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London taxi drivers could be forced to install CCTV as TfL begins review into camera option

London’s iconic black taxis could be forced to install in-cab CCTV equipment, much to the frustration of industry representatives, should a review deem the action fit.

The tentative steps towards the implementation of cameras in vehicles were first discussed at an industry meeting with regulators, Transport for London (TfL), this month. The discussions start following new government licensing standards aimed to improve passenger safety in Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (PHV) announced this summer.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps called for licensing authorities to consider whether the use of CCTV would be beneficial or proportionate in their areas. Other recommendations included updated guidance calling for criminal record checks for drivers every 6 months.

The news was however met with early resistance from both the Taxi and PHV industries due to the heavy costs associated with the equipment required and also question marks over whether the cameras are actually needed. The costly proposals come at a time when industry work-levels are at their lowest due to various coronavirus lockdown measures introduced since March.

Grant Davis, Chairman of London Cab Drivers Club (LCDC), told TaxiPoint that the idea of expensive CCTV equipment was “the wrong conversation at the wrong time with the taxi and private hire industries on the floor at present”.

At the meeting Davis is said to have accused the capital’s regulators of ‘cherry picking’ the CCTV proposal from the Department for Transport (DfT) guidance due to its low cost implications for TfL.

Davis said: “We hope that TfL addresses major issues such as how the taxi trade picks itself up from the floor financially before imposing yet more costs and regulations upon us.”

There is also expected to be resistance from the private hire industry on the subject of CCTV too. During the summer the Licensed Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA) conducted an in-depth survey which showed nearly three quarters of those surveyed thought regulatory authorities should suspend all pending CCTV requirements.

At the time members of the association were also unsure about the mandatory need for the in-vehicle cameras. There were also concerns about the high cost of the equipment and the control of data captured.

Steve Wright, Chairman of Licensed Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA), said this summer: “The pandemic has been catastrophic for those who have lost loved ones or those who have contracted or been impacted indirectly by the COVID-19 virus, on a personal / family level. Beyond that there are many whose working lives will never be the same.

“Whilst some modes of transport have had high level support from government, the door-to-door taxi and private hire sector, at times all but seems to have been forgotten.

“Two controversial pre-pandemic subjects, CCTV and Air Quality requirements were in some cases being mandated at different levels in different stages by governments and licensing authorities throughout the UK.

“Sensible authorities are now reviewing both, what is really needed as well as practical, they have also put on hold inflicting massive costs when the trade is on its knees. The LPHCA members survey clearly outlines the need to suspend such projects, then conduct a review and re-assessment post COVID-19.”

Upon speaking to TfL, the regulators told TaxiPoint they are simply following expectations handed down by the Government in the form of new statutory standards. At this stage the transport regulators are ‘reviewing the effects of installing CCTV in licensed vehicles‘.

The Department for Transport Statutory Standard states: “All licensing authorities should consult to identify if there are local circumstances which indicate that the installation of CCTV in vehicles would have either a positive or an adverse net effect on the safety of taxi and private hire vehicle users, including children or vulnerable adults, and taking into account potential privacy issues.”

Helen Chapman, TfL’s Director of Licensing, Regulation and Charging, said: “As part of the Government’s new statutory standards for taxi and private hire, every licensing authority is expected to review the effects of installing CCTV in licensed vehicles. We are currently engaging with trade representatives to seek their views on this issue.”

The statutory guidance around the usage of cameras in taxis and minicabs has previously come under scrutiny by the Camera Surveillance Commissioner (CSC).

An example of ‘strong justification’ has been seen in Rotherham where all taxis must have CCTV installed. This was one of several measures implemented following child abuse in the town and where taxis were used to transport a number of the victims. In this instance, the CSC said: “There was persuasive evidence to argue sufficient justification, but the Commissioner would not expect widespread installation of CCTV in taxis without well evidenced justifications.”

CCTV in taxis that records audio, as well as video, was also seen as “extremely intrusive and requires strong justification” by the CSC. There were also concerns for taxi drivers using the vehicle for their own private use too.

The CSC went on to state it would expect there to be a facility to switch off recording, but also in addition there must be clear policies and procedures in place regarding how the CCTV system is used and who can access the footage it records.


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