London proposes zero-emission capable taxi fleet

Transport for London (TfL) has launched a consultation on the proposed changes to taxi and private hire vehicle licensing ahead of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which will be introduced in central London in 2020.

The consultation contains two key proposals. The first proposal is that, from January 1, 2018, all newly licensed taxis and new Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs) must be Zero Emission Capable (ZEC), defined as pure electric or hybrid electric vehicles capable of running in zero emission mode for all or part of the time. The proposals will be supported by a £65m (US$101m) fund to ‘decommission’ the oldest vehicles from the fleet and encourage the take up of new vehicles that will make London’s taxi fleet the cleanest and greenest in the world. TfL is working with a number of manufacturers and is confident that ZEC taxis will be available for sale from 2017, well ahead of the proposed requirement in 2018.

The second proposal is to retain the existing 15 year age limit for all taxis and to encourage retirement of the oldest most polluting taxis through a voluntary decommissioning scheme. From 2017, drivers of taxis over 10 years old would be able to claim up to an additional £5,000 (US$7,800), with the precise amount depending on the age of their vehicle. This is intended to reflect the current challenges facing the trade, while tackling London’s air quality in the most effective and sustainable way‎. With the new proposals, the overall ULEZ package is projected to nearly halve emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) from vehicle exhausts in central London, equating to more than 80% of the area expected to meet the NO2 annual legal limits in 2020. The ULEZ would also lead to significant reduction in the number of people living in areas of poor air quality, where levels of NO2 exceed legal limits, by 72% in the city center and 54% London wide.

Garrett Emmerson, TfL’s chief operating officer for surface transport, said, “The service provided by the taxi and private hire trades is a core ingredient to London’s position as a world-leading city, and we are pleased to consult on this package of changes. The Ultra Low Emission Zone will deliver significant improvements to air quality in the capital and its effects will be felt ahead of 2020. Indeed, we believe the £65m fund will encourage the uptake of cleaner, greener taxis well ahead of the 2020 deadline.” The consultation will run until August 11.


Taxi driver sexually assaulted teenage girl as payment for fare

Taxi driver: Mark Smith said the woman could pay with ‘kisses and cuddles’.

A taxi driver who sexually assaulted a teenager as payment for her fare said he thought it was fine to do so because she had smiled at him.

Mark Smith was on his first shift when he drove the girl to a quiet rural road and groped her after telling her she could pay with “a kiss and a cuddle”.

Smith admitted he was then planning to overcharge the terrified girl for her fare in order to pocket the excess cash.

But the 18-year-old fled from his cab and hid in the bushes before reporting the incident to police.

Appearing at Perth Sheriff Court on Thursday, Smith was found guilty of the sex attack.

He was placed on the sex offenders register and sentence was deferred by Sheriff Valerie Johnston for the preparation of social background reports.

Smith told Perth Sheriff Court: “I initially said to the girl ‘don’t worry about counting your money, a kiss and a cuddle will do’. She smiled at me and certainly never refused in any way.

“I moved towards her without any sort of attack or threat and she never tried to push me away and never said anything, shouted anything or screamed anything.

“I moved my upper half, going in for a cuddle. I put my arm around her neck and put my hand on her right thigh. When she gave me the initial smile that was my signal that she was more than willing to give me a cuddle.

“That smile from her when I suggested a kiss and a cuddle suggested she was willing to consent. The intent was to take her home but she was out the car so quickly.

“It was just a moment of madness really. It was completely out of character. I don’t know what came across me. I fully accept that was the wrong thing to do.

“A taxi driver is meant to be responsible and get her home safely. If she hadn’t smiled there was no way I would have. That was the only reason I had gone towards her.”

Smith said the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had initially told him she might not have enough money to pay the fare back to her Perthshire home.

Smith said he estimated the fare at between £9 and £12 but said he planned to charge her £15 and would only declare £10 to his company, keeping the rest for himself.

