TfLTPH Notice 07/14: Taxi and Private Hire smartphone apps in London Letter to all drivers and private hire operators
This notice provides an update to all taxi and private hire drivers and private hire
operators regarding the use of smartphone apps in London. The content of this notice
has also been sent directly to all licensed drivers and operators.
The taxi and private hire trades play a vital role in London’s transport system, carrying
over half a million passengers around the Capital every day.
I am conscious that the growth in the use of smart phones is changing the way many
of us organise our lives, with passengers and drivers increasingly using apps that
serve London’s taxi and private hire market. While apps offer tremendous potential
benefits, TfL as the regulator has a duty to ensure that the way in which they operate
complies with the licensing and regulatory framework in London. Over the last few
months you will have seen a lot in the media about this, in particular about the Uber
app, and I this note explains our current position on the use of smart phone
As you will know, private hire vehicles in London are prohibited from being equipped
with taximeters. 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.
TfL’s view is that smartphones that transmit location information (based on GPS data)
between vehicles and operators, have no operational 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 (section 11 of the Private Hire
Vehicles (London) Act 1998).
The main taxi and private hire trade organisations fundamentally disagree with how
the law should be applied to the use of smart phones in this way. TfL has no specific
vested interest in which interpretation is correct, other than that we would like clarity
so we can regulate the industry and enforce effectively where necessary and
In order for us to resolve this issue as quickly and fairly as possible, allowing all
interested parties to make representations, we consider the most appropriate way
forward is to invite the High Court to issue a declaration as to how the law should be
applied in this area.
However, we are now aware that the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) has
commenced private prosecutions in the Magistrates’ Court against a number of
individual drivers who use the Uber app. These cases will delay the resolution of this
issue as the High Court cannot be invited to issue a declaration while there are
ongoing criminal proceedings. Nor will the private prosecutions provide a definitive
legal position on this issue, as the decisions of one Magistrates’ Court are not binding
Rather than resolving this issue quickly and fairly, we believe that the LTDA actions
are prolonging the inherent uncertainty on this issue and are unfairly pursuing a small
number of licensed private hire drivers which we are of the view is not in the public
interest. It would be preferable for the LTDA to withdraw their private prosecutions and
work with us to get the issues before the High Court as soon as possible in order to
get a definitive resolution.
Record keeping and recording of destination
The Licensed Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA) assert that the regulations
relating to record keeping for private hire operators require a destination to be
recorded before the commencement of a journey on all occasions.
TfL is of the view that the law as it currently stands only requires operators to record a
destination if a passenger specifies one at the time of booking and not otherwise. We
do however agree that these regulations are unclear on this point. The power to make
the regulations is now vested in TfL. We therefore intend to consult on potential
revisions to the regulations to provide clarity and help ensure the highest standards of
public safety and customer service are maintained. More details of this consultation
will be publicised later this year.
Uber’s operating model
Concerns have been raised regarding the nature of Uber’s business operating model
in London. While it is right that TfL takes into account the reasoned views of others as
to how the law should be applied, our role as regulator is to reach an independent
view of the law, without improper influence, taking into account all relevant
considerations. In April we carried out TfL’s largest ever compliance inspection and at
the time of that inspection Uber met all requirements for a private hire operation in
relation to record keeping. We have also been in extensive correspondence with Uber
to understand precisely how their business model operates in London.
Following this review, we have reached the conclusion that the way Uber operates in
London is in accordance with the law as it applies to private hire operators and
specifically in the way bookings are accepted and invited. However, TfL is aware of
one incidence where it appears that a driver may have carried out private hire
bookings for Uber using a vehicle without insurance and that matter is being dealt with
Technology continues to advance quickly and we will continue to monitor
developments in way that the market develops in London to ensure that operators and
drivers remain compliant.
I would like to emphasise that TfL continues to recognise, and defend, the important
distinction between the services provided by taxis and private hire vehicles. TfL is
therefore continuing to defend the right of taxis to utilise bus lanes in the ongoing
litigation including at the European Court of Justice.
