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News, comment and advice on the UK taxi and private hire trades

Boris seeks new powers to ban ‘Pedicabs’ and limit Minicab number in London

Posted by admin on May 15th, 2015

Source: Mayor’s press releases

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, today pledged to push for new powers to enable him to cap the number of Private Hire Vehicles in the capital.

The Mayor has also confirmed he will be seeking powers over unsafe and unregulated pedicabs and rickshaws on the streets of London’s West End.

The Mayor, who has received clear advice from Transport for London, will be pressing for Primary Legislation from the Government to enable TfL to cap the number of Private Hire Vehicle drivers operating in the capital, which are rising by more than 1,000 each month.

Currently there are 78,690 minicab drivers in London and over the past year that number has risen by 12,268. At this rate, over the next two years, there will be an additional 26,526 minicab drivers – bringing the total number to more than 105,000.

The growth of private hire vehicle drivers in the last 18 months (from December 2013 to date) is approximately 18%. The Mayor is concerned that this unprecedented rise in numbers is causing increased congestion, particularly in central London, as well as more pollution and problems of illegal parking.

The Mayor is of the firm view that London must be able to cap the number of minicab drivers – however, currently Transport for London does not have the ability to do so. He will, therefore, be seeking legislation to give the capital that power.

In a separate move, the Mayor will press to obtain powers over the regulation of pedicabs. The Mayor believes these vehicles jam up roads in the West End and unnecessarily and consistently fail to ensure the safety of their passengers. Uniquely, London is not currently able to restrict or regulate pedicabs in any way, unlike the rest of the country.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “We must be able to take action against the threat posed by the massive increase we are seeing in the number of private hire vehicles. There are only 25,000 black cabs and 8,000 buses in London and yet there are already over 75,000 minicabs and rising. We’re starting to see a threat to free movement of traffic on the roads.

“What we are proposing therefore is legislation, which I will be looking to take forward in Parliament, to restrict the number of minicabs that can come on the streets.

“We will also be seeking powers for TfL over pedicabs – which so far have been completely immune from regulation. These vehicles jam up the roads and consistently fail to ensure the safety of their passengers.”

Notes to editor

Increase in private hire driver numbers in recent years:

2009/2010 59,191
2010/2011 61,200
2011/2012 64,063
2012/2013 66,975
2013/2014 65,656
2014/2015 76,249

Examples of traffic/parking congestion spots include:

West End (Piccadilly, Mayfair, Leicester Square) during Thursday, Fridays and Saturday nights and residential streets around Heathrow.

Particular streets/locations include:

St Pancras International
Dover Street
Berkeley St/Dover St
Piccadilly/Shaftesbury Avenue/Swallow Street and Wardour Street
Portman Square and Grosvenor Place
Knightsbridge/Hyde Park Corner
Edgware Road/ Marylebone (includes both Praed Street (Paddington Station), Star Street, Bryanston Sq and Marylebone Road).
Charing Cross Road/ Leicester Square
Camden High Street
Greenwich around 02
Clapham High St

The Mayor is seeking to include the legislation in a London Bill in this year’s Queen’s speech.

TfL currently has a major private hire review ongoing and will start making changes later this year. This includes an English language requirement and better geographic knowledge requirements for minicab drivers.

Tfl is also increasing its enforcement against touting and other illegal activity, working with the Metropolitan Police Service to target known hotspots and better responding to real-time information to take swift action against touting, for example.

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Cabbie’s licence revoked for failing to renew £55 MOT

Posted by admin on May 13th, 2015

Source: Reading and Berkshire News

A Hackney Carriage driver who failed to renew the £55 MOT on his vehicle has had his licence revoked.

Aqeel Maqsud Kayani, of Rosedale Crescent, Earley , did not MOT test his vehicle as required by Reading Borough Council despite reminders being sent from the licensing department.

The council revoked the 29-year-old’s Hackney Carriage Vehicle (HCV) licence and he appealed against the decision at Reading Magistrates Court on September 9, 2014. He lost that appeal and was ordered to pay costs of £1,000.