The 40-year-old, who has a young family of his own, admitted he was old enough to be his victim’s father and said: “It’s had a major impact on my personal life.”

The court heard he lied repeatedly during a police interview and denied anything had happened until eventually breaking down and telling officers he had groped the girl in his cab.

Sheriff Johnston said: “Her reaction was dramatic. She hid in the bushes afterwards to keep out of his way. I do not accept there was any reasonable belief this girl consented.”



Rotherham taxi drivers warned demonstrations are ‘counter-productive’

Rotherham taxi drivers protested outside Rotherham Town Hall as council approves plans for tougher licensing laws. Taxi driver Raja Khan speaks to the gathered crowd.

Rotherham taxi drivers have been warned demonstrations against contentious new licensing laws designed to combat child sexual exploitation will prove ‘counter-productive’.

Council leader Chris Read said the new measures are designed to restore public confidence in the town’s taxi trade after it was implicated – along with the council and the police – in the grooming scandal.

It comes as unhappy drivers took action this week in a last-ditch bid to stop the currently-proposed measures, which include installing CCTV in all taxis, going through.

Coun Read said: “We need to ensure that the service is safe, and that members of the public are able to start rebuilding their trust and confidence in the local taxi industry.

“Any level of disruption to the public is therefore regrettable and likely to prove counter-productive in this regard.

“The new policy – developed after months of consultation – is an important step towards ensuring the highest standards.”

Mr Read’s comments come ahead of a meeting between council bosses and taxi drivers on Monday to discuss the ‘finer detail’ of the new policy as it comes into force.

Drivers will be expected to install CCTV in their vehicles and pass a ‘fit and proper’ person test, as well as meeting new standards on the condition and age of their vehicles.

Licence holders will need to have a BTEC qualification and a satisfactory level of English.

Rotherham Council say the measures will improve the reputation of the town’s taxi trade after it was linked to the grooming scandal.

The shake-up affecting 1,200 registered drivers comes after the Jay report revealed the ‘prominent role’ of Rotherham taxi drivers in the abuse of children, while the follow-up Casey inquiry said Rotherham Council needed to ‘get their house in order and regulate taxis effectively’ due to the ‘well-publicised link between taxis and child sexual exploitation in Rotherham that has cast a long shadow over the vast majority of law-abiding drivers’.

But more than 100 angry drivers protested outside Rotherham Town Hall earlier this week, with an informal strike involving dozens taking part in ‘go-slow’ drives through town.

Drivers say they are concerned at the potential costs of installing, maintaining and repairing the cameras, which the council say drivers should be able to hire for £5 per week or less.

Those protesting also claim they are being made ‘scapegoats’ for the grooming scandal.

Commissioner Mary Ney, who has responsibility for the council’s licensing function, said: “We have been having ongoing discussions with representatives of the trade throughout the process of drafting this new policy and have met all of their previous requests for meetings.

“We have made numerous changes in direct response to what they have told us, relating to the age and colour of vehicles for example, and we are due to meet with representatives again to discuss the finer detail of how we put the scheme in place.

“We have and will continue to listen to the views of taxi drivers – as well as all other sections of the community.


Met loses appeal against compensation ruling for John Worboys assault victims

Metropolitan police lose challenge to ruling that led to two women sexually assaulted by cab driver receiving payout totalling £41,250

The Metropolitan police have lost their challenge to a ruling that led to two women who were sexually assaulted by London cab driver John Worboys being awarded compensation totalling £41,250.

One of the women, identified only as DSD, was the first of Worboys’ victims to make a complaint to the Met in 2003; the other, NBV, contacted them after she was attacked in July 2007.

Between 2002 and 2008, Worboys, who was jailed for life in 2009, carried out more than 100 rapes and sexual assaults using alcohol and drugs on his victims.

In 2013, the high court ruled that the Met was liable to the women for failures in its investigation and said last year that DSD and NBV – who brought their claims under Article 3 of the Human Rights Act, which relates to inhuman or degrading treatment – should receive £22,250 and £19,000 respectively.