Managing Director – Surface Transport
Transport for London
17 July 2014
First edition of ‘Cab Enforcement News’. TfL’s new bi-monthly newsletter providing the trade with an insight into cab enforcement activity.
Jul 14, 2014 09:40 - by Jenny Waddington
Coventry taxi firm enjoys resurgence in orders and pride for the world-famous black cab.
Workers at London Taxi Company in Holyhead rd, Coventry.
The rebirth of Coventry’s iconic taxi firm proved to be a huge learning experience for the man at the helm.
But he claims the lessons learned have helped create not only a resurgence in orders, but also in pride for one of the city’s most famous firms.
Peter Johansen has steered the London Taxi Company through its recent transformation – helping it regain the lions share of the marketplace after the toughest year in the firm’s 70-year history.
But the journey has not been without its difficulties, claims the vice president of UK operations. “Once we came out of administration I think everyone breathed a sigh of relief because you start to think there is hope, there is a future,” said Mr Johansen. “However, I think that some people underestimate how difficult it is to bring a company back out of administration.
“The first three months were difficult. We had to get the business up and running and it was hard because there were issues like getting a bank account. We found that we couldn’t get one open until July because of all the complications of administration.
“So we had tactical problems of how you run a company without a bank account, how do you pay suppliers and how do you pay the wages? That was a really difficult three months spent just trying to get the company up and running.”
And that wasn’t the only challenge Mr Johansen faced. Just a week before the world-famous cab maker collapsed into administration, more than 400 cabs were recalled with faulty steering boxes. This meant the firm’s 211-strong workforce were not only tasked with improving and rebuilding the iconic black cab, but also the company’s global reputation.
Workers at London Taxi Company in Holyhead rd, Coventry.
“The company had made some mistakes in the past and we weren’t proud of that,” said Mr Johansen. “We didn’t want to make the same mistakes going forward.
“I set out three priorities when I was appointed to this job. The first was to put customers first in everything that we did, the second was to focus on the quality of everything we made and the third was about profit.
“On day one we had in stock a number of vehicles left from administration. There were certain quality issues with them and I wasn’t prepared to sell those vehicles until we addressed all of them. This meant embarking on a very extensive refurbishment programme which cost about £6.5million.”
To further improve the TX4, Mr Johansen travelled to London where he visited cab ranks, chatted with drivers and issued an invitation to air their main concerns. During that first month, he received 288 angry letters.
“They were quite painful to read sometimes quite difficult to reply to, but everyone got a response and I learnt a lot about what was important to the cabbies and we tried to address all of their concerns, or as many as we could at least.
“Today, I still receive emails from cabbies but it is down to a trickle, maybe half a dozen in a month and five out of six will be praising us for the way we have changed the company. So we really turned the business around on that point of view.
“I picked up that the cabbies were very cross that the dooor panels scratched really easily and once you scratched them you couldn’t buff them out, so people bringing pushchairs in or even brushing keys against the doors, would leave a mark and wouldn’t go away.
“Cabbies are proud of their taxis and they have every right to be, so one of the things that we decided to do was change the nine interior panels inside the taxi. We put in a better and harder wearing panel that doesn’t scratch and the cost of the panels alone, let alone stripping them out, was £285 a set.
Business secretary Vince Cable with Li Shufu, chairman of Geely Automobile Holdings
“We came up with a 21-point check list which included the most common complaints and we made sure that every cab we sold from that day had none of these faults. Drivers will tell you that the cabs they buy from us today are the best ever made.”
And the improvements have paid off for LTC, after the company won a major contract last month to deliver a fleet of 500 cabs to Azerbaijan. The vehicles will join the 1,000 damson-coloured TX4s which were supplied in 2011 prior to the Eurovision Song Contest in 2012.
