Is Khan Trying to Kill the Private Hire Industry?

Gareth Bacon, leader of the Conservatives in the London Assembly, has published a revealing article on the policies of Mayor Sadiq Khan under the headline “Is Khan trying to kill the private hire industry – or is he just incompetent”. It suggests that Khan is pursuing short term flashy policy gimmicks but he is hampered by his election promise to freeze public transport fares. This means he is “scrambling around to make savings and raise money”. One victim of this is the private hire (minicab) industry where proposed increases in license fees are astronomical. This could force hundreds of mid-size PHV operators out of business.

The costs for larger operators such as Uber will rise enormously – as much as 102,500 per cent the article suggests. That’s assuming they even manage to retain their license which is under threat.

The recently published Mayor’s Transport Strategy indicates he wants us all to walk, cycle or use public transport as it’s more “healthy” than getting in a car or PHV. So his tactics are certainly consistent if nothing else. He not just wants you to stop owning and driving a car, he wants you to stop using private hire vehicles and taxis also no doubt.

But like all good politicians, he is not proposing a simple ban, but attacking them indirectly by raising their costs and getting tough on licensing conditions.

The full article is here and it’s well worth reading:

https://www.conservativehome.com/localgovernment/2017/11/gareth-bacon-is-mayor-khan-trying-to-kill-the-private-hire-industry-or-is-he-just-incompetent.html

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Uber Kicked Out of London

Transport for London (TfL) have announced that Uber’s licence to operate in London will not be renewed. That means their service will terminate in a few weeks and 40,000 drivers will be put out of work. There are as many as 3.5 million Uber users in London and a petition to reverse the decision has already been established on Change.org which has collected 450,000 signatures in about 24 hours – see https://www.change.org/p/save-your-uber-in-london-saveyouruber

TfL, supported by Mayor Sadiq Khan, claim Uber is not a fit and proper organisation to hold a license due to its failure to report incidents, failures on vetting drivers and other grounds. Uber have 21 days in which to appeal, and no doubt there will be a legal challenge as well if TfL do not back down.

TfL previously announced that license fees for Uber to operate in London will rise from £3,000 to £3 million for a 5-year license, so it is clear that the Mayor is attacking Uber via more than one channel. Why is he doing this? It is clear from the Mayor’s recently published Transport Strategy (see http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm ) that Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs) such as Uber operate are contributing to traffic congestion in London in a big way. But it is also clear that the Mayor objects to all private vehicles whether you drive them or someone else drives them for you.

Are there alternatives to Uber? Lyft is a big similar operator in the USA but does not operate in London yet. Taxify launched in London recently but then had to suspend operations after TfL queried its license. There is a service called Hailo that operates to call conventional taxis (don’t bother trying to use it in outer London though in my experience), and numerous local PHV operators plus larger operators such as Addison Lee who have a ride hailing app.

Comment: I am not totally convinced that the allegations against Uber are serious enough to warrant refusal of a license. Perhaps Uber should up its game in several areas, but is it any worse than other PHV operators? As a relatively new service, with lots of new drivers, there are likely to be some teething problems. Other penalties could surely have been considered. For example, a grant of a new license for a limited period on certain conditions being met.

I have used Uber a few times and the service is both efficient and low cost (Uber loses money in a big way I understand). For example, I called Uber recently to take my wife home at 3.00 am in the morning from an outer London hospital. The driver arrived in about 3 minutes. Great service at very reasonable cost.

Many people will see this act by the Mayor for what it is. A simple attack on a service that the Mayor and those in TfL would like to put out of business so that people have to walk, cycle or use public transport (i.e. use many less safe alternatives) if you read his Transport Strategy. That is why the ABD is so opposed to it.

It is true that the number of PHVs is contributing to traffic congestion, but there are other ways to ration their numbers and usage (e.g. on price).

I recommend that you sign the petition, as I shall be doing.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.

ABD Response to Mayor’s Transport Strategy

The Alliance of British Drivers has published its formal response to the public consultation on the Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS).

The Mayor’s proposals are completely distorted because he does not seem to understand what roads are for. This is our answer to the first question posed in the consultation: “It states on page 11 that “London’s streets should be for active travel and social interaction….”. This is nonsense. Streets are built and maintained at great public expense to provide an efficient and cost effective transport system for people and goods. If people need exercise, or social interaction, there are many other ways they can obtain that without taking up scarce road space. The priority should be on providing a transport network in London that meets the business needs and preferences of the public. It should not be distorted to meet other objectives.”

The full document is present here: ABD-Response. It’s well worth reading.

The MTS has a very heavy emphasis on environmental issues and one useful contribution on the debate about air pollution in London and how to tackle it has recently been published by the GLA Conservatives. It is present here: Clearing-the-Air . It shows there are good alternatives to the Mayor’s proposals which would not put such a heavy financial burden on London’s residents and businesses.

You can already see the impact of some of the Mayor’s policies in the news from TfL that license fees for Uber to operate in London will rise from £3,000 to £3 million for a 5-year license!

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.

Uber Wins Judicial Review

The Judicial Review of the law on taxi metering has resulted in an initial victory for Uber. In the High Court Mr Justice Ouseley ruled that the smartphone app used in Uber vehicles cannot be consider a taxi meter. Only black cabs are legally allowed to operate taxi meters and both the drivers of such vehicles and operators of conventionally booked Private Hire Vehicles were none too pleased with the result. They may appeal although to some extent this result may be overtaken by the consultation currently being undertaken by the Major on the regulations applied to all vehicles for hire.

See https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/tph/private-hire-proposals if you wish to respond to the Mayor’s consultation.

This writer understands perfectly the feelings of taxi drivers. Their working conditions have been made a lot more difficult in recent years by numerous road closures, restrictions on parking/stopping, slowing of traffic by larger number of cyclists and buses on the roads, removal of road space and increased traffic congestion – the latter of course often caused by TfL and local borough policies and the increase in PHV numbers.

Their costs have been going up and the Mayor is requiring new zero emission vehicles to be used in the near future.

Their original monopoly on their client’s ability to hail cabs quickly and easily is being undermined by new technology and their key qualification and training – the “knowledge” – has been made redundant by SatNav systems.

The world has been changing rapidly in terms of vehicle technology but black cab drivers have resisted change and continue to do so. They surely need to embrace new technology rather than oppose it.

One key question that needs to be faced, but has not been, is whether there should be any restriction on the number of taxis or PHV vehicles in London. It is not clear to me that there should be. Not many other markets have artificial restrictions on supply, although one might argue that with limited road space the numbers should be limited (for example by rationing on price the number who are willing to pay for a license). But that is congestion charging in effect and might inconvenience the public who uses taxis.

A lot more thought and research into how other countries manage taxi operations is surely required, whereas the consultation we have at present seems focussed on minor tinkering to preserve the status quo.

Roger Lawson