DSD alleged that she suffered a depressive disorder as a result of her treatment by officers during the 2003 investigation, while NBV claimed she suffered serious distress, anxiety, guilt and an exacerbation of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression because of her treatment during 2007.

In May, the Met’s counsel, Jeremy Johnson QC, told the court of appeal that the challenge related to points of principle and nothing, he said, was to detract from the bravery of the women, who would keep their damages whatever the outcome.

The judges dismissed both the Met’s appeal and a linked appeal against a high court decision that Greater Manchester police did not violate an assault victim’s human rights because of deficiencies in their investigation.

Johnson told the appeal court: “These women were attacked by a serial predatory sex offender. They did what all Londoners do: trust a black-cab driver to take them home safely. Each was drugged and sexually abused. Each took the courageous step, which most of the victims didn’t, of reporting the matter to the police. They had to relive what happened to them.

“In each case, my clients accept they were let down in that there were steps which could and should have been taken to investigate what happened to them, which were not taken. Neither of them or any of Worboys’ victims have any responsibility for what happened to them, or the fact he was not put behind bars earlier.

“We accept it is due to their bravery that he is serving an indeterminate sentence, and none of the submissions I make about the law is to detract from that.”

Johnson argued that the law did provide a remedy to claimants, but not that ordered by the high court. It allowed for a civil damages action and for a payment from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. DSD and NBV had each received compensation through these routes.

It also allowed for a complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which, in this case, resulted in officers being sanctioned and policy changes implemented.

But, what the law did not allow was a right of action for damages for errors in a police investigation, the counsel said.

On Tuesday, Lord Justice Laws, sitting with the master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, and Lord Justice Kitchin, said it was inescapable that the high court judge was right to find a violation of the article 3 investigative duty and, under the applicable legal principles, his conclusion on liability was inevitable.


Rossendale Scribbler: Council needs to solve why the Valley is hot spot for taxi drivers

There are many reasons to visit Rossendale. There’s the walking. The cycling. The steam railway. The Whitaker. And, it would seem, Rossendale appears to be a great place to register to be a taxi driver.

I’m not sure why, but I do know that it’s costing the council money to keep an eye on taxi drivers registered in Rossendale but working away from the area.

Rossendale has 1,200 licensed hackney carriages in total, for its population of 65,000.

In contrast, Bradford has just 222 hackney carriages, for a population of more than 500,000.

And that’s bothering people in Bradford, who can’t understand why drivers there come here to get their licence.

And there in lies a peculiar problem. Rossendale appears to be a popular place to come and get a taxi licence, but then go and work in lots of other places.

There’s nothing illegal about this as licensing legislation means that any council in the country can issue a taxi licence which can then be used anywhere in the country for pre-booked work.

It’s all a little odd.

Rossendale council’s licensing sub-committee meets remarkably regularly to deal with applications to become taxi drivers.

Members of the public don’t get to see what happens because it has to be dealt with in private.

Rossendale council then has an obligation to make sure it monitors those taxis – and that’s becoming an expensive business.

When councillors in Keighley, Yorkshire, kicked off at the number of Rossendale taxis working in their area, Rossendale council defended itself by insisting it did carry out lots of checks outside of Rossendale, including Keighley, Manchester and Bradford.

Such enforcement doesn’t come cheap – so I don’t have much sympathy for those taxi drivers protesting outside of Rossendale council last week over various licensing changes the council is proposing, including the introduction of an assumption that if you want a Rossendale taxi licence, you’ll be expected to work primarily in Rossendale too.

The council move follows criticism from a number of areas, including Rochdale, which earlier this year when Rochdale council claimed its efforts to improve standards among taxi drivers – including raising awareness of potential child exploitation – were being undermined because Rossendale had ‘lower standards’ when it came to approving taxi drivers, a claim denied by Rossendale council.

