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

He’s my hero, says Margaret, 82, after taxi driver rescues her from flat fire

Posted by admin on July 23rd, 2014

Source: Express and Star

A taxi driver who carried an elderly woman in his arms to safety after a flat fire was praised for his bravery today.

Paul Hickinbottom smashed through a door to the apartment block where 82-year-old Margaret Bright was living after spotting smoke in a ground floor flat.

The 40-year-old walked through the black smoke to get to Mrs Bright’s upstairs flat before carrying her down the communal stairs and outside to safety. The rescue took place in Rainbow Street in Coseley just before 7pm on Monday night.

Mrs Bright, who has lived in her flat for 27 years, thanked Mr Hickinbottom yesterday, describing him as ‘my hero’. But the taxi driver, who lives in Poole Crescent, said: “I did what any normal neighbour would do – try and help those around them who might be in need. “It was nothing really.”

Mr Hickinbottom was returning home from a shop ASDA when he spotted smoke and took a detour to Rainbow Street. When he saw people crowded outside the house he broke through the door to the Dudley Council-owned apartment block.

He said: “I knew she was up there so I ran upstairs and shouted for her to open the door. “She ain’t the fastest anymore, bless her, so when she opened the door I picked her up and took her outside. “I think everyone is just glad to know she is okay. I was covered in black so I went to have a bath before getting my tea.”

Mrs Bright was alerted to the fire by friend Mavis Millard. She had called her up after hearing loud noises in the flat below. Mrs Millard then looked across from her house opposite and saw smoke coming from the property below.

Mrs Bright said: “I was just having my tea when I heard a load of noise downstairs. I called Mavis and she told me there was black smoke coming from below. “I thought I was going to have a heart attack. “Paul came in and carried me out. He’s my hero, I can’t be thankful enough. “I’m still in shock about the whole thing.”

Fire crews from Dudley and Bilston smashed windows to the downstairs flat to tackle the blaze. A man, in his 50s, was arrested on suspicion of arson.

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Bristol taxi drivers hit out as at least 100 hackney cab drivers from out of town exploit loophole to work in city

Posted by admin on July 16th, 2014

Source: SouthWest Business

Scores of taxi drivers from other parts of the country are exploiting a loophole in the law by coming to Bristol looking for work, it has emerged.

At least 100 hackney cab drivers from as far afield as Sheffield and Cornwall are taking advantage of the legal anomaly to ply their trade in the city.

Old-fashioned black cabs from other parts of the country can operate in Bristol legally, but only as private hire cars.

They are not licensed or insured to pick up passengers in the street, unless they’ve been pre-booked.

Cab drivers based in the city have to pass a local geography test which examines their knowledge of the city and the rules surrounding MOT tests are also much tougher.

But black cab drivers from outside Bristol are allowed to come to the city and work as private hire cars, which means they are not supposed to stop and pick up passengers in the street.

Under the law, private cars can only be booked and drivers who don’t stay within the rules are not insured. At the moment all Hackney carriages in Bristol have to be blue, so people know they are safe and are also covered by the law.

But some Bristol-based drivers are worried the “Bristol blue” brand is being devalued, because the private hire vehicles, which are not as strictly regulated by the council, are breaking the regulations.

According to cabbies in Bristol some of the drivers from other parts of the UK are even painting their vehicles Bristol blue, so members of the public do not realise they are getting into an uninsured vehicle.

Bob Savery, 63, a taxi driver based at Temple Meads, said: “This is a matter of public safety and we are very concerned that someone will get hurt.

“People get taxi or private hire licences from councils miles away from Bristol, to avoid paying a high insurance and plate fee and avoid taking the geography test.

“They get a taxi licence there, but come all the way over here to pick people up – because Bristol is easy pickings.

“In North Devon for instance, it’s dead in the winter for drivers. But there is always work in Bristol. But Bristol City Council has not necessarily approved these drivers or their cars to work as taxis.

“If people get in them they might not be covered by insurance, and if an accident happens, or someone gets hurt, people will be so angry that nothing was done about this.”

Tim Lloyd, 53, also a taxi driver in Bristol City Centre, said a lot of the drivers he knew were concerned.

He said: “There are dozens doing it. We are not saying all private hire cabs are dangerous, but the public needs to be better educated, and needs to know the risks.

“All taxi drivers I know in Bristol are worried about what could happen.”

A spokesperson for Bristol City Council said: “The practice of out-of-town vehicles operating in major cities is a national issue, as highlighted in a recent Law Commission report concerning taxi and private hire services.

