Caroline Pidgeon Q&A: The state of the London taxi industry

Updated: Oct 11, 2019


Credit image: London.gov.uk

Do you think Boris Johnson and Grant Shapps will be more receptive to the Mayor's requests surrounding the taxi and private hire industry, especially given the fact that Boris Johnson was the previous London Mayor?

If we were in normal political times, putting Brexit aside, you would think that we have a PM who understands the issues, and who would be receptive to legislative changes, and bring in things that he may have wanted to do as Mayor but couldn't, and find the space to make those changes. Whether it be defining plying for hire or bringing in cross border hiring legislation.
But the reality is, with Brexit there is no space at any level in government or across Parliament for anything else. The reality is until there is some sort of conclusion in relation to Brexit, there is not going to be any space to create legislation, potentially for years in my view.

Do you think that the ‘Task and Finish’ report will end up on the back burner?

I'm afraid I think it will, and that is such a shame because there was a lot of work put into it. But that is how I see politics at the moment, there's just no space. I talk to people in Parliament, I talk to people in the Lords, there's just no space. There's been no legislation coming through whatsoever. Every government department is planning for a number of different scenarios because of the Brexit situation. There is just no parliamentary space.

Two high profile bus gates (Bow and Wapping) have been, or are set to be, trialled which restricts taxi access, do you agree with this?

I haven't seen either of these cases, but generally if you've got a bus lane then they should have taxis and motorcycles allowed as well.
It's important to make areas safe and create a much nicer environment, but where there are bus lanes I've always argued that motorcycles and taxis should also have access. Not all of my colleagues agree with me, but that is something that I have supported. I will try to keep an eye on this though.

The LTDA is currently investigating potential technological solutions to retro-fit 4,600 Euro 5 diesel taxis to meet Euro 6 standards. The LTDA suggest that the retro-fit would deliver “better emissions savings and avoid penalising drivers” if implemented, do you support this opinion?

Yes, I was pleased. I asked a question back in June about this, which I still haven't had answered, about whether TfL has taken an evaluation of this idea. In a long press release from the Mayor's office they did say that they were going to keep it under review. They did say if the retrofit is approved, they would look to incorporate this.
I pushed the Mayor on LPG as an interim fuel as well, the answer I got given from the Mayor at Mayor’s Question Time was very negative about it. Afterwards his officers came to apologise to my office, saying that they had given the Mayor wrong information and now LPG is included.

What help is being given to fleet owners to help them switch to electric vehicles?

I'm not aware there is any specific help being given to fleet owners, I know that they are helping individual cabbies but I’m not aware of any help being given to fleet owners. Years ago it was suggested that TfL use their capital funding to bulk buy the new taxi to get the price down with such a big order, to then sell on to garages, drivers and so on.
We have on London’s roads hundreds of Boris' Routemaster buses. They were expensive to buy, expensive to run and they're not the cleanest vehicle, they are horrible to travel on and they're sweltering hot. They bought those rather than the bus companies, because they couldn't sell them on. But they should have bought taxis and brought the price down.

Do you think that TfL could eventually ban private car use from zones one and two in Central London, forcing people to use public transport?

There are ways you could do road user charging, it would be a Mayoral decision because it's a political decision. My committee recommended the Mayor looks at how you could bring in road user charging in London.
The congestion charge is clearly not fit for purpose. You need to bring in some form of road pricing to get people out of their vehicles, or they pay for the privilege.

Given the considerable recent debate over taxi age limits, do you think the current age limit of 15 years should be reviewed for zero emission capable taxis?

I think that you are right, I’ve not heard that suggestion before. I think it could be extended because you have to go through your MOT in any case, if it's not roadworthy, it won't pass.
Given the investment, and its cleaner technology, I think that's a very good suggestion.

What are your thoughts on how taxi and private hire vehicles were covered in the Mayor's transport strategy?

We've recommended that the Mayor should review the taxi action plan and set clear targets. For example, accelerated provision for rapid charging infrastructure across London and ranks at all Crossrail stations.
We had a response in July, but the Mayor isn't reviewing his taxi action plan. I think that is disappointing because taxis and private hire are a part of the transport network in London, we need to make sure that the infrastructure is there to support both industries.
I think taxis and private hire are not a priority for this Mayor, I don't think that they have been a priority for any Mayor to be honest. This Mayor is very keen to push public transport, walking and cycling .

Do you think there will be a commitment to recognise the taxi industry as a fully integrated part of the public transport network?

I don't think that this Mayor is particularly interested in taxis or private hire, I don't think he sees it as a priority. I think the taxi industry needs to come up with clear asks for next year's Mayoral candidates. That is a challenge for you to unite around and to ask for things that are achievable.
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