And now the police and crime commissioner for Lancashire, Clive Grunshaw, has raised the issue of out-of-area taxi driving with Rossendale after he received complaints about it from Leeds when Rossendale taxi drivers ‘causing all sorts of problems there.’

Indeed, the issue was raised in Parliament way back in 2014 by a Bolton MP who posed the question: “Why do people go to Rossendale to get a taxi licence?”

There wasn’t an answer forthcoming, although some have suggested a taxi licence is cheaper to get here than in many other areas.

When times are tough, as they are now, a council’s duty has to be to the people it is there to serve, not people who want to get the taxi version of a ship’s flag of convenience.

Rossendale doesn’t need 1,200 taxis.

Threats to hold strikes if the council doesn’t listen to the cabbies will hopefully fall on deaf ears – if most of those cabbies are working outside the area, we won’t notice anyway.

Quite why Rossendale is such a hot spot for cabbies is a mystery – but it’s one the council needs to solve quickly.





As the NTA wrote back in 2012; –


Mrs. Helen Lockwood
Chief Executive
Rossendale Borough Council
Town Centre Offices
Lord Street

10th April 2012

Dear Mrs. Lockwood

Re: Rossendale Hackney Carriages used exclusively in Manchester

I write on behalf of our members in Manchester in respect of vehicles licensed by your authority which are used solely by private hire firms within Manchester, for hiring’s within Manchester. I duly attach photographs of the offending vehicles, as supplied by our members.

As you will appreciate, the licensing function local authorities are mandated to provide is an arduous task, not only must officers deal with Hackney Carriage and private hire licensing matters, they must also deal with a plethora of other licensing functions.

However, it is the Hackney Carriage and private hire function our members wish me to bring to your attention.

In this respect I wish to alert you to the phenomenon of Hackney Carriages Proprietors and Drivers licensing themselves in one area, only to work exclusively in another. As you may imagine this creates all manner of difficulties and issues from a licensing perspective. In the past 12 to 18 months this issue has been considered by both the House of Commons Transport Select Committee and it’s currently being addressed by the Law Commission, who are looking at widespread reform of the taxi and private hire industries.

The issue of ‘cross border’ Hackney Carriages was addressed in 2008 with a Judicial review commonly known as the ‘Berwick case’ – Newcastle City Council, R (on the application of) v Berwick-Upon-Tweed Borough Council & Ors [2008] EWHC 2369 (Admin) (05 November 2008).

A brief synopsis was that vehicles licensed by Berwick Borough Council were being used effectively as ‘private hire vehicles’ by operators in and around Newcastle upon Tyne – some considerable distance away from the vehicles own licensing area. It was argued that Newcastle City Council were unable to stop and check these vehicles whilst they were working within Newcastle as they were not Newcastle licensed vehicles. In addition to this – the licensing conditions in Berwick were very different to those of Newcastle.

Berwick Council suggested they were unable to refuse applications.

In summing up the case the judge stated at 34:

“However it would seem to me to be difficult for any local authority to justify exercising their discretion by granting a hackney carriage licence to an applicant when the authority knows that the applicant has no intention of using that licence to ply for hire in its area. This is particularly so when the local authority also knows that the intention is to use the hackney carriage in an area remote from that authority’s area. I say that because it seems to me it is very difficult to exercise proper control over hackney carriages which are never, or rarely, used in the prescribed area. It is also undesirable for authorities to be faced with a proliferation of hackney carriages licensed outside the area in which they are being used and therefore not subject to the same conditions and byelaws as apply to those vehicles licensed in the area.”

At 35 the judge stated:

“I have had placed before me in evidence a considerable amount of detail of where the hackney carriages licensed by Berwick are in use. This is without using the powers that exists under section 57 of the 1976 Act to require information. Thus it seems to me it will not be an unduly difficult task to discover whether an applicant for a licence has the intention of plying for hire within Berwick’s area.