The 500 London taxis will play a central role in the inaugural European Games taking place in the capital Baku next summer – with 300 reserved for use for VIP transport during the Games. “There have been so many highlights and good points over the past year, but I think the best for me was getting the Azerbijan contract for several reasons,” added Mr Johansen. “Baku has the European Games next year and the president wants more taxis because he is expecting more visitors. Of the fleet, 300 are going to be reserved for his VIPs. These are the presidents of countries around the world who will be picked up at the airport and taken to the games in a London taxi.
“What a tremendous way of advertising our vehicles. People around the world will be sat in the back of one of our cabs thinking about their taxi system and they will ask ‘would I have put a VIP in the back of our cabs?’ Also, the fact that they had the confidence to come back and order another 500 taxis speaks volumes about the vehicle.” And going foward bosses are confident of further contract wins around the world and believe the future is looking incredible bright. But the success of the company should not just be attributed to management policies and design changes, claims Mr Johansen.
“One of the biggest lessons I have learnt is that people make the difference to an organisation. We couldn’t have achieved any of this without the people that we employ today.
“They all excepted that is the way we should do it, they have changed the way they work to make a better product and have put tremendous effort into all they do. What I like is that we have seen a resurgence in pride in the product. I would say that people had lost that pride because there was previously so much pressure to get the vehicle built and out of the door, just to keep going and that’s when mistakes were made. That doesn’t happen today.
“Everyone in the company is working incredibly hard and it has been a tiring year but everyone is rightly proud of what they produce.”
Unauthorised signage on taxis
It has recently come to our attention that some taxi drivers are choosing to display stickers or printed papers in their vehicles which include use of the Transport for London (TfL) roundel (which is an unauthorised use of a registered trademark) and which may state the driver’s negative opinions about taxi and PHV apps.
The London Cab Order 1934 paragraph14 (l), states the licensee shall not, otherwise than in accordance with the directions of TfL, cause or permit any object, or any printed, written or other matter to be displayed on the outside or inside of the cab, or be presented to any passenger by way of advertisement.
Drivers and owners of taxis are able to place advertising and other material on their taxis as long as it meets the TfL taxi and private hire guidelines for advertising.
Anyone wanting to display or provide any printed or written material (including advertising or other signage) on the inside or outside of their vehicle or to passengers, which does not meet the advertising guidelines, is required to seek prior approval from TfL before doing so.
Additional information and guidance for drivers and owners regarding stickers and official signs in licensed London taxis is attached to this Notice.
In light of the above, TfL requires that all drivers/owners remove all unauthorised objects, printed, written or other matter from their taxis with immediate effect. The licence of any taxi found to display any such material that has not been authorised by TfL may be liable to suspension or revocation.
23 June 2014
Government plans to simplify taxi and minicab licensing laws pose a risk to public safety, Labour has argued, as it sought to block the changes on 23 June 2014.
Under plans embodied in the Deregulation Bill, taxi drivers would be able to lend their vehicles to family members when they are off duty, to "lift the burden" of having to run a second family car.
Shadow Transport Minister Gordon Marsden said the "ill-thought through" and "reckless" reforms could put women and vulnerable passengers at risk of rogue drivers.
"The sad truth is that rapes and sexual assaults committed by people purporting to be private hire drivers are not uncommon and so these changes to the law are quite rightly an issue of public concern," he said.
But government spokesman Tom Brake insisted there were safeguards in place and said the changes offered "significant benefits" for the trade, and for passengers.
The disagreement came as Labour put forward amendments to remove the relevant clauses from the legislation.
Mr Marsden said there was widespread opposition to the plans, and warned they risked damaging the legitimacy of the industry, and would be difficult to enforce.
Mr Brake disagreed: "We consider that the taxi and private hire vehicle clauses will have significant benefits, both in terms of cost savings for the trade and convenience for passengers, and we are determined to see those benefits realised."
The Lib Dem deputy leader of the House told MPs the law will continue to prohibit people without a private hire vehicle licence from acting as a driver.
The proposed reforms will also see annual checks on drivers’ licences replaced with reviews every three years, and minicab operators will be allowed to subcontract bookings to firms in other areas.
