Uber Licence Cancelled in London

Transport for London (TfL) and Mayor Sadiq Khan are terminating Uber’s license to operate in London after deciding they are not a “fit and proper” organisation to run such a service. This cancellation is after a two-month extension to the license to allow a new application to be submitted and previous legal action by Uber. Uber intends to appeal the decision and can continue to operate in the meantime (for the next 21 days only from the 25th November).

Uber provides a service valued by many people in London, and termination would put over 40,000 drivers who operate the service out of a job, many of whom are from immigrant backgrounds. However there are alternative “app” based services as well as traditional black cabs and other phone booking based PHV (mini-cab) services.

The exact reasons for termination seem somewhat trivial as given in the TfL press release – see below. It includes technical glitches in the Uber software that allowed drivers to upload photos to other drivers accounts and hence operate as them. However there is no evidence provided of any harm to passengers that resulted. Such technical issues should be easy to fix.

One has to question whether TfL are attacking Uber, and will attack other operators similarly, purely on the grounds that they are unhappy with the number of PHV vehicles that are now on the streets of London.

Comment: This writer occasionally uses Uber and I have always been happy with the service. I think there will be a lot of irate customers as well as Uber drivers if this decision is allowed to stand. But it will no doubt please their competitors.

TfL Press Release on Uber: https://tinyurl.com/wt47lqv

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More Uber Competition and Scooter Mania in Paris

We reported last month on the launch of Uber competitor Kapten in London. But there is now another called Bolt (formerly called Taxify) that has just launched. The company is backed by SoftBank and claims that it will offer lower fares to passengers and better pay for drivers. More competition might well help consumers of such services but it will no doubt contribute to the traffic congestion in London.

Another likely competitor is Ola who are in discussions with TfL over a licence. Surely what we need is an App that tells us which service is the cheapest, or which will get the driver to us soonest. Now there’s a business idea for someone to take up!

Go to https://bolt.eu/en-gb/ for information on the Bolt service.

Meanwhile in Paris electric scooters are all the rage, but there are many complaints about their use on pavements and about them being abandoned all over the place (several companies offer low cost rentals). The French call them “trottinette”. They are as much a danger to pedestrians as cyclists on pavements as they can go at very fast speeds and are silent. At least one death has been reported.

But they are also dangerous for users. The death of a scooter user was reported yesterday after being hit by a truck.

Paris is looking at regulating their use, but surely we also need such regulations in London?

Roger Lawson

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Uber Competitor Kapten Launches in London

Uber

Even those of us who own a car occasionally use Uber, other PHV (minicab) services or conventional taxis. Uber has become the dominant player by not just having a slick service with low charges but by spending a lot on promotion. Indeed they have been very successful at consistently losing money despite avoiding local taxes and they still managed to recently list the company on the stock market at a valuation of US$82 billion!

Lyft is one competitor they have in the USA, but there is another one launched in the UK named Kapten (see www.kapten.com/uk ). This is a French company backed by Daimler and BMW. One of their advertising themes seems to emphasise that they will be paying VAT in the UK, unlike Uber, but is that a good idea when that surely means customers will be paying more as a result? But Kapten is still claiming to be cheaper than competitors and they are offering some 50% discounts to attract initial business.

They are also looking for drivers to support the new service with some promotional offerings.

So far as users of such services are concerned, having more competitors, and having services where the supplier loses money doing so can’t be bad for the consumers. So we salute Kapten for wanting to join the traffic jams in central London.

Roger Lawson

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Legal Action Against Mayor by Minicab Drivers

PHV (Minicab) drivers are incensed by the recent steps by the Mayor of London and TfL to make them pay the London Congestion Charge while licensed taxis will continue to receive an exemption. That and the proposed ULEZ charges will threaten the livelihoods of minicab drivers who are relatively poorly paid already. Many will have to give up and end up out of work.

They are supported by the Independent Works Union and have issued a “pre-action” letter to Mayor Sadiq Khan, prior to the launch of a judicial review.

They are also claiming that as most minicab drivers are BAME (black, coloured or from ethnic minorities) while most taxi drivers are white, this is indirect discrimination.

Comment: Such drivers are certainly incensed by this proposed change as I saw at a recent meeting I attended (see https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2019/02/12/cab-driver-protests-escalating/ ). There does not seem to be any rational reason for treating one set of cab drivers different to another, particularly as the likely impact on the number of PHV drivers in central London is not forecast to change much, which was the justification for the change. It will of course affect some drivers much more than others.

I wish them the best of luck with a judicial review although these are not easy legal proceedings (I have been involved in more than one), and depend on a lot more than the moral arguments.

Could it perhaps be about money rather than traffic congestion, or principles?

Roger Lawson

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Mayor’s Dubious Gesture and Taxi Age Consultation

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has announced more money for his “scrap for cash” fund. Previously this trade-in scheme for older more polluting vehicles had funds allocated of £25 million but it’s now £48 million. This is particularly designed to help small business owners to replace vans and to help “low-income Londoners scrap older cars”, i.e. the vast majority of vehicle owners will not be eligible.

However, details of the additional scrappage scheme won’t be available until later in the year, despite the fact that the central zone ULEZ commences in April. Details of even the first scheme for vans do not seem to be available from TfL. In reality the amount of money being offered will not cover the vast majority of costs incurred by people in replacing cars and vans, so this looks like a token gesture.