However that must be a matter for Berwick. It may be they will wish to seek certain information to assist them using section 57. I consider that it would be perfectly proper to seek such information to ensure that Berwick’s hackney carriages are intended to be used in their area and thus any enforcement powers can be exercised locally. It is to be noted that section 57 (3) makes it an offence to knowingly or recklessly make a false statement. This is quite apart from the fact that an applicant who does not act honestly towards the issuer of a licence may well not be a fit and proper person and may well have his or her licence revoked or not renewed. I do not believe there is any reason to believe that applicants will not continue to provide information, whether through filling out an application form or more specifically under section 57, in an honest and straightforward manner.”

And at 37 the judge advised:

“It may well be that up to now local authorities have not sought information as to the intentions of licence applicants. This may be because until recently it has not been an issue. It may be that following this judgment it will no longer be an issue. However the fact that it has not generally been done up to now is no reason in my view why such information cannot be sought in the future.”

Members are obviously concerned these vehicles may not be subject to the same checks and balances as locally licensed vehicles.

As you will appreciate, the licensing policy developed in Rossendale is intended for the good people of Rossendale, it is inherently different to the one developed within Manchester. It is not the place of either my members or myself to suggest what conditions you should have in place for taxi and private-hire licensees within your area – we firmly believe this function is one best developed by locals.

For example – a local authority may (for their own reasons) develop an emissions policy for the vehicles they license, such policies are obviously to the benefit of local residents – yet if a policy such as this can be easily circumvented by vehicles simply licensing themselves in another area – then such a policy would be ineffective to its overall well intended aim.

Indeed, a local authority may wish – due to customer complaints or suchlike – implement a topographical knowledge test or similar for licensees. Again, if this admirable policy, which would benefit a great number of taxi and private hire users, can be easily bypassed by merely obtaining a license in another area, it effectively lessens the effect of a very worthwhile goal.

Recently it has emerged that many motor insurers simply ask where a ‘taxi’ is licensed in the belief this is the area where the taxi is worked – the insurance premium is based upon this area, which maybe an area where insurance is classed as a lower risk. We have been advised by contacts within the motor insurance industry they would consider this type of activity fraudulent and it would be unacceptable to some insurance companies.

Going through the Judges comments in the ‘Berwick case’, it is clear he appreciated how difficult it would be for a local authority to exercise proper control over its licensees if the vehicles and drivers, operate – effectively free from regulation – remotely from their area of license. As an immediate example – perhaps you could advise if Rossendale Council has dispatched its officers to Manchester to check licenses and vehicles?

In addition to the above, if a passenger hires a Rossendale licensed vehicle from a private hire company in Manchester and there is a subsequent complaint – who does the passenger complain to? The passenger will very probably and understandably believe they have hired a Manchester licensed vehicle and will have very little idea of the vagaries of taxi licensing.

The judge in the case did offer a relatively inexpensive and simple solution to the issue of vehicles from one area working in another and it comes in the guise of a simple question which should be added to the application form. The judge summed this up at 59:

“Following the handing down of my judgment in draft I heard Counsel on the appropriate form of relief that I should grant. In my judgment the appropriate relief, and the relief that I therefore grant, is by declaration as follows:

(i) In the proper exercise of its statutory discretion under section 37 of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 a licensing authority is obliged to have regard (a) to whether the applicant intends that the hackney carriage if licensed will be used to ply for hire within the area of that authority, and (b) whether the applicant intends that the hackney carriage will be used (either entirely or predominantly) for private hire remotely from the area of that authority.

(ii) A licensing authority may in the proper exercise of its discretion under the said section 37 refuse to grant a licence in respect of a hackney carriage that is not intended to be used to ply for hire within its area and/or is intended to be used (either entirely or predominantly) for private hire remotely from the area of that authority.

(iii) In determining whether to grant a licence under the said section 37 a licensing authority may
require an applicant to submit information pursuant to section 57 Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 in order to ascertain the intended usage of the vehicle.”

