back to article Transport for London to toughen up on taxi firms in the Uber age

Private-hire cab firms that want to operate in the UK capital will have to demonstrate how they protect riders' safety and data – and may still only get short-term licences, Transport for London has said. Under new rules proposed by TfL, private-hire firms will have to specify who is accountable for passenger and driver safety …

  1. Tigra 07 Silver badge
    Flame

    TFL is just a lobby group for Black Cab drivers. They were complaining earlier in the week that electric cars and self driving cars would destroy their revenue and should be restricted.

    Alternative idea - get rid of TFL since it's first priority is protecting it's revenue stream and not transport.

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      TfL may have many failings as an organisation, but if you stray outside London and experience the byzantine complexity of multi-operator ticketing and uncoordinated routes you will appreciate that London simply could not function without it.

      It also one of the few major public transport providers that is now expected to operate without a subsidy (major infrastructure projects excepted).

      And despite having to promote the "iconic black cab" to the tourists, I suspect they would rather they weren't occupying the bus lanes...

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "It also one of the few major public transport providers that is now expected to operate without a subsidy (major infrastructure projects excepted)."

        That's a pretty big exception. Every time infrastructure subsidy in the north is mentioned it seems to be because another cut is being reported in what's promised (but not delivered).

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I've alway assumed that Black Cabs charging £9 for a one mile journey were there to fleece the gullble so subsidies wern't needed.

      3. Jove Bronze badge

        TfL is fully capable, as per it's own admission and targets, of providing service without subsidy from Central Government.

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Apparently there is an electric black cab, there may even be several, and according to this link, TfL is already insisting that new taxis from now must be "zero emission capable". This one has "a small back-up petrol generator" to back up the battery power. The battery is zero emission, presumably.

      http://www.theelectrictaxi.co.uk/2017/12/05/all-hail-the-new-tx-ecity-london-taxi/

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        EV Black Cab

        "Apparently there is an electric black cab"

        Check out the review on "The Fully Charged Show" on YouTube. Robert Llewellyn's online EV and renewable power show.

    3. Jove Bronze badge

      There is clearly a problem around the hackney cab side of the business, but that can readily be cleaned up.

      Perhaps TfL should require black-cabs to accept OysterCards - that might make them a little more attractive.

    4. TheBorg

      What tosh !

      TFL are there to license and protect the public who use these services. Without them you would be back to the old days of dodgy mini cabs with drivers that have criminal records .... oh wait a minute... that's UBER and the mini cab companies isn't it :)

      Black cabs are the most regulated - and the most professional in the world

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "drivers that have criminal records"

        You mean people like John Worboys?

        https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck/factcheck-are-black-cabs-safer-than-ubers

        Black Cabs are one of the last City of London Guilds with arcane entry conditions which exert control over a much larger extent of Greater London than they should. TFL would do itself a tremendous favour if it restricted them to the square mile.

        In any case in the longer term autonomous vehicles are the disruptive factor that noone seems to want to talk about with the potential to replace _both_ busses and taxis with 6-8 seater vehicles that are flexible enough to handle peak and offpeak requirements (the ability to peform entraining for peaks with pods breaking out for individual stops is a game changer)

        I'd have more respect for black cabbies if they weren't generally assholes to other road users AND customers. If they want to keep their privileges then they need to do a better job of self-policing and removing drivers who don't conform to licensing conditions (especially refusing fares for invalid reasons) and don't drive safely. Passing the "knowledge" seems to be regarded as a substitute for a number of other essential skills.

      2. Clunking Fist Bronze badge

        Admittedly I haven't lived there for a while, but I found they refused fares arbitrarily, only accepted cash, and gave you handfuls of black chits when you asked for a receipt. But other than that, they are professional. I do like the Tardis-like interior: much better than any "car".

    5. Stu Mac

      It certainly isn't about passenger and particularly lady passenger safety. If it was only drivers who can provide a believable security vet would be driving. So no Arabs, North Africans, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis etc etc. NONE of those countries head a working criminal justice system with lifetime identify and criminal record system.

      So basically women are now grist to the mill.

