Over the past twelve months attention has been growing to the ongoing dispute between the black cab trade and the emergence of app-based companies such as Uber. During this time Transport for London (TfL) and the High Court have been seeking clarification on the legal position of these companies, and regardless of your respective view on Uber, the arguments put forward on both sides of the debate highlight that taxi and ‘private hire vehicle’ (PHV) legislation is, on the whole, out of date and overly complex.
This is something I discussed with a number of local LTDA drivers at one of my surgeries at the beginning of December, and I appreciate many of the concerns the industry has. These are, in short, that there is a lack of enforcement from TfL as a regulatory body; that public protection is being put in jeopardy due to insufficient security checks on drivers; and that a more level playing field is needed in order to allow black cabs to compete.
This is something I have been looking into for some time, and following the Taxi and Private Hire Services report the GLA published at the end of 2014, contacted the Mayor’s office about. I was pleased to see that two new action plans were announced on the back on the report. The Taxi Rank Action Plan which, among other things, sets out a strategy to expand the network of 500 taxi ranks TfL has already appointed, and the Suburban Action Plan which is exploring the possibility of creating more island ranks like those available at Finsbury Park and Garrett Lane.
TfL have recognised that further problems exist, and recently conducted an open consultation on a number of important proposals to change PHV regulations. Further details of the consultation, which closed on 23 December, can be found through the link below:
Working alongside Eleanor Laing, Stephen Metcalfe and Charles Walker – other Conservative MPs who represent a large number of LTDA drivers – we have jointly written to Mike Brown, the Commissioner of TfL, and submitted a response to the consultation, setting out our concerns on the regulatory framework of the PHV trade. I attach a copy of our response to the consultation below.
In our letter to Mr Brown, we made it very clear that without a cap on the number of new Private Hire Licences being granted, any changes to the regulatory scheme are likely to be of limited effect in achieving the stated aims of the consultation. I discussed the need for a cap with the Mayor’s office last year, and I am aware that it is a matter the GLA is actively seeking to address.
Whilst fair competition should be welcomed in any industry, I do have concerns about the business models used by companies like Uber, particularly around surge pricing, e-hailing and their insurance practices. I hope that the proposals in the consultation will overcome these problems, and will of course continue to push for changes to the PHV regulations to ensure fairness for drivers and a safe, reliable service for passengers in London.