The Mayor did of course promote this scheme at a recent Clean Air Summit meeting where he had children support his actions in the audience. Likewise at a recent London Assembly Committee meeting. They had clearly been well-rehearsed by their teachers. Some of these children came from Henry Maynard Primary in Walthamstow. If you think it is wrong for uneducated children to be used to promote dubious policies which are primarily aimed at raising taxes rather than solving real air pollution issues, you could contact the school here: http://www.henrymaynardprimary.co.uk/contact-details/

The Mayor is a serial offender in using children to support his political campaigning as the ABD has covered previously. Does he have no ethics?

The Mayor has also launched a public consultation on changes to the age limits of taxis – see https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/tph/taxi-age-limits/?cid=taxi-age-limit . Older diesel taxis are undoubtedly some of the most polluting vehicles in central London, but will his changes actually have an impact on pollution? There is a very long phase in time which means that the taxi vehicle fleet might change substantially anyway. There is also still only one electric charging point for taxis in central London so any taxi owner would be unlikely to move to an electric vehicle until that issue is resolved.

Note that these proposals replace previous ones that have not worked. As the Consultation says: “in spite of previous steps to reduce taxi emissions, the required reduction in emissions has not been achieved”. But there is no clear estimate provided of the impact of the new proposed measures on air pollution. And as usual with TfL consultations of late, no cost/benefit justification provided as there should be.

Roger Lawson

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More Tax Raising by Sadiq Khan – Changes to the Congestion Charge

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has decided to proceed with his proposed changes to the London Congestion Charge (a.k.a. Tax). Private hire vehicles (PHVs – minicabs including Uber vehicles) will no longer be exempt from the Charge from April 2019.

This change is justified on the basis that congestion will be reduced after the number of vehicles, particularly PHVs has increased substantially in recent years. Now only 50% of vehicles entering the central zone pay the Charge. But how much will the number of vehicles be reduced – about 1% according to TfL.

The fact that taxis (registered black cabs) will continue to be exempt but PHVs will not be is a most peculiar anomaly. A legal challenge may well be mounted over that issue. But taxi drivers are also unhappy with the latest announcement because the Mayor is going to limit the age of such vehicles to 12 years when the current maximum is 15 years.

Another change is that the Ultra Low Emission Discount (ULED) from the Congestion Charge for low emission vehicles is being scrapped and replaced by a new Cleaner Vehicle Discount (CVD). The latter discount will only be available to zero emission (i.e. electric vehicles) from 2021 to 2025 after which no discounts at all will apply.

These changes are going to mean substantial extra revenue to the Mayor and TfL and are surely more about tax raising than the claimed objectives. These changes are simply irrational and will have no impact on either air pollution or congestion in central London.

The ABD has pointed out before that the London Congestion Charge is a totally ineffective solution to traffic congestion and has just turned into a revenue raising scam. See https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/congestion.htm

The ABD, along with many other organisations, submitted objections to the changes which have simply been ignored. See this web page for a more details and a link to the consultation responses: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/policy/private-hire-charge-exemption/

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City of London Becomes Paranoid – It’s 15MPH Everywhere

The City of London Corporation, who govern the square mile, have published their proposed Transport Strategy. It is surely one of the most paranoid attacks on all forms of transport vehicles ever proposed. It includes the following proposals:

  • A City-wide speed limit for all vehicles of 15 mph, with Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA) being used in all buses and public service vehicles to enforce it.
  • Priority given to pedestrians, even over cyclists, in most of the City’s streets.
  • Encouraging the Mayor of London to implement a central London zero emission vehicle zone, or if he does not doing it themselves for the City, i.e. only electric vehicles would be permitted.
  • Reducing vehicular traffic by 25% by 2025.
  • Expanding the City’s cycle network with wider cycle lanes.

As I said in my previous report on consultation meetings for the development of the Transport Strategy: “The road network will be degraded in the alleged interests of cyclists, pedestrians and environmental dogma”. See https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2018/07/01/degrading-the-road-network-in-the-city-of-london/ . One of the “key themes” that the Corporations officers say came out of these events were that motor traffic levels on the City’s streets are too high. That’s not how I recall the meetings. There were more concerns expressed about dangerous cycling than road traffic. There was of course no mention of a wide-area 15 mph speed limit in any of their consultations or meetings.

Bearing in mind that the vast majority of City workers do walk to work from main line or underground stations, and that some locations are overcrowded, improvement in pedestrian facilities does make some sense. But ignoring the needs of vehicle users is wrong. Very few people drive in the City unless they need to. The City is even going to discourage taxis and PHVs and it is going to work with TfL to reduce the number of buses. Likewise there are proposals to reduce the number of service and delivery vehicles in the square mile.

The proposed 15 mph speed limit is surely not going to be complied with, and that applies to pedal cyclists as much as vehicle drivers. It is very difficult to drive a car at 15 mph or less consistently if for no other reason than vehicle speedometers are not accurate or easy to read at very low levels. The only reason it might be complied with is because of traffic congestion which reduces vehicle speeds already to below that level for much of the time. But I would also question whether such a limit is legally enforceable. Signs to indicate that limit would be required but there are no legally approved signs of that nature (only 20, 30 etc.). Driving vehicles at less than 15 mph will of course increase air pollution so it’s also contradictory to their other transport policies.

The City Corporation will be undertaking a public consultation on their Transport Strategy in November. Readers are encouraged to respond to it. You can read the draft Transport Strategy document here: http://democracy.cityoflondon.gov.uk/documents/s102969/Draft%20TS%20Local%20Plan%20Sub%20091018%20combined.pdf

In the meantime, the City’s Planning and Transport Committee confirmed that the closure of Bank junction will be made permanent despite that fact that numerous vehicle drivers are clearly not aware of the restriction and collect a fine from driving through it.

Roger Lawson

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