Mr Kayani appealed against the magistrates’ decision and appeared before Reading Crown Court on Friday, May 1, 2015 to argue his case. The court heard the council had sent Mr Kayani a letter in June 2013 reminding him his MOT was due but received no response.

A further three letters were sent to Mr Kayani warning that his licence would be suspended and then revoked if he failed to go ahead with the MOT test. The council’s licensing department only received confirmation the MOT test had been carried out six days after the final deadline.

The judge at Reading Crown Court did not accept Mr Kayani’s argument that he did not receive any of the letters from the council and said the local authority had little option but to suspend and then revoke the vehicle licence. Full legal costs of £1,162 were also awarded to the council.

A Hackney Carriage with a valid plate in Reading borough has a transfer value of between £50,000 and £70,000.

Councillor Paul Gittings, Reading’s lead councillor for culture, sport and consumer services, said: “The safety of passengers using Hackney Carriages in Reading is very important to us which is why we must insist the vehicles undergo regular checks.

“Reading Borough Council issues reminders to HCV licence holders when their MOTs are due and the vast majority take their responsibilities seriously and act promptly. “The cost of ensuring a Hackney Carriage is fit to be on the road is £55 but the failure in this case of the owner to do so has cost him an awful lot more.”

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CCTV could be fitted in every Rotherham taxi in wake of grooming scandal

Posted by admin on May 1st, 2015

Source: The Star

Every taxi in Rotherham could be fitted with CCTV as part of tougher regulations following the town’s grooming scandal. Rotherham Council has launched a new four-week consultation on plans to make a series of changes to its Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Policy.

The shake-up comes after the Jay report revealed the ‘prominent role’ of Rotherham taxi drivers in the abuse of children, while the follow-up Casey inquiry said Rotherham Council needed to ‘get their house in order and regulate taxis effectively’ due to the ‘well-publicised link between taxis and child sexual exploitation in Rotherham that has cast a long shadow over the vast majority of law-abiding drivers’.

One of the main ideas is to require CCTV systems to be fitted in all of Rotherham’s 800 taxis.

Other proposals include child sexual exploitation awareness training for drivers, as well as ‘more rigorous standards’ when considering past criminal convictions, especially for sexual offences and violence. Applicants for licences who have not been resident in the UK will face extra requirements to prove their good character.

Commissioner Mary Ney, who is responsible for licensing for Rotherham Borough Council, said: “At the heart of the new policy lies a commitment to the protection of the public, the safeguarding of children and the vulnerable, and the prevention of crime and disorder. It seeks to set a standard that is among the highest in the country with the intention of both protecting the public and rebuilding confidence in the taxi trade following the Jay and Casey Reports. The policy will make it extremely difficult for disreputable individuals to operate within the Rotherham licensed trade.”

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Taxi driver slams judge after brother “unrecognisable” in Matson attack

Posted by admin on April 12th, 2015

Source: Gloucester Citizen

A taxi driver has slammed the sentence given to two brothers from Matson who have been spared jail despite a “disgraceful and sustained attack” leaving his brother unrecognisable to his family.

After getting drunk at a christening party, Ben Howell, 27, of Birchall Avenue and 23-year-old Bradley Howell of Penhill Road, attacked cabbie Aga Farooq on October 12 last year in Coney Hill Parade at 8.45pm, Gloucester Crown Court was told.

The court heard the pair got out of the taxi, grabbed him, pulled him from the vehicle and proceeded to punch, kick and stamp on him and hit him over the head with a traffic cone.

Mr Farooq, a 36-year-old father of two from Tredworth, took eight weeks to recover from the ordeal. He works for his brother Shaban Kahn at his firm A2B Taxis.

Mr Kahn said he did not recognise his brother in the bruised and bloodied face he saw at hospital after the attack. “It was not the same person. You couldn’t even see his eyes his face was so swollen,” he said. “If the judge had seen him then he would have given them jail. “This is very upsetting news. We’re totally gutted.”

