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ONE-TIER INDUSTRY: Think tank calls for London Knowledge to be scrapped and minicabs to Ply-for-Hire

Updated: Dec 30, 2022

A new think tank report has called for the Knowledge of London to be scrapped and minicabs to be allowed to ply-for-hire picking up the public from the streets.

The new report called A Fare Shake: Reforming Taxis for the 21st Century, was published by the Adam Smith Institute (ASI). It argues that the Government should move to overhaul current taxi cab legislation, creating a more dynamic sector to better serve the requirements of the public.

The report suggests drivers and operators should have a clearer, more liberal licensing system, which would provide users unprecedented choice at lower costs, better safety, and higher quality.

Report author, Maxwell Marlow, makes the economic case for streamlining licensing rules. Taxis, Private Hire Vehicles (PHV) and ride-hail suppliers are seen as critical to rebuilding the economy after the pandemic. Personnel Today has found that 40% of people want to use PHVs for their work commute, whilst the hospitality and night-time sectors will benefit from greater consumption of goods and services consumed either side of the rides.

The paper also highlights the need to end the ‘preferential treatment’ of taxis, which is said to be currently taking place at the expense of PHVs and ride-hail providers.

The report recommends the following policies:

  1. Eliminate wasteful duplication and regressive licensing by creating a single, standard licensing regime, enforced by a national licencing authority.

  2. Abolish the ‘Knowledge’ advanced topographical tests, which have become unnecessary due to the advent of reliable GPS and digital maps.

  3. Permit PHVs to be hailed from the pavement and allow all licenced point-to-point operators to use bus lanes in order to make transport fairer.

  4. Support more Paratransit Light Vehicles. These are higher capacity vehicles which run regular services along high-demand routes and which can be summoned by a customer.

  5. Allow drivers nationwide to claim the cost of passenger-facing CCTV back against tax and encourage the use of online safety kits to improve standards of safety.

  6. Offer incentives for taxi and PHV drivers to switch to green vehicles through offering discounts on green vehicles, and raising capital through a Green Taxis and PHVs Fund to subsidise faster transition away from combustion engines.

Maxwell Marlow, report author and Development and Research Officer at the Adam Smith Institute, said: “Britain operates critical services on last millennium’s laws. It’s time to put the brakes on special interests, who inflate costs and gate-keep with the antiquated and defunct ‘Knowledge’, and give consumers more choice. We need to simplify our licensing system, making it more fair and transparent, whilst ensuring that our fleets are greener, safer, and more efficient than before. The report contains a myriad of policies to give Britons the freedom to travel that they deserve, turbocharge the economy and relieve the cost-of-living crisis for many along the way.”

Greg Smith MP for Buckingham and Transport Select Committee Member, said: “Reform of the taxi and PHV market is long overdue. The revolution in consumer choice that services like Uber brought needs to be matched with the way the State sees taxi services, and I welcome the ASI’s recommendations in this regard. We need to embrace deregulation for better and cheaper choices for all.”

Steve McNamara, General Secretary, Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), was totally against the controversial one tier ideas.

McNamara told The Sun: “This report seems to advocate for a race to bottom, which would undermine the quality of the important service licensed taxis provide and seriously jeopardise passenger safety.

“A satnav is no substitute for a professional driver’s knowledge and experience, especially in a busy, ever-evolving city like ours.”


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