The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Taxis welcomed the independent DfT report calling for new legislation to safeguard passengers and cap the rapid growth of private hire vehicles in the UK’s cities last week.
The wide-reaching changes were proposed by Task and Finish Group Chair Professor Mohammed Abdel-Haq, and supported by the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, taxi apps including Gett and mytaxi, manufacturer LEVC and regulators Transport for London.
On the subject of the recommendations proposed, Helen Chapman, Director of Licensing, Regulation & Charging at Transport for London said:
“Transport for London (TfL) is the largest taxi and private hire licensing authority in England with almost a quarter of a million taxi and private hire licensees. In London, like many parts of the rest of the UK and globally, we have seen significant change in the taxi and private hire sector in recent years which we anticipate will continue to change in line with consumer needs.
“Regulation is required to ensure the safety of passengers engaging with taxi and private hire services but it is right that this regulation is reviewed and modernised to reflect the modern world and the changing needs of passengers.
“On behalf of the Mayor of London and TfL I am grateful for the opportunity to have formed part of the Department for Transport Working Group. It has been a worthwhile and rewarding experience to work as part of a group looking at regulatory practices to meet the needs of a changing world while remaining focussed on passenger safety and convenience. I would like to thank the Chair for his efforts in navigating a course through the often strongly held views of the Group and invited guests to produce a report of real substance with the safety of passengers at its heart.
“We agree wholeheartedly with many of the recommendations put forward by the report which, if adopted, will deliver fundamental improvements in public safety and improvements in delivering a world class two tier taxi and private hire service. Many of these recommendations for primary legislative change have previously been raised by the Mayor and TfL and, indeed, many London based taxi and private hire stakeholders and we are delighted to have these views shared by the Chair of the Working Group.
“Proposals within the report, in particular a solution to address the common practice referred to as cross border hiring, national minimum standards, national enforcement capabilities and statutory definitions to define the two tier system will produce a model of licensing and regulation that helps to enhance passenger safety and is not only fit for today but is also future-proofed and flexible to meet the changing demands of passengers.
“We remain ready to support Government in implementing these recommendations, particularly those that require national legislation. As the largest licensing authority we can provide expert support and guidance to any panels that are formed to take forward these sensible recommendations.
“We would like to comment on a number of recommendations from a TfL perspective:
“We strongly support the introduction of national minimum standards and that these minimum standards should be set at a high level for safety.
“We would like to thank the Chair for the common sense approach in recommending that licensing authorities can go further than the minimum, where required, to meet local needs. This is particular important in London to retain the ability to set standards to meet air quality challenges and to continue to deliver the Knowledge of London for taxi drivers.
“The two tier system has worked well in London for many years and London’s taxis are frequently voted the best in the world. Recommending a statutory definition for plying for hire and pre-booked services is sensible and long overdue. We would like to formally register our interest in joining the panel of regulatory experts to help draft appropriate definitions.
“We welcome the Chairs recommendation to allow local licensing authorities to set a cap on the number of taxi and private hire vehicles. The growing number of private hire vehicles in the capital is causing significant challenges in tackling congestion, air quality and appropriate parking controls. However, we note and strongly agree that there should be a proven need to set a cap by having a public interest test so monopolies cannot be formed. Once again, we remain ready to assist Government in defining an appropriate public interest test.
“Cross border hiring has been commonplace in the industry for many years but with the introduction of app based services in the industry and the expansion in the number of private hire drivers and vehicles, it requires an urgent solution so as not to undermine public safety and confidence in using private hire services. TfL explored this issue in detail and in February 2018 we published a detailed policy paper with proposals to address this issue. The paper was presented to the Working Group and we are delighted to see this is being taken forward as one of the key recommendations for change.
“As a licensing authority our role is to assess the fitness of an applicant rather than to train them to be fit. However, for some authorities they may wish to provide this training above and beyond the minimum standard and this flexibility could be accommodated.
“All taxis in London are Wheelchair Accessible and we recognise the need to enhance the provision for Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles in the private hire fleet. However, this recommendation, as written, will be difficult to achieve as vehicles are licensed separately to private hire operators and therefore it isn’t easy to introduce a minimum quota of wheelchair accessible vehicles.
“We look forward to working with the Government to see these recommendations brought forward and ensure a modern, sustainable and two-tier taxi and private hire system for the future.”