He said the family was furious with the decision, claiming taxi drivers were not being protected. “This is really bad news for us, they need to stop this happening to taxi drivers, not just me or my brother but everywhere,” he said. “They needed to teach these men a lesson but they haven’t. “My brother could have been beaten to death. They were stomping on his face. “I hoped it would send a message out there that taxi drivers have their rights but now we are worried about being beaten up.”

He added they were concerned the decision would leave them vulnerable to further attacks. “Helping the police was a waste of time,” he said.

At court prosecuting barrister Paul Cook said the defendants were making abusive remarks to the taxi-driver about his driving when he drove them from a pub in Gloucester to Matson.

“The fare was £13 but they only gave him £10 and then demanded £5 in change. They got out of the cab and Bradley grabbed the driver through his window while Ben walked around the vehicle and attacked him through the passenger door”. “They punched him, slapped his face and when he tried to run away they chased him and pushed him up against a wall. “A nearby neighbour looked out of her window and saw the two men leaning over Mr Farooq who was lying face-down on the ground. “She saw them hitting him and hitting him over the head with an orange traffic cone.”

The court heard that Ben Howell had no previous convictions and Bradley only had a drink-drive and disorderly conduct conviction. Conceding that it was “unacceptable drunken behaviour,” defending lawyer Tim Burrows said: “They are very ashamed at what they did, which was a sustained attack which put the taxi-driver through a horrible experience but fortunately he was not seriously hurt. “Both defendants are in employment and have stable relationships with children and are normally law-abiding.”

The judge, Recorder Peter Towler, told the brothers “This was drunken thuggery and a quite appalling attack on a taxi-driver after you had insulted him during the ride. “Fortunately it was seen by a neighbour who called the police and you both ran off but were caught. “This was disgraceful behaviour but was entirely out of character and I believe you are both deeply remorseful. “You are both extremely lucky.”

The Recorder sentenced each of the men to one year’s jail, suspended for two years. He also ordered them to do 250 hours of unpaid work each and to pay £150 prosecution costs in each case. The defendants were also each ordered to pay Mr Farooq £500 compensation.

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Uber’s Liverpool arrival could be delayed until after May’s elections

Posted by admin on March 20th, 2015

Source: Liverpool Echo

Taxi booking firm Uber could have to wait until after the General Election before it finds out if it can open in Liverpool despite thousands of people in the city having already signed up for their service.

The company – currently going through the city’s licensing process – says more than 25,000 people have downloaded its app already in Liverpool in preparation for its arrival.

But those waiting to book a ride through Uber may have to wait for at least another seven weeks, as licensing chiefs prepare to contest local and national elections.

News of Uber’s plans to operate in Liverpool broke last year when the company began advertising for a general manager to launch the firm’s Merseyside presence.

Since then the company has appeared before the city’s licensing panel, which deferred making a decision on the application and asked Uber for more information about the company’s procedures.

Uber had been hoping its application would be considered this month, however it is not on the agenda for today’s meeting and the next hearing will be subject to the licensing committee’s electoral commitments.

A spokesman for the company, which says demand has soared for its launch with 25,000 people downloading Uber in Liverpool in the last two month’s alone, told the ECHO: “We have been overwhelmed with the response from both riders and drivers following announcing our intention to begin operations in Liverpool. We now have everything in place to launch in Liverpool and are just waiting for the operators license from the council.”

Liverpool’s licensing committee is formed by councillors who, with voters going to the polls in local and national elections on May 7, are likely to be campaigning to keep their seats or help their colleagues in the build up to polling day.

A spokesman for the council said Uber’s application is intended to be heard at the next licensing hearing but a date is yet to be fixed for that and would be subject to the electoral commitments of the committee.

Uber’s proposal to join the Liverpool taxi scene has caused concern among the city’s black cab and private hire drivers, with Liverpool Taxi Alliance telling members to “be worried” when its plans were revealed.

Sefton-based taxi firm Delta is also seeking to set up an office in the city while GetTaxi, a booking system similar to Uber, launched in February and Alpha Taxis is investing £700,000 to overhaul its operations.

The growth of Uber, which is based in dozens of countries around the world, has proved controversial with some cities banning some of its services amid safety and regulatory concerns.