  2. wiggers

    It's all about control

    "the increasing number of journeys made by vehicles it doesn't control"

    How exactly does it intend to control where taxis go? Surely that's down to the passenger! And what about all the privately owned vehicles, not for hire, by far the majority of traffic in London? Seems a rather specious argument.

    The reporting to police business is a bit odd too. Surely it is the victim or witnesses who do the reporting, not the people who run an hailing app!

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: It's all about control

      Private hire journeys have gone up, a lot, tube journeys have gone down. That means a lot more traffic on the road, and also less money for TfL, so that's why they care.

    2. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: It's all about control

      Surely it is the victim or witnesses who do the reporting, not the people who run an hailing app!

      I have often thought about that anomaly and how the "app" operator should not really be involved until such time as the police come a-knocking.

      But please stop calling me Shirley.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: It's all about control

        I think the argument is that the app provider should usefully, therefore compulsorily, receive complaints about drivers and some of these should be passed on to police. These may be not all obvious initially, e.g. a lost property report escalated to stolen property.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's all about control

        The Black Cab Rapist John Worboys was convicted in 2009 for attacks on 12 women. Police believe that he may have had more than one hundred victims. I don't recall TFL reporting the 12 let alone the other 88 plus.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It's all about control

          If you'd actually listened to that story you'd have heard that offences were reported by the victims to the police and it was the police who decided that black cab drivers don't commit such crimes and ignored the complaints.

          The disgrace and shame falls on the Metropolitan police not TFL.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It's all about control

            "If you had actually listened to the story..."

            A number of the assults were reported to the police over the years who failed to link them together till they got one very sold witness. Of course if it had been now and Uber there would have been a nice electronic trail leading back to the driver, so it wouldn't have happened. Despite Black Cab drivers having their number on display, they are very anonymous.

            1. Berny Stapleton

              Re: It's all about control

              > Of course if it had been now and Uber there would have been a nice electronic trail leading back to the driver

              But it seems that Uber is doing nothing except for contacting the victim and making sure they don't speak to the press, so while Uber might have had a digital trail of breadcrumbs they certainly don't appear to want to tell anyone.

            2. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: It's all about control

              "Despite Black Cab drivers having their number on display, they are very anonymous."

              That's why they seem to think they can get away with nearly anything - in general they do unless there's an inspector about. Not only are those few and far between but the cabbies rapidly inform each other when they're about instead of letting the bad cabbies get caught. (Hint, you only need to be afraid of a taxi licensing inspector hailing a ride if you have something to hide.)

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: It's all about control

      "The reporting to police business is a bit odd too. Surely it is the victim or witnesses who do the reporting, not the people who run an hailing app!"

      If the hire company gets a complaint from a passenger, they are supposed to track that sort of thing and discipline employees if there are lots or serious complaints. They may also need to report certain things to the police. If a woman is propositioned by a driver, that's creepy, but not really against the law. If she phoned up the police, they'd just tell her to get over it. If she were to be attacked and there were numerous complaints lodged against that driver, the company should be in a position of liability.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: It's all about control

        "If the hire company gets a complaint from a passenger, they are supposed to track that sort of thing and discipline employees"

        Unlike Minicabs - which _must_ be centrally booked and dispatched, the vast majority of black cabs are owner-operators or self-employed in a hire taxi with no tracking of who was taking what fare where.

        So, when someone complains about anything committed by a black cabbie, unless they have the taxi number AND the driver's ID, they're essentially untraceable.

  3. Lysenko

    Aha ... so TFL have been on a fact finding trip to Riyad...

    TfL also asked private-hire businesses to develop a way to allow passengers to choose who they share vehicles with – the example given is female-only cabs – before accepting a ride.

    ...and decided that Saudi Arabia was right all along. Sex segregated transport really is a public safety issue rather than repressive paternalism.

    It will be completely optional of course, just as mandating the fitment of seatbelts in 1972 gave you the option to use one. Obviously, no-one would consider making wearing seatbelts compulsory.

    1. John G Imrie Silver badge

      Re Seatbelts

      They should all be removed and a spike placed on the steering wheel pointing at the chest of the driver.