Responding to concerns about the public safety implications of both of these changes, Mr Brake said the measures already apply in London and stressed that bookings could only be passed on to other licensed operators.
Conservative John Redwood was on the side of the government, and welcomed the "perfectly reasonable and very modest" proposal which he said would help cash-strapped families.
Caroline Lucas, the Green Party’s former leader, joined Labour in opposing the reforms and accusing the government of failing to consult properly on the changes, which have pre-empted a review of taxi regulations by the Law Commission.
"We’ve had nothing close to meaningful consultation and a failure on the government’s part to even discuss these changes with councils before putting forward their clauses," she complained.
Labour’s bid to block changes to the taxi licensing regime was subject to a vote, and was defeated the attempt by 285 to 206, majority 79.
Part two of the debate can be found here.
Deregulation Bill: Unite Cab Section hands in petition against Government’s taxi & private hire proposals
Since the launch of the Government’s Law Commission review in May 2012, the Cab Section of Unite has been campaigning to keep taxi and private hire services safe and in local government control.
The law Commission completed its review and draft Bill in May 2014
- Taxi and Private Hire Services [PDF, 1.03mb]
- Taxi and Private Hire Services Summary [PDF, 0.17mb]
- Taxi and Private Hire Services Impact Assessment [PDF, mb]
With the next General Election now less that a year away and a probable lack of parliamentary time for the Law Commission’s proposals to go through, the Conservative led government is trying to push some of the reforms through via its Deregulation Bill. the Labour party will be voting against the Government’s changes to taxi and private hire law in the Deregulation Bill on 23 June.
As part of the campaign against the Law Commission proposals, Unite the union organised a petition to MP’s and Parliament asking for the government to scrap the Law Commission review and replace it with the Transport Select Committee recommendations. Unite wanted as many drivers as possible to sign the petition in as many licensing areas as possible to ensure that we reached as many MP’s as possible.
Unite the union Cab Section also organised two successful lobby’s of parliament as part of its campaign.
Picture: Cab Trade News, markthomasphotos.com
At 2pm yesterday, 23rd June 2014, Unite the union Cab Section will formally handed over that petition to Labour’s Shadow Roads Minister Richard Burden MP.
Regarding the proposals in the Deregulation Bill, Richard said in his article for Politics Home:
“The Government’s rush to rip up regulation is wrong. Labour will continue to fight these measures in the Deregulation Bill. We are standing up for the taxi and private hire industry, and the public who rely on this vital means of transport”.
The petition handover took take place at the Houses of Parliament yesterday at 2pm.
You can see mote photos at the Cab Trade News Facebook page
The UK taxi trade is facing many challenges; Deregulation, lack of enforcement, technology that bypasses safety regulations. Unite the union Cab Section is the only truly national union for taxi drivers, with dedicated branches covering the country.
While some have been dismissive of the Law Commission proposals, Unite’s cab section has campaigning vigorously, defending the UK taxi trade across the whole country, warning of the dangers deregulation has for the trade and the travelling public.
Picture: Cab Trade News, markthomasphotos.com
Unite’s support for the recent taxi trade protest in Trafalgar Square reiterates how the union is fighting for the taxi trade against all deregulatory moves. Whether by Government or disruptive technological means.
For further information please contact Unite Cab Section’s Peter Rose on 07903 525 520
Chi Onwurah MP is opposing changes to taxi and private hire vehicle law because of concerns they could put passengers in Newcastle Central at risk.
The reforms are included in the Government’s Deregulation Bill which will be voted on by MPs on 23 June. As Shadow Minister in the Cabinet Office Chi will be speaking for Labour during the debate and have already raised concerns during the Bill’s Committee Stage.
The Government’s proposed reforms to the taxi and minicab trade will enable people without a minicab license drive one when it is “off duty”, end annual checks on drivers’ licences, and allow minicab operators to subcontract bookings to firms in other areas.
