Mayor Sadiq Khan and TfL need to better support the taxi trade, better regulate the taxi and PHV sec
Article by LTDA General Secretary Steve McNamara from Taxi Magazine
Last week, the London Assembly’s Transport Committee published findings from its investigation into taxi and private services in London. You may remember I gave evidence in front of the committee last year alongside other reps from the taxi and PHV trades, and TfL. Its report sets out how Mayor Sadiq Khan and TfL need to better support the taxi trade, better regulate the taxi and PHV sectors and raise standards. The Chair, Caroline Pidgeon AM, didn’t hold back in saying that “ongoing challenges facing the industry remain largely unresolved. TfL must get a grip; regulation, or a lack of it, is still London’s blind spot.” It’s good to see the committee agree that key issues remain unsolved and that the mayor really needs to buck his ideas up.
Ms Pidgeon also reiterated what I keep saying, that is “without the charging infrastructure, licensed taxi drivers are understandably reticent to make the switch to electric vehicles.” The committee pointed out that the mayor is only halfway to reaching his target of 300 rapid charge points by 2020, and even if he reaches it, it’s not enough. They’ve asked Sadiq to go back to the drawing board and think up new targets ASAP. He can’t expect London’s cabbies to invest in the electric taxi without the absolute certainty that drivers can earn a decent living and get to a charge point when they need one. Like us, the committee is frustrated that the Government refused to grant London the power to cap PHV numbers and failed to deal with the issue of plying for hire. These were both key recommendations made by the DfT’s independent working group. A cap is urgently needed to cut down on congestion and pollution and must be brought into force, along with a definition of cross border hiring to stop out of town drivers flooding London and dodging restrictions. And I don’t need to explain to you all how urgent it is that we get legal clarity on plying for hire. Interestingly, the committee suggested the mayor considers implementing a “third tier” of regulation for high-volume app-based operators like Uber, as has been done in New York. This would be based on the number of journeys an operator carries out, rather than the size of its fleet. The likes of Uber would be regulated differently to smaller, local operators to better reflect its impact on our transport system. On licensing standards, the committee is 100% behind the Government’s plans to introduce national minimum standards but wants London to go further to halt a “race to the bottom.” They want TfL to develop an “accreditation scheme” that operators can choose to sign up to prove that they meet the highest of standards. These could include good working conditions and minimum earnings for private hire drivers. However, whether Uber would sign up to such a scheme is another question. Over in Parliament, the Commons Transport Committee questioned Professor Mohammed Abdel-Haq, Chair of the DfT’s Working Group, on his report and to get his views on the Government’s plans for reform. The MPs asked lots of good questions on the definition of cross border hiring, national minimum standards, capping PHV numbers and plying for hire, and really seemed to understand the issues at hand. Mohammed made a strong case to the committee on his worries about the Government’s delay in bringing forward new legislation, saying that for every day this continues, he worries he’ll read of another shocking case of abuse in the papers such as that of Rotherham. The Government need to act quickly so that such cases can never happen again, and thankfully this really seemed to resonate with the MPs.