“This recognised that some taxi drivers are exploiting licensing authorities known to have lower standards than the area they are intending to operate in. Unfortunately, while this is undesirable, the practice is a lawful one. There is a draft Deregulation Bill currently before parliament which, if passed, would remove this incentive by introducing national minimum standards so that all licensing authorities are operating with common minimum standards.”

The difference between private hire cars and Hackney carriages:

There are currently around a 1,000 Hackney cabs in Bristol and an estimated 800 private hire cars.

Hackney carriages (taxi cabs):
- Must be blue in Bristol
- Can be hailed from the street
- Can operate from taxi ranks
- Can be pre-booked if you wish
- Can only operate in Bristol City
- Must have a meter and a fare table displayed
- Have a white plate attached to the rear of the vehicle which states the vehicle number.
- Must comply with the council’s MOT and insurance requirements.
- Must pass a geography test before starting work.

Private hire cars:
- Cannot be blue in Bristol
- Cannot use taxi ranks
- Must be pre-booked through a licensed operator
- Can operate anywhere in the country
- Do not have to pass geography tests, or comply with the council’s MOT requirements.
- Private hire drivers are breaking the law to allow you into an unbooked vehicle.

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Chauffeur App booking company Uber discussed in urgent TfL meeting

Posted by admin on July 4th, 2014

Source: Windsor Express

Transport for London Officials are meeting this morning (3rd July 2014) to discuss chauffeur App booking company Uber, to respond to claims that the company is not operating legally in the UK.

Managing Director of Surface Transport for TfL, Leon Daniels has today presented the following report to board members to outline his findings following the taxi strike in the city last month.

It reads;
Members of the board will be concerned to know what was behind the taxi dispute in London on 11th June. On that day at 1400 there was a protest which involved some 5,000 cabs and which was contained within Whitehall for about an hour. The MPS issued certain directions to allow peaceful protest whilst minimising the effect on emergency services and other essential activity.

Central to the dispute is the licensed private hire operator ‘Uber’ which was granted a licence in May 2012. It operates in 69 other cities. This operator does not own its own vehicles but ‘signs up’ licensed PH drivers and vehicles. Customers download an App to their smartphone or computer and book a PH vehicle using it. The work is accepted by the operator, dispatched to a driver and the customer gets the name, photograph and registration number of vehicle and the journey is tracked using GPS. At the end of the journey data is transmitted to remotely located servers and the fare calculated and then communicated to the driver’s smart phone. Usually customers have set up a credit card account to facilitate payment.

It has been alleged by the PHV trade and the licensed cab trade: That the entity that is accepting Uber bookings, and making provision for those bookings to be invited or accepted, is not a licensed PHV operator. There are references to Uber BV, a related but distinct company based in the Netherlands in certain Uber documentation and, That Uber PHVs are equipped with taximeters – a device prohibited in PHVs.

In relation to the way Uber operates in London, TfL is satisfied that based upon our understanding of the relationship between the passenger and Uber London, and between Uber London and Uber BV, registered in Holland, that it is operating lawfully under the terms of the 1998 PHV(L) Act.

As the licensing authority TfL is bound to consider the initial licence application and has a duty to grant it unless we are not satisfied that the applicant is a fit and proper person to hold an operator’s licence, or that the applicant has failed to met any further requirements that have been prescribed (such as those relating to operating centres). The company has taken steps and indeed made changes to its documentation to make it entirely clear as to who is accepting bookings.

Taking into account this, and having regard to case law relating to provisions outside London which are similar to s.2 of the PHV(L) Act 1998, TfL’s position, supported by legal advice, is that there are no grounds to take action against Uber London Ltd, Uber BV or Uber drivers under s.2 of the 1998 Act.

In respect of the taximeter issue, s.11 of the 1998 Act prohibits PHVs from being equipped with a taximeter. The latter is defined as a device for calculating the fare by means of time or distance (or both). However, it is not unlawful for a private hire operator to charge its customers on the basis of time taken and distance travelled in respect of journeys.

Uber drivers are issued with a smartphone. At the end of a journey the smart phone sends details of the journey to a remotely based server and then receives by return the fare to be charged.

TfL’s view is that smart phones that transmit location information (based on GPS data) between vehicles and operators, have no operational or physical connection with the vehicles, and receive information about fares which are calculated remotely from the vehicle, are not taximeters within the meaning of the legislation.

Nevertheless, given that the legislation predates the advent of smartphones, TfL accepts that this judgment is finely balanced. It is for that reason that TfL wrote to all interested parties and advised them of our intention to seek a definitive, and binding, declaration from the High court.

However, the LDTA has issued summonses in the Westminster Magistrates’ Court against a number of Uber drivers under s.11 of the 1998 Act. This now prevents TfL proceeding as we had intended as the High Court will not consider the issue whilst there are ongoing criminal proceedings on the same issues of law.

