Laura Sharman 25 September 2014
Children could be at greater risk of sexual exploitation under government plans to reform taxi licensing, town hall chiefs are warning.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said proposals set out within the Deregulation Bill will make it easier for criminal gangs to use licensed vehicles to groom, abuse and traffic children. Under the proposals, people other than the minicab licence holder will be able to drive the vehicle when they are off-duty.
The LGA warn that abusers in both Rotherham and Rochdale used minicabs to target vulnerable children, and called on the Government not to relax controls in this area.
Cllr Ann Lucas OBE, chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: ‘Recent child sex abuse cases in Rotherham and Rochdale are a stark reminder of the position of trust that people put in taxi drivers and the vulnerability of some passengers.
‘There is a determination across local government that nothing like this can be allowed to happen again. That is why we remain deeply concerned about the Government’s plan to relax taxi licensing laws which we believe will make it easier for criminal gangs to target vulnerable children for sexual exploitation.’
The LGA said the consequences of not having councils carrying out rigorous checks on licence holders could be ‘devastating’.
Reuters/Brussels 24th September 2014
Addison Lee argued that it should be allowed to use bus lanes
EU court adviser said bus lane policy is not state aid
Court decision expected in three to six months
By Julia Fioretti
BRUSSELS, Sept 24 (Reuters) – Allowing London’s trademark black cabs to use bus lanes while excluding other minicab companies does not constitute illegal state aid, an adviser to the highest European Union court found on Wednesday.
The opinion is the latest stage in a longstanding dispute between the British capital’s transport authority and Eventech, which owns a minicab fleet used by the cab firm Addison Lee.
An advocate general, who advises the European court in Luxembourg, found that Transport for London’s (TfL) policy of only allowing black cabs to use the city’s bus lanes did not constitute an unlawful transfer of public resources — essentially a subsidy — to registered taxis.
"Where state authorities make a bus lane on a public road available to black cabs but not to PHVs (private hire vehicles) during the hours of operation of that bus lane, that does not involve a transfer of ‘state resources’, provided that all comparable undertakings are granted access on equal terms," Advocate General Nils Wahl said in his opinion.
Opinions from advocates general are respected by the court in a majority of cases.
The dispute comes at a time when alternative taxi providers, such as the car-sharing service Uber, have clashed with traditional cabs concerned about what they call unfair competition. The conflict has led to Europe-wide taxi strikes and temporary bans on Uber in Germany.
Eventech had argued that TfL’s bus lane policy was an infringement of the freedom to provide services and also amounted to illegal state aid to the benefit of black cabs.
But Wahl rejected those claims, saying that under EU state aid rules it was not necessary for member states to demand payment for access to public infrastructure, such as bus lanes.
"If…state aid rules were interpreted as generally requiring member states to charge for access to public infrastructure or state-controlled resources, this might deter states from creating or opening up areas to which there has previously been no, or only limited access," Wahl said.
Eventech had also argued that exempting black cabs from paying fines for using the bus lanes amounted to an illegal transfer of public money to their benefit, a claim again rejected by Wahl.
The dispute began in 2010 when two of Addison Lee’s drivers were fined for driving their cars along a bus lane in central London. Eventech challenged the fines but lost before the High Court, leading to its appeal to the EU’s top court. (Editing by Dominic Evans)
Unite the union press release
London’s cabbies demonstrate over Mayor’s failure to deliver
Unite’s London cab section will today (Wednesday 24 September) take part in a drive in demonstration at Trafalgar Square over London Mayor Boris Johnson’s failure to protect the iconic black cab from unregulated competition where many have described him as a ‘complete disaster for London taxi trade’.
London comes to a standstill as taxi drivers protest at Trafalgar Square on June 11 this year
London’s taxi drivers, many of them members of the UK’s largest union Unite, are now saying enough is enough. They are demanding Boris should go now so his successor can get on with the job of actually running London for Londoners.
Under Boris Johnson’s Transport for London (TfL) taxi drivers have suffered a regulatory authority that has outsourced many of its responsibilities to private agencies with the net result, being a deep fall in service levels and ever increasing costs to the trade. The Mayor’s policy of licence and forget satellite offices, rather than properly regulated taxi ranks, has seen the trade lose out on work that should have been available to London’s taxi drivers.
Peter Kavanagh, Unite London and Eastern regional secretary said: “Boris Johnson may have attempted to play the populist card with London cab drivers at election time, but he has failed to deliver anything to a trade that is widely regarded as the world’s finest. His time as Mayor has been a complete disaster for the London taxi trade.
“From failing to tackle the increasingly hazardous rickshaw brigade to shrugging his shoulders and allowing the Uber app, which doesn’t take bookings or even pay tax in this country, to be licensed as a private hire operator has showed his true colours.
“Confusion over emissions policy, congestion and pollution increasing with his scrapping of the Western Zone, privatisation and outsourcing of the regulatory functions within TfL are all a slap in the face for taxi drivers and their customers.
“Maybe it’s time for ‘two jobs Johnson’ to spend more time with his future potential constituents in Uxbridge, explaining his plans for decimating tens of thousands of jobs at Heathrow in place of one of his many fantasies – Boris Island.
“We need a Mayor that understands the need for an integrated, fully funded transport policy and who believes in quality, investment and regulation. We need a Mayor who understands that running a city like London is a full time job.”
For more information contact Unite Cab Section’s Peter Rose on 07903 525 520
Taxi drivers at some of Merseyside’s biggest firms may be allowed to carry passengers without taking the traditional “Knowledge” test.
Sefton council’s licensing committee will decide on Monday whether to keep or scrap the controversial Knowledge Test which all new taxi drivers in the borough must pass.
Bootle-based private hire firm Delta Taxis has put forward a proposal calling for the test to be scrapped, in light of recommendations made by the Law Commission.