Earlier this month Uber reassured potential customers in Liverpool that its services were safe, value for money and that the company was ready for Liverpool.

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Uber: ‘We are safe, value for money and ready for Liverpool’

Posted by admin on March 6th, 2015

Source: Liverpool Echo

Controversial taxi firm Uber says city drivers are already registering interest in working for the company as it prepares to launch in Liverpool.

The business – which has seen some of its services banned amid safety and regulatory concerns in cities around the world – also says Merseysiders have already started downloading its booking app in preparation for its arrival.

And as the company gears up for its Liverpool launch Uber today tells potential customers it is safe, good value and looking forward to working here.

News of Uber’s advance to the city broke last year when jobs were first advertised for its Liverpool-based operation.

While the company is currently going through Liverpool council’s licensing process and does not have a firm date for its launch, it is hoping to start working here in the coming months.

Uber is already in several UK cities, including Manchester and London, and has operations around the globe. But the company has been the subject of controversy, with concerns raised over its services.

Speaking to the ECHO Jo Bertram, Uber’s UK and Ireland general manager, sought to reassure potential customers as the company plans its Liverpool launch.

What is Uber?

Uber is a taxi firm where customers are able to book and pay for cars online – meaning no cash exchanges hands. The fare is paid directly to Uber online, who then pay the driver after taking a cut for arranging the job.

Explaining the service, Ms Bertram said: “Uber is a smartphone app that riders can use. They can download it, sign up and create a very simple profile.

“Once you have done that you are able to book a car at the touch of a button. When you get to the end it’s simple – you just get out and the payment is processed automatically.

“You get emailed your receipt, it shows the route you have taken so you can be confident the driver took the best route and at the end you are asked to rate your driver, so we get real time feedback on the driver.”

Why has it been controversial?

Uber operates in 55 countries and more than 200 cities, but has encountered controversy since it launched.

It was temporarily banned with other web-based taxi firms in Delhi, India, following allegations a driver working for the company raped a passenger, while parts of its service have also been subjected to bans in other countries over regulatory issues.

Taxi drivers have also staged protests in cities where Uber has launched, complaining of unfair business practices.

When news broke that Uber could be moving to Liverpool, Jimmy Bradley, spokesman for the Liverpool Taxi Alliance – which supports the city’s black cab and private hire drivers – said the city’s taxi market is already saturated and Liverpool-based firms who have built up their businesses over years will suffer because of Uber.

Is it safe?

Ms Bertram told the ECHO that safety is the company’s number one priority.

When passengers book an Uber taxi they are provided with the driver’s name, picture, registration and can track the vehicle’s progress to their destination. They are also able to share details of their journey, including estimated arrival time, with friends and family at the touch of a button. After the ride, their email receipt also details the route the driver so the customer can see if it was a reasonable journey.

Furthermore, Uber will be licensed by Liverpool council and Ms Bertram said: “The most important thing is around public safety. All of the drivers go through the same process as everyone else.

“We have extra checks on top… Uber drivers will have gone through exactly the same private hire licensing process as any other licensed car in the city, as well as our own checks.”

The firm also has monitoring systems to make sure the drivers are working efficiently and around the clock coverage in case there is an incident.

What can passengers expect?

How identifiable Uber’s private hire fleet are depends on the regulations of the licensing authority, and Uber are currently going through Liverpool’s licensing process.

But in many cities outside London Uber cars simply have stickers with Uber written on them to show they are working for the company.

Asked how many cars Uber would like to launch with in Liverpool, if it is given the go-ahead, Ms Bertram said: “We build it up slowly, having said that we have seen in all of the UK cities [we have launched in] enormous demand from the customers.”

She added drivers have already been contacting Uber ahead of its arrival in Liverpool and people across Merseyside have already downloaded the app. The company has not yet appointed its general manager for Liverpool though.

Asked why she believed Uber could succeed in Liverpool, Ms Bertram told the ECHO that customers could look forward to Uber’s arrival and said: “Safety is the number one priority. Secondly, in almost every city we offer more value for money than other alternatives because of the efficiency of our technology.”

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