There has been widespread criticism of the Government’s last minute decision to insert these reforms into the Deregulation Bill at a late stage in the Parliamentary process. Campaigners, industry bodies and unions are also warning that these changes will have severe safety implications, as local councils don’t have the powers to enforce the changes safely.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which campaigns for better personal safety, has raised concerns that enabling anyone to drive a licensed minicab will provide “greater opportunity for those intent on preying on women”.
The Local Government Association has said that “it is imperative that the Government withdraws these plans” to ensure passenger safety.
Labour will be voting against the Government’s changes to taxi and private hire law in the Deregulation Bill on 23 June.
Chi Onwurah MP, Labour MP for Newcastle Central has said:
“At present minicabs in Newcastle are driven by people who have undergone criminal, medical and background checks with Newcastle City Council. But the Government are threatening to remove these safeguards, and let anyone drive an off duty minicab.
“I know many people in Newcastle particularly women and those with impaired mobility, rely on taxis and minicabs to get home safely. I’m worried that Minister’s plans will increase the number of rogue drivers on Newcastle roads.
“I’m calling on the Government to abandon these proposals and put passenger safety first.”
Richard Burden MP, Labour’s Shadow Roads Minister said:
“The Government’s changes to taxi and minicab law are poorly drafted, badly consulted on and could result in real risks to public safety. The reforms mean that people getting minicabs won’t know if the person driving it is licensed to do so, can’t be sure whether it has come from the company they booked with, and won’t know if vehicle and driver have been safety checked.
“The taxi and private hire trade, safety charities, unions and councils are telling the Government these changes will put passengers at risk but out of touch Ministers are refusing to listen. Labour will vote against the Government’s rushed and risky proposals and stand up for the travelling public.”
- 1. Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles:
The main difference between (referred to in legislation as hackney carriages) and Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs or “mini-cabs”) is that PHVs can only accept pre-booked passengers, whilst taxis can ply for trade on the street or from taxi ranks.
- 2. Government’s reforms:
In 2011 the Department for Transport requested the Law Commission undertake a comprehensive review of taxi and PHV legislation. But in March 2014 the Government inserted three piecemeal reforms to the Deregulation Bill – to (a) allow people who do not hold a PHV license to drive a PHV when it is “off duty”; (b) set a standard duration of three years, rather than one, for taxi and PHV driver’s licenses; (c) enable PHV operators to subcontract a booking to another operator licensed in different licensing district.
- 3. Criticism:
The reforms have been criticised by the National Private Hire Association, unions including Unite and GMB, National Association of Licensing Enforcement Officers, National Taxi Association, Institute of Licensing Officers, the Local Government Association and safety organisations, many of whom weren’t included in the government’s ‘informal consultation’ on the proposals. The Government’s reforms have been criticised for undermining the Law Commission’s work, damaging the trade and threatening passenger safety.
The Local Government Association
“The consequences for someone entering a vehicle marked for hire where the driver has not been properly licensed and vetted by the council can be severe. Under the proposals, councils will also find it more difficult to revoke licences from reckless drivers who repeatedly put passengers at risk by driving dangerously.
Keeping residents safe is a priority for councils and it is imperative the Government withdraws these plans so that we can continue ensuring passengers are safe when taking taxis and private hire vehicles.”
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, a prominent women’s safety campaign group, has been particularly critical.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust
“We are very concerned both about the safety implications of some of these clauses and the way they were inserted into the Deregulation Bill so late into its passage through Parliament.
“We know from the number of sexual assaults in London each year that posing as a legitimate minicab driver is the preferred MO of some particularly dangerous sexual predators. We are very concerned that moves to allow any individual to drive a licensed minicab when it is ‘off duty’ will provide greater opportunity for those intent on preying on women in this way.
We are also concerned about the proposal to require licensing authorities to renew licenses on a three-year basis rather than annually, should they wish to: we think that checks on drivers should be as rigorous and frequent as necessary to ensure that all relevant information is collected before a licence is issued. “