      1. Lysenko

        Re: Re Seatbelts

        They should all be removed and a spike placed on the steering wheel pointing at the chest of the driver.

        I was thinking of the standard H&S ratchet whereby anything optional introduced for "safety" reasons (seatbelts, ear defenders, breath masks, goggles, hard hats) has a tendency to become compulsory in a decade or so.

        For added fun, there's the challenge of trying to cook up a defensible argument for why "women only" is materially different to "heterosexuals only" or "Hindus only" or "deaf only" or any other discriminatory measure one might want to cook up. Women are a special case and are demonstrably unsafe in mixed sex environments you say? I refer to the point I made some moments ago. Welcome to Riyad.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Re Seatbelts

          "Women are a special case and are demonstrably unsafe in mixed sex environments you say?"

          If a woman were to request that any "shared" service be female only and the service agreed to do that, they should be allowed to back out because they want to. The first woman might not want to get out of the taxi in the neighborhood where the next pick up is being made. The taxi company can just charge a premium if they like. I wouldn't be all that comfortable to find the next stop is to pick up a bunch of "fares" from an over the top gay bar.

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Monitoring movement of traffic and people in the capital is a crucial part of TfL's work"

    The former, maybe. The latter? Well, it doesn't fit very well with those professed concerns for data protection.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wasn't Jonathan Worboys a...erm.. black cab driver and not a private hire ?

  6. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
    Holmes

    helping to reduce private car ownership

    Well, Uber (or any taxi/private hire firm would say that wouldn't they. No vested interest there, no siree bob, it's all about reducing private car ownership and pollution. What that you say about the huge increase in taxis/private hires, especially by the likes of Uber?

  7. The Nazz Silver badge

    One local council may have a slight problem.

    Last time i was on our Councils website, i came across* the list of registered private hire drivers.

    I kid you not, at the very end there was , ref. something like XY8939 - a horse, a frikkin horse, with a name , let's say Dobbin. Or Fred or something. Good look with that driver complying with the required reporting of alleged crimes.

    On the matter of horses and crimes, i'm reminded of a matter a few years back.

    Chesterfield Council employed a horse (and his cart) to ferry all the waste material, boxes and that away from the market. Multiple trips per day.

    At some point they had to sack the horse as it had taken to mugging the shoppers of their recently purchased carrots.

    Poor beast, no notice, no pay in lieu of notice, no 5 years pension payment, contract car, or golden bung to prevent spilling any "rotten" beans. So much for equality in council land.

  8. unwarranted triumphalism

    It's time that the taxi market was truly deregulated. Why should the black cab drivers have a monopoly on running over pedestrians?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No taxi plate required for that, just an entry form for Death Race 2000 and a points tally card.

      1. unwarranted triumphalism

        Otherwise known as a driving licence.

  9. anothercynic Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Bizarre calls for legislation

    It's lovely that TfL is starting to take safety seriously.

    But the Beeb also reports that TfL has a bizarre request for the government... national legislation to require journeys by private hire cabs to *both* start and end in the authority where they are licenced.

    It added it was also lobbying the government to introduce national legislation which would require taxi journeys to start and end in the area in which a driver and vehicle was licensed.

    So, all cabs operating in Oxfordshire would need to be licenced by the Oxford City Council, the Vale of White Horse, South Oxfordshire, Cherwell District Council... and, oh... Tf-bloody-L for those journeys to Heathrow.

    And this is supposed to solve the Uber problem how exactly?

    1. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Bizarre calls for legislation

      Just to follow up on this, the Beeb now reports a slightly different version:

      The mayor wants a change in the law so the journey has to start or end in the area the minicab is licensed. But at the moment, technology has again outpaced regulation.

      Now that makes a lot more sense. If you are registered in the lovely City of Dreaming Spires, the job you accept must either start there or end there, or both. But you shouldn't be able to take a job that goes (with Uber) from London to London even though you don't have a TfL licence. But there it *still* is a question as to how this resolves the current Uber problem.

      I want to play Uber driver, I'd get a licence from both my local authority *and* TfL... They have TfL-licensed vehicles all over the South of England and Wales (apparently Brighton is teeming with TfL-licensed cabs).

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