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SATELLITE GENESIS

15/10/2010

By Peter J Rose

From the LTPH/TfL Private Hire Consultation Document, October 2010.

The Mayor has set out his ambition for private hire as part of his Transport Strategy. This document, published in May 2010, includes the following commitments:

The Mayor, through TfL, and working with the London boroughs and other stakeholders will support improvements to private hire services (especially minicabs) through the following:

b) Provision of facilities to pick up as well as drop off passengers where appropriate

The Mayor, through TfL, and working with the London boroughs, the police, and other stakeholders will seek to:

to integrate private hire services with London’s other transport services.

It was with some surprise that whilst doing some research for another story, I came upon a rather alarming document from the London Assembly Transport Committee published in March 2008, entitled; Taxi Touting in London. Of course this is not a new document and on the face of  it pretty meaningless, given that it was put together by Peter Humle Cross, The man the taxi trade defeated when he and others tried to introduce a ‘quickie’ knowledge in to London when Ken Livingston was Mayor. At that time the taxi trade successfully lobbied members of the GLA against the proposal. However it was not the fact that the document existed but that it was responded to in October 2008 by the then Public Carriage Office, which was now under Boris Johnson’s administration, having won the mayoral election the previous May.

The Reporting document states:

We discussed taxi touting in London with the following organisations on 28 January 2008: Steve Wright – Chairman, Licensed Private Hire Car Association, Geoffrey Riesel – Chairman, London‟s Taxi Network, John Griffin – Chairman, Private Hire Car Association.

The disturbing thing here is that all of the above come from the private hire industry. Conservative Party Contributor and Chairman of Addison Lee, John Griffin – PHCA, Steve Wright – LPHCA and Radio Taxis’ Geoffrey Riesel. Who you may remember tried, unsuccessfully, because of action taken by recognised taxi driver trade bodies, to introduce Radio Taxis minicab booking system One Transport at Heathrow Airport last year. There is no taxi driver trade representation in this document at all. Yet in spite of that Boris’s PCO responded in a way which we have seen has been almost catastrophic to the night-time taxi trade.

The report recommends.

The Public Carriage Office, in partnership with TOCU, should reduce opportunities for touts and provide people with safe options for getting home by establishing additional marshalled private hire and taxi schemes, and encourage late night venues and operators to set up satellite offices in touting hotspot areas. Progress on setting up new marshalled ranks should be reported back to the Committee by October 2008.


Minicab waiting area outside Faces Nightclub, Barkingside

In the document dated 21 October TfL responds

TfL is aware of the benefits of establishing locations where passengers can catch taxis or private hire vehicles securely. The TfL Act 2008 has facilitated the establishment of satellite private hire offices in late night venues. This will be achieved by reducing the need for Private Hire operators to keep extensive staff and vehicle records at every location from which Private Hire vehicles may operate. Section 25 of the TfL Act has amended Section 4(3)(d) of the 1998 Act, so that staff and vehicle records are only required to be kept at one specified operating centre. There will be a requirement on the operator however to advise the licensing authority and also display a notice stating the address of where those records are kept.

TfL and the Metropolitan Police Service have completed a contractual five year review of the TOCU, which included a review of TOCU’s cab enforcement activities. One of the recommendations from the review was that the TOCU Cab Unit should provide greater support to TfL’s initiatives to promote legitimate forms of travel by licensed taxis and Private hire vehicles. It was recommended that the Unit should have greater involvement in (or provide guidance on) setting up marshalled taxi ranks and PHV pick up points and provide regular uniformed presence at these locations. This recommendation will build on the work the Cab Unit already undertakes to reduce opportunities for taxi touting. As an example, the TOCU was involved in the introduction of satellite Private Hire vehicle booking desks outside clubs in Kingston to make it easier for people to book licensed minic abs.

Obviously there are other recommendations in the report and I have provided links to the full documents at the end of this article. 

Soon TfL’s response, a private hire rank was set up in Whitcomb Street. Cab Trade News reported its activity’s in the December 2208 issue., as well as highlighting the many other minicab ranks that sprang up all over the place. Ultimately leading to the taxi demonstration in February 2009.

Since then the London Cab Section of UNITE theUNION has been campaigning against the use of minicab satellite offices as a late-night transport solution and has been actively promoting the case for more taxi ranks at night-time venues. UNITE has also pointed out many locations were illegal activity is taking place. Unfortunately given the low police resource that is available, success in dealing with the problem is limited. However given that we have seen, an as yet fully explained 54% increase in cab-related sexual offences. It is obvious that the time for a reconsideration of this late night transport strategy is now urgent.

Although it doesn’t look as if TfL are going to give them up easily.

Taken from The LTPH Private Hire Consultation Document, October 2010.

Operator Proposal 9

That TfL introduces a requirement that the issuing of a private hire operators licence within a third party venue is restricted to those premises only where there is a clear need to provide the public with a suitable transport option through private hire services directly from that venue.

UNITE Cab Section will continue of campaign for the abolition of  Satellite Minicab Offices and better ranks, (including the recommended marshalled ones) for the Licensed Taxi Trade.

Post Links:

LTPH/TfL Private Hire Consultation Document

London Assembly Transport Committee’  Taxi Touting in London

TfL Response to Taxi Touting in London

Transport for London Act 2008

Peter Hulme Cross

Geoffrey Riesel, London Taxi Network

Steve Wright On Bus Lanes and Age Limits Video

John Griffin,  Addison Lee

Related Links:

”Where to Guv”.

Conservative Party Donations Note Addison Lee

M4 Bus Lanes Fines Dropped by Government

How Self Employed are Addison Lee’s Drivers?

Cock Up or Conspiracy?

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