TfL is therefore now unable to seek early clarification from the High Court. In due course the LTDA summonses will be heard in the Magistrates’ court. The Magistrates’ decision is not binding, will almost certainly be appealed (by someone), which inevitably means the matter will end up, rather later than sooner, in the High Court.

I regret therefore that the essential, and binding, clarity about how the law should be applied in these circumstances will not be delivered for some considerable time.

Lastly although the most recent compliance check at the premises of Uber London Ltd involving several thousand records was entirely satisfactory, an earlier check did reveal a case where it appears a driver was not covered by insurance. Proceedings against Uber and the driver in respect of this are underway and this is consistent with the actions taken by TfL when it finds issues such as this. This is now a matter for the court.

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Posted in Bogus drivers, Driver licensing, Licensing administration | No Comments »

Constantly full Windsor taxi rank creating parking chaos

Posted by admin on June 23rd, 2014

Source: Windsor Express

A constantly full taxi rank in Windsor has led to chaos as drivers park anywhere they can find while waiting to pick up customers.

Father-of-two Paul Slatter was threatened with a parking ticket in Thames Street while waiting a few seconds for his daughter who had popped into Starbucks to grab a packet of crisps.

But the 53-year-old says taxi drivers regularly park illegally in loading bays in the street because there is no room in the taxi rank opposite.

The Dower Park resident said: “They are so casual about it. They get out and have a chat while parked in the loading bays facing the wrong way, waiting to cut across when a space in the rank become available.

“There are just too many taxi licenses now. It is obvious. The council needs to get a grip.”
In April 2012 the Royal Borough abolished restrictions on the number of taxi drivers allowed in the ranks.

The limit on the number of Hackney carriage licenses issued was scrapped in April last year.
Taxi driver Fayyaz Hussain was in Thames Street on Wednesday waiting for a space in the rank.

He said: “I have been driving since 1988 and remember when drivers in the borough were restricted to one zone in either Ascot, Windsor or Maidenhead. “Since all the restrictions were scrapped it has become a real problem. “They are telling us now that if we are seen again in a loading bay we will get a ticket. But when are we going to get extra spaces on the rank?”

But Cllr Phill Bicknell (Con, Park), who is deputy chairman of the Royal Borough cabinet, called on more taxi drivers to pick up passengers ‘on the move’ if the ranks were full. He said: “I would like to see people hailing taxis as they pass. Taxis have not done that historically in Windsor but visitors from London expect it.”

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TfL in-house lawyers launch High Court case in Uber taxi row

Posted by admin on June 13th, 2014

Source: The Lawyer

Transport for London’s (TfL) in-house lawyers have launched a court action in the row between black cab and Uber taxi drivers.

The body’s in-house team has issued letters before claim to Uber, the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) and the Licensed Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA) to seek a High Court ruling on the row over taxi meters in London.

The three sides are engaged in a bitter row over whether the Uber smartphone app counts as a taxi meter, which private hire vehicles are not allowed to use.

Despite its roster of panel firms, TfL has not yet instructed any external lawyers or barristers to pursue its claim, instead relying on its in-house team to kickstart the process.

The agency is seeking a binding High Court ruling on whether smart phones that use GPS technology to measure the time and distance of a journey and receive information about fares infringe ‘taximeter’ rules, as alleged by black cabs.

A statement issued by the body said: “TfL set out its provisional view that smart phones used by private hire drivers do not constitute the equipping of a vehicle with a ‘taximeter’.

“However, given the level of concern among the trade, and the fact that some of the legislation in this area is unclear and able to be interpreted in various ways, TfL is inviting the High Court to give a binding determination on this issue.”

For TfL’s last taxi-related court case the body turned to Brick Court Chambers’ Martin Chamberlain QC and Sarah Love. The two were instructed by TfL’s Jane Hart when it secured an injunction against Addison Lee to stop its drivers using bus lanes (26 April 2012). Chamberlain and Love won against set mate Mare Demetriou QC, instructed by Maitland Walker partner Julian Maitland-Walker.

The agency could turn to any of its 11 panel firms when it receives responses to its letters next week but has not yet done so (30 October 2012). TfL cut its legal panel from 12 to 11 firms in its last review, with Clifford Chance and Travers Smith among four firms to exit the roster.

The revamped panel comprised newly appointed firms Lewis Silkin, SNR Denton and Trowers & Hamlins alongside existing members Ashurst, Berwin Leighton Paisner, Eversheds, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith Freehills, K&L Gates, Simmons & Simmons and legacy Wragge & Co.

