Friday, 20 June 2014

Taxis and private hire vehicles: the road to reform - Transport Committee Contents Dec 2010

Written evidence from London Suburban Taxi-drivers' Coalition (TPH 35)

In response to the above consultation, we would like you to take into consideration the following items regarding the London Suburban Hackney Carriage issues.

(1)  Publish documentation to define where London Suburban Hackney Carriage drivers can accept pre-booked work when outside of their licensed sector, but are still within the Greater London Authority's controlled licensing zone.

Luke Howard, Senior Strategy & Integration Manager, TfL Taxi & Private Hire was asked this question about a year ago, including "What Act of Parliament prohibits suburban drivers from doing so".

His reply was "...As I said, the prohibition on drivers accepting bookings outside their area is a matter of how 'plying for hire' should be interpreted in this context. There is no paperwork as it is simply the advice of our legal team—we do not think this has been tested in court."

We were not shown what the legal advice was or even if it came in a written form.

We believe it is time to properly define this matter once and for all so that the ambiguities of the law are removed. As you know many suburban drivers are prosecuted for out-of-sector violations and the law must be clarified. Suburban Taxi drivers should not be playing "Russian Roulette" when they go out to work. If the law is unclear or untested it is surely time to review, amend or draft more up-to-date legislation to cover this aspect of their working lives.

The Office of Fair Trading state in their Legal framework of taxi and PHV licensing in the UK, Annexe A, November 2003

1.10  Taxis can pick up passengers that have pre-booked without needing a separate PHV licence.

"A campaign to reduce the number of women sexually attacked in minicabs over Christmas was launched, in the wake of a 54% increase in serious sexual assaults including rape and a 50% decrease in detection/conviction. The scheme aims to warn Londoners about the dangers of getting into minicabs without pre-booking and to help them get home safely."

However, leaders of the Safer Travel at Night (STaN) scheme say women are putting themselves in danger by getting into minicabs (licensed and unlicensed) that line up outside pubs and clubs and are given an 'air of respectability' by TfL in doing so. This is clearly wrong and needs to be addressed. Reports from the "Havens Rape Crisis Centres" have shown much higher figures. They also state that most rapes go unreported, so the true figure could be even higher.

We believe that if London Suburban Hackney Carriage drivers were allowed to pick up the pre-booked hiring's when outside of their licensed sector, but still within the Greater London Authority's controlled licensing zone, then this would go, not only some way to reducing the serious sexual assaults, including rape, but also reduce the carbon emissions issue by utilising those taxis to bring passengers back into their licensed sectors with a better utilisation of these vehicles.

(2)  We would like to have rescinded or amended the 12 mile (or one hour's duration) rule in respect of suburban drivers. It is most unfair that London Suburban Hackney Carriage drivers are the only licensed drivers in England and Wales that are compelled to accept a 12 mile hiring which in most cases take them well outside their licensed sectors.

We believe that this issue is a restrictive practice and places an unfair disadvantage on London Suburban Hackney Carriage drivers as a whole as their sectors are much smaller than that of the All-London (Green Badge) drivers, who in many more instances can do a 12 mile hiring and still be well within the area for which they are licensed.

Being compelled to accept a hiring from a smaller sector makes having to accept a hiring so far away from where they are permitted to ply for hire is indeed unreasonable compared to their Green Badge counterparts. It would be more tolerable if this 12 mile compulsion was reduced to eight (8) miles or even to the previous six (6) miles. It is our understanding that this ruling was changed due to problems of "refusal" that arose primarily in the All-London area and the consequent changes placed an unnecessary burden on suburban drivers when the rule was changed under Ken Livingstone's Mayoral term of office.

There is a precedent for a differential in the compellable distance where it was amended to 20 miles in respect of hiring's from Heathrow Airport several years ago.

There are more issues that really do need to be discussed in relation to the London Suburban Taxi service we provide, but as requested we need to keep this letter short, but would appreciate it if we could meet and present our views to members of the Transport Select Committee in the near future.

(3)  We believe it would be helpful if the terms "minicabs", "licensed minicabs", "unlicensed minicabs" and Licensed Private Hire were more clearly defined as there is a lot of confusion at present even in the literature that TfL provide.

If it confuses those in the trade it must be quite perplexing to the travelling public who may be the victims of unclear definitions.

This does not occur with licensed taxis as ANY taxi is by its very nature "Licensed". There is no such thing as an "unlicensed" taxi even though the newspapers AND the TV media often talk about misdemeanours by a taxi driver (to make the headline "sensational") but in reality the driver often turns out to be a minicab driver (whatever that is).

TfL must bear the brunt of this criticism through poor descriptive terms in its documentation. If any person trying to get through to a Taxi operator and gores on the Internet they are almost always directed to a Private Hire company in spite of the fact that these companies are contravening the Licensed Private Hire (Vehicles) Act 1998 to advertise in this way, and in spite of the warnings not to do so by TfL.

December 2010


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