A prominent London taxi industry representative has suggested that the capital’s regulator COULD do more to cap the number of Uber and other private hire vehicle (PHV) drivers if they really wanted to.
Transport for London (TfL) have historically called on the Government to provide them with more powers to impose a cap on minicab numbers.
The Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) however believes that support for change could be construed as a ‘tad bit disingenuous’ and that the regulators ‘are simply passing the buck to the government’.
Currently, if a PHV applicant meets the statutory eligibility criteria, TfL are legally obliged to issue a licence.
Some years back, the Mayor of London called on the Government to provide further legislative powers to cap the total number of PHVs in London.
TfL had altered the structure of licence fees paid by operators of different sizes to better reflect the costs of compliance and enforcement activity. It was hoped it would provide further financial incentive for operators to maximise the efficiency of their operations and minimise the number of vehicles they use across London as a whole.
However in one week alone in December 2022, TfL managed to licence over 1,000 new PHVs and 500 new drivers in just one mammoth week of licensing in the capital. There are currently 99,274 PHV drivers licensed in the capital.
Paul Brennan, LTDA Chairman, wrote in TAXI Newspaper: “Isn't it amazing how Transport for London (TfL) can't seem to get anything done at the moment – a mere response to an email takes weeks, even months, yet somehow, they managed to licence in excess of 2,500 minicabs in a single week in December.
“How can they justify licensing so many new minicabs on the one hand, whilst on the other implementing restrictions here, there and everywhere to restrict vehicle access and “avoid a car-led recovery.” This kind of contradictory decision making is at play across TfL. They are (apparently) on a mission to limit the number of cars on the streets of London, to address pollution and the resulting toxic air Londoners are forced to breathe. Meanwhile, they ignore the fact that the most toxic air that Londoners are forced to breathe is actually found in their very own underground system.
“Funny how that gets ignored. Perhaps we should call for cycle lanes to be introduced in the tunnels of the tube network, I bet we’d see some changes if that was the case?
“It's the same with TfL dragging their feet on the Euro V to VI taxi conversion (which would reduce emissions), whilst demanding that we buy a ZEC vehicle instantly. Then, elsewhere in their network setting a target of 2030 for buses to be ZEC. You might think it odd that the TfL administered Tube and bus networks don’t get so much as a mention by the Mayor and his cycling Tsar, when they talk about the urgent need to clean up our air.
“Hundreds of thousands of Londoners are also about to be negatively impacted by the extension of the ULEZ, which will hit some of the poorest residents the hardest. City Hall claims it’s a vital measure to clean up London’s air and there can be no compromise. But hey, whilst we are doing that let’s stick another couple thousand sat nav jockeys on London's roads (as they did in December), – clogging up the ever-shrinking road network even more, increasing congestion and resulting pollution. It will also no doubt lead to more collisions and serious accidents, given their limited expertise and poor working knowledge of the Capital.
“Now, TfL and City Hall will tell you 'There’s nothing we can do, if they meet the requirements then we have to licence them.' That’s true, they do, but whilst there may be a requirement to licence them, there is no requirement to do so at such speed and at such high volumes, particularly when everything else you do moves at a glacial pace.
“It’s also true that they have previously been lobbying government to give them the power to limit minicab numbers, (generally only after we and other groups have lobbied them, to lobby the government) but is it really something they’ve pushed hard on? Surely during all the wrangling over successive financial bailouts, they could have sorted out this relatively simple issue. Plus, since the pandemic, their lobbying has all gone pretty quiet. The cynic in me is beginning to think they might be being a tad bit disingenuous and are simply passing the buck to the government on this one.”