Their report states that “private hire services should only be subject to national standards. Licensing authorities should no longer have the power to impose local conditions.”
Within its submission Delta Taxis said it believes the “current test is nothing more than a memory test and out of date” and that “computer aided and satellite navigation has totally transformed the industry since the knowledge test was introduced 22 years ago.”
The test, which is conducted by the council, involves new driver applicants having to answer 20 questions on local landmarks and licensing and driving rules, selected from a list of 60 questions, as well as six route questions selected from a list of 40 routes.
Paul McLaughlin, Delta company secretary, said: “In all honesty it is no more than a memory test, which has absolutely no bearing on a driver’s ability to navigate.
“You memorise the routes in advance and regurgitate them back onto a piece of paper. It is a tick-box exercise which has zero practical benefits for drivers or customers.”
Wayne Casey from South Sefton Hackney Carriage Drivers Association said he believed the ability to find places in a driver’s chosen working area is a reasonable expectation,
He said: “Failure to have or acquire this knowledge is to deny the fundamental function of hiring a vehicle and driver as a taxi.
“The tests were introduced many years ago by Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council and seem common sense now.”
He also said how an informed choice, based on local knowledge, is still needed when using a sat nav as they usually give a choice of routes.
Tommy McIntyre from Unite the Union’s taxi section said: “The proposals (by Delta Taxis) seem ludicrous to say the least, that modern technology can replace the in-depth knowledge both private hire and Hackney drivers should have to perform their duties to the travelling public’s expectation.”
In a statement he said he believed an in-depth knowledge was beneficial to the local community who expect a professional who knows where they are going.
He added: “Modern technology indeed is an asset to the Hackney and private hire driver, but is in no way a substitute for the driver’s base topographical knowledge.”
Maaxi press release.
Maaxi, the next generation taxi app for black cabs only forever, will start pre-registration of taxi drivers, Monday 15th September, toward formal sign up and download in just a few weeks.
The passenger App, conceived 24 months ago, is a journey planner much like Google Maps or Citymapper but unlike Google Maps’ Uber option and Citymappers’ Hailo option, the App offers black cabs only in shared and normal fare format. This means that passengers can choose to upgrade from a train to a black cab door-to-door, something that they cannot do with other Apps (the price of an Uber or a Hailo is 5 to 10 times higher than public transport versus 1.5 times higher with a fully shared taxi on Maaxi). In addition, unlike in Google or Citymapper, in Maaxi the taxi booking is done within the App.
Nat Rothschild, representing Maaxi, said: “This weekend saw articles highlighting new congestion charge plans along with a the lack of available funds for transport investment. Hackney carriage drivers’ are critical to resolving London’s transport problems and I am betting with Maaxi on the increasingly important role they must play in TfL’s plans to address the future of transport in London.”
London cabbies welcomed a German court injunction yesterday banning the controversial taxi mobile phone app Uber as they prepared for two more road blockades in protest at casualisation in Britain.
Click here to read on the Morning Star website
Uber allows smartphone users to summon amateur drivers via a booking system based in the Netherlands and over which British regulators have no control.
It has come under fire for calculating fares via a meter, as minicab firms are required to give punters a quote in advance.
Berlin authorities had already banned Uber over safety concerns, but it retains the support of Tory London Mayor Boris Johnson.
“It’s welcome that someone has taken a stand over a company like Uber, which seems to be riding roughshod over regulations across the world,” said black cab driver and Unite trade union rep Peter Rose.
“Fundamentally I don’t care whether Uber is there or not — all we want is for everything to be above board.
“Regulation laws are there to protect the travelling public. We’re now seeing the erosion of that legislation.”
“By allowing Uber to do the initial hiring from Holland, we could end up with someone doing it in their bedroom in the Bahamas.”
Cabbies have planned two demonstrations for September 24 and October 8, which they insist are not protests against Uber, but calls for consistent regulation.
RMT, which also organises taxi drivers, acting general secretary Mick Cash of transport union said: “The news from Germany should serve as a wake-up call to London Mayor Boris Johnson and others who seem to be beholden to Uber’s financial and corporate power.”
Amidst the war between Uber and Lyft, ride-sharing app Bandwagon partners with Hailo to create a sharing platform for New York City cab passengers.
BY THORNTON MCENERY AUGUST 28, 2014 1:45 P.M.
Updated: August 28, 2014 5:31 p.m.
Hudson Square-based Bandwagon, an app that allows people going the same way to share a cab, announced Thursday that it is partnering with e-hail app Hailo in order to allow users to legally hail yellow taxis. According to a statement, the alliance between Bandwagon and Hailo will give riders the chance to save up to 65% per ride by sharing the cost of the fare, while providing drivers with the increased revenue of having more than one rider on a longer fare.
"If we can make better use of all those existing empty seats in vehicles that are designed for transportation, we can build a new instant kind of social transit network," Bandwagon CEO David Mahfouda said in the statement.
The social aspect of the partnership will be handled on Bandwagon’s platform. On the app, users will drop a pin of their location and enter their destination. Bandwagon will match them with nearby users headed the same way, provide the mechanism to split the fare digitally and dispatch a cab using Hailo’s platform.
Bandwagon is hoping to benefit from the ongoing, high-profile conflict between Uber and Lyft. Language in the company’s statement makes clear and pointed reference to the two West Coast companies and their public quarrel over the New York cab market.
"While Uber and Lyft fight over taxi customers and drivers, eroding each others’ services," the statement reads, "Bandwagon and Hailo are embracing the spirit of the collaborative economy and sharing resources to improve how we get around."
Correction: Bandwagon is partnering with e-hail app Hailo in order to allow users to legally hail only yellow taxis. That fact was misstated in an earlier version of this article published online Aug. 28, 2014.