace with technological advances. 

We have carefully considered the Assembly's recommendations and I'm pleased that several are already in hand; and have today published two further action plans to develop the services offered to passengers.'

TfL has also announced that an over the counter service for taxi and private hire driver license applications will be introduced in June, meeting a long-standing aspiration of the trade and providing drivers with the option to hand in documentation or speak to someone face-to-face about their application, if they wish to do so.

One proposal from the public consultation that will not be taken forward, due to a lack of consensus amongst drivers themselves, is a proposal to reduce the number of suburban sectors.

TfL is responsible for licensing 100,000 taxi and private hire drivers, 85,000 taxi and private hire vehicles and 3,000 private hire operators and is the largest licensing authority in England and Wales and is responsible for licensing over a third of all services.

TfL's regulation of the taxi trade is widely recognised as the best in the world. The rigorous Knowledge of London examination coupled with the Conditions of Fitness, which require every taxi to be fully accessible, mean an exceptionally high standard is required.

TfL's response to the London Assembly Transport Committee 'Future Proof' report is available, on request, from the TfL Press Office.

Editorial Comment:
Lots of good stuff here including some common sense not normally seen with TfL commitment. 

The reintroduction of counter services is long overdue.

The Mayor has made a commitment to extend our network of Taxi ranks and has made £600 available. But before we all start thanking him graciously, it should be pointed out that this is close to the sum TfL cut from the ranks budget over the past 15 years.

This plan is a reversal of TfL's agenda to revoke ranks, giving our road space over to bus resting areas and Boris bike placements. Over the last 15 years our rank spaces have been either cut back or moved, with many important standings disapearnt altogether. It seems that when a minicab office appears in a tube station forecourt, the Taxi rank is moved away or revoked completely. 

It is stated in this release that regular Taxi forums will be held for suburban drivers and their representatives. While this is welcome, the main body of Central London drivers would also like this facility extended to them, as no constructive reason was given to the suspension of our Taxi forums previously held at Palestra. 

Again Hendy insults the trade by insinuating we haven't moved with the times. It must be pointed out that every new innovation seen in this industry has first been seen within the Licensed Taxi Trade. We would ask Sir Peter to point to one aspect of new technology Taxis do not incorporate. 

And again, Hendy has jumped on the band wagon, insisting the Private Hire and TfL should be included in the world wide belief the London Taxis are the gold standard and the best Taxi service in the world....nice try Pete. Some one once said if you tell a lie long enough, eventually people will start to believe it's true. 




Is Hendy's Ivory Tower About To Collapse? By Jim Thomas

In yesterday's meeting between Sir Peter Hendy and the GLA transport committee, it's been alleged Hendy made a couple of statements which if proven to be incorrect, could eventually compromised his highly paid position at TfL. 


Uber Confusion:

Hendy was asked why Uber had been licensed, in the face of controversy over the way the fare is calculate. He answered that TfL had taken advice from an eminent QC who had stated that in his opinion the device Uber used to calculate the fare was not a meter.

He was asked who signed this advice and he replied he had forgotten the QC's name. 

Assembly member Tom Copley asked Peter Hendy if he would publish the legal advice TfL received re Uber, showing the name of the eminent QC who gave it. Hendy said he would if he can, (meaning if there is no legal reason against doing so)


Just after this statement was made, a post appeared on Twitter claiming that both the LCDC and the LTDA were in possession of TfLs legal advice and that far from being signed by an eminent QC, it was in fact just an opinion given by  TfLs own General Counsel - Howard Carter and is an investigating report. 




However, this is not conclusive proof as the letter in possession of the LCDC and LTDA could have been written after TfL heard back from a QC.


Late last night, it was alleged by a Radio Circuit Tweet, that they've been told the QC involved is Martin Chamberlain QC (unconfirmed), a prominent human rights QC and not an expert in Taxi Law. 

Utter Confusion:

Sir Peter also said he had recently booked a Hailo Taxi using their app. He explained Hailo had informed him they couldn't send him a Taxi, as none were available and instead they offered him a mini cab. He accepted and said the driver used an iPhone to calculate the fare. 

As a result of that trip, TfL have since written to Hailo, asking for into about how the fare was calculated. 

Immediately after the meeting Hailo put out this statement on their Blog:

Hailo statement following the GLA’s Transport Committee meeting, City Hall, Wednesday 25 February 2015


To set the record straight – Hailo categorically does not use a time and distance meter within or out of our app. For all HailoExec journeys we calculate a fixed price based on distance travelled only. We have always sought active and thoughtful engagement with policymakers and Transport for London. We follow TfL’s directives on Private Hire. These are not our own rules.

When a customer specifies they want a HailoExec car at the start of a journey, they must provide a destination in advance and a fixed price is then quoted upfront. The screenshot below shows an example of the fixed price being quoted (£17) following the input of the destination (in this case Liverpool Street). Requiring destination from the customer and offering them a fixed price is fully in line with TfL directives.

In the case of a Hailo Backup journey, customers who ask for a black cab and are offered a HailoExec (because no taxi accepts) also get charged based on distance only. Distance only means point A (pick up) to point B (drop down). Both HailoExec and Hailo Backup customers travelling the same journey will ALWAYS get the same fare no matter what the traffic is like. We only send a HailoExec as a backup if the customer requests one.

We do not use a time and distance meter of any kind in determining HailoExec fares. Based on official statements from both TfL and the GLA we’re assured this is an acceptable practice that works within the directives put forward by TfL.

As a London-based company, we are committed to protecting and developing the black cab trade for the benefit of all working and travelling in London. We will continue to work in constructive partnership with regulators and policymakers in London to do just that.