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REVEALED: TfL concern as over 300 Wolverhampton licensed PHV drivers ‘undermine key objectives’

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

Transport for London (TfL) contacted the Government after concerns over 300 Wolverhampton licensed private hire drivers living in the capital ‘actively undermining key objectives for TfL’.

In a revealing letter from Helen Chapman, TfL’s Director for Licensing & Regulation, addressed to the Department for Transport (DfT), it sheds light on concerns around cross-border licensing practices and their potential impact on public safety.

The letter, obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, highlights the issue of drivers and operators obtaining licences from other authorities to circumvent London's licensing requirements.

The letter acknowledges that the City of Wolverhampton Council has emerged as the second largest licensing authority in the country, with over 300 drivers licensed by Wolverhampton being residents of London. It also notes that several London-based private hire (PH) operators have obtained licenses from Wolverhampton and other authorities, raising serious questions about compliance and public safety implications.

TfL expresses concerns that this activity is an attempt to evade London's stringent licensing standards and compliance measures. TfL are concerned that these drivers and vehicles may undermine key objectives such as reducing congestion, improving air quality, and achieving Vision Zero goals for road safety.

The ongoing concerns nationwide have triggered discussions about the need for comprehensive legislation to ensure consistent standards and promote public safety across different licensing jurisdictions. The Department for Transport are likely to face continued pressure to address the concerns and work towards a long-term solution that prioritises passenger safety and fair competition within the taxi and private hire industry.

It was revealed via a Freedom of Information (FOI), that a letter from Transport for London (TfL) was sent to the Department for Transport (DfT). The letter from Helen Chapman, TfL Director for Licensing & Regulation, said: “We understand that behind London, the City of Wolverhampton Council is now the second largest licensing authority in the country. We also understand that more than 300 drivers licensed by Wolverhampton are London residents. We are also aware of several London-based PH operators having obtained PH operator licences from other authorities, including Wolverhampton.

“We are concerned that this activity is an attempt to avoid London's licensing requirements and compliance activity and are concerned about the public safety implications of this practice. Furthermore, drivers and vehicles which do not conform to our licensing standards are actively undermining key objectives for TfL including cleaning London's air, reducing congestion and delivering our Vision Zero ambitions.

“The difference in licensing requirements is also leading to unfair competition for London licensed drivers, distorting the market and creating perverse incentives for licensees to seek out lower, easier to meet standards in authorities elsewhere.

“We have written to Wolverhampton Council to request shared powers under the DfT's Statutory Standards and to request that they urgently undertake joint compliance activity in London. However, we do not consider this is a permanent solution as it is unlikely Wolverhampton (and other authorities) have the resources available to provide a permanent 24/7 compliance presence in London.

“Unfortunately, without the necessary primary legislation, the root cause of this issue will remain and the risk to passenger safety will increase.

“We note that the Welsh government has recently consulted on introducing a legislative solution to cross-border-hiring between England and Wales. We maintain that legislation requiring a journey to start or finish in the licensing area that the three entities (operator, driver and vehicle) are licensed, would eliminate the issues highlighted in this letter.”


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