The LTDA has also launched private prosecutions against six minicab drivers who use Uber. It could not be reached for comment.

TfL’s managing director of surface transport Leon Daniels said: “The process for securing a High Court ruling on the issue of taximeters is now underway. We hope that London’s taxi drivers and private hire drivers and operators recognise that this is the sensible approach and will work with us.”

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Posted in Customer service, Driver licensing, Fit and proper?, Operator licensing, Vehicle licensing | Comments Off

Reforming the regulation of taxis and private hire vehicles

Posted by admin on May 22nd, 2014

Law Commission Press Release – 23rd May 2014

Taxis and private hire services, which include minicabs, are an essential link in the transport network of England and Wales, with passengers spending in excess of £2.5 billion a year on fares.

But the law that governs how the taxi and private hire trades operate is old, inconsistent and struggling to deal with internet-driven changes in passenger behaviour.

In a report published today, the Law Commission is recommending reforms that would update the law and make it clearer for those working in the taxi and private hire trades and their passengers.

The Commission’s report recognises the value to passenger choice of the two-tier system of private hire vehicles – which must be pre-booked, and taxis – which can use ranks or ply for immediate hire. It makes recommendations to retain and reinforce the distinction.

Passenger safety is at the forefront of the Commission’s reforms. It is recommending that standards be set nationally for public safety, accessibility and environmental impact. For the first time, passengers of taxis and private hire vehicles could confidently expect consistent levels of safety and quality wherever they travel. Under the reforms:

· all private hire vehicles, including stretch limos and other “novelty” vehicles, would be subject to the same standards, wherever they operate

· taxis would be subject to a comparable set of standards, which could be added to locally, allowing licensing authorities to choose to set higher standards where they want to, and

· local licensing authorities would have the power to inspect and, if necessary suspend, any vehicles working within their areas, wherever they are licensed.

These reforms would not impact on the famous black cabs in London, where standards of safety and accessibility are already high. But pedicabs in the capital will fall within taxi licensing for the first time, allowing Transport for London to set appropriate standards. Cars used for weddings and funerals, however, will continue to be exempt from regulation.

Among the measures designed to improve the accessibility of services for disabled people, the Commission is recommending a national requirement for taxi and private hire drivers to take disability awareness training. And local licensing authorities would be able to impose a duty on taxis to stop when they are hailed, bringing to an end the unacceptable practice of drivers passing by disabled people.

There would be stiffer penalties, too, for touting (actively soliciting customers), which poses a significant safety risk. Under the Commission’s reforms, licensing authorities would be given the power to impound any vehicles used in connection with touting.

Passengers are increasingly turning to the internet to book their taxi and private hire services. In a move to help the private hire trade respond, the Law Commission is recommending that operators should no longer be barred from accepting bookings or using drivers and vehicles from outside their licensing areas.

Licensing authorities should be able to continue to limit taxi numbers, provided they conduct a regular review of the service being provided. Restrictions on the numbers of taxis in some areas have led to inflated “plate values”. To protect the investment of existing drivers, the Commission recommends that the trade in licences should be allowed to continue. But, in areas where quantity restrictions are introduced for the first time, licenses should not be tradeable.

Nicholas Paines QC, the Law Commissioner leading on the project, says:

“The taxi and private hire trades are of enormous value to England and Wales. They provide a living for thousands of operators and drivers, and many more thousands of people depend on them to go about their daily lives.

“The reforms we are recommending will clarify the legal distinction between taxis and private hire services, and retain the valuable qualities of both. They will equip operators, drivers and their vehicles to meet the demands of a modern passenger-service trade, while making passenger safety and accessibility paramount.”

Notes for editors

The Law Commission is a non-political independent body, set up by Parliament in 1965 to keep all the law of England and Wales under review, and to recommend reform where it is needed.
We estimate that £2.72 billion was spent by UK households on taxi journeys in 2012 based on ONS estimates of household expenditure on transport services (which covers transport by bus, coach, taxi and hire car with driver) of £7.78 billion for the same period. See http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/datasets-and-tables/data-selector.html?cdid=ADWI&dataset=ct&table-id=07.CN
For more details on this project, visit www.lawcom.gov.uk
For all press queries please contact:
Phil Hodgson, Head of External Relations: 020 3334 3305

Jackie Samuel: 020 3334 3648

Email: communications@lawcommission.gsi.gov.uk

Law Commission Taxi and Private Hire Report

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Posted in Customer service, Driver licensing, Fares, Fit and proper?, Licence fees, Licence quotas, Licensing administration, Limos, Non-standard vehicles, Operator licensing, Ranks and access, Signage and markings, Vehicle licensing, Vehicle safety, WAVs | Comments Off