If a person makes a false representation in order to obtain a license, section 57 (3) this makes it an offence.

I attach an application form from Northumberland council where the question regarding section 57 is asked, our association understand similar questions are being attached to licenses in other parts of the country.

We urge you to speak with your licensing department in respect of this letter and the obvious issues raised.


WJ Casey
Wayne Casey
Administration Officer

Nov 05

Northampton taxi drivers ask for 10 per cent fare increase

Taxi drivers in Northampton have said they want to put their fares up by more than 10 per cent.

The drivers of London-style black cabs – or Hackney carriages – have their fares set by Northampton Borough Council.

The drivers have not requested an increase since May 2008, but following a rise in diesel prices, they have now said the rates should go up.

The council’s licensing committee will meet tonight to discuss the issue.

A report which will be seen by councillor said: “A number of Northampton Hackney drivers, 65 in total, are seeking an increase due to a significant rise in the cost of living since their last increase and the rising cost of fuel.

“Over that five year period the cost of a litre of diesel has risen from 99.9p to a sum in the region of £1.40. An increase of 40 per cent.”

Currently, a one mile trip in a Hackney Carriage costs £3.80 in the day or £5 at night. Under the new proposals, the same journey would cost £4.20 in the day and £5.40 at night.

A ten mile journey currently costs £19 in the day or £20.80 at night. That would rise to £ 22.20 in the day or £23.40 at night.

The increases would represent a rise of 10.5 per cent.

The council committee will decide whether or not to approve the increase tonight.



Taxi fares in Northampton to rise for first time in 5 years

Taxi fares in Northampton are set to go up by 10 per cent at the start of next year after an increase was agreed by Northampton Borough Council.

The drivers of London-style black cabs – or Hackney carriages – asked for a fare increase to help cope with the rising price of diesel and taxi insurance.

At a meeting of the licensing committee on Tuesday night, councillors agreed to put up the fares as the drivers have not had an increase since May 2008.

Perry Mason, a taxi driver who spoke at the meeting, said: “Two and a half years ago we talked about asking for a fare increase but we decided against it as we felt it would be a burden on our passengers.

“But since then diesel has gone up and insurance has gone up and we’re really starting to feel the pinch.

“Now the economy is showing signs of recovery we feel it is the right time to ask for an increase.”

Roger Conroy (Lib Dem, Spencer), a member of the licensing committee, said he felt it was fair the Hackney Carriage drivers were given the fare increase.

He said: “Considering they’ve not had an increase since 2008, 10 per cent is the minimum I would have expected them to ask for.”

The new fare tariffs, which would result in a 40p increase on a one mile journey or extra £3.20 on a 10-mile journey, will now be publicly advertised and people will be able to raise any objections to the plans.

Following the consideration of any objections, the council will then make a final decision on whether to introduce the new fares in Northampton from January 1, 2014.


Nov 05

Royal Borough Hackney Carriage drivers demand paintwork policy U-turn

ANGRY cabbies are demanding a U-turn on a policy requiring Hackney Carriages to be painted in council colours as it is threatening their financial survival.

Of the approximately 160 Hackney Carriage drivers in the Royal Borough, 137 have signed a petition demanding the Royal Borough abandon the paintwork policy.

Drivers are angry at having to pay for the cost of the paintwork which also depreciates the value of the car when they go on to sell it.

The petition also calls for an end to the free-for-all deregulation of the handing out of new licences which begun in April and for the age limit of vehicles to be extended from nine to 15 years.

The petition will be presented at a Royal Borough licensing panel meeting tomorrow at the Town Hall, in St Ives Road, Maidenhead.


Nov 05

Taxi drivers plan protest over community transport as council meets to consider fate of councillor’s lobbying role

Lined up outside Tesco, March, a trio of FACT buses dropping off passengers

Taxi drivers in the Fens plan a mass lobby of Cambridgeshire County Council to protest at what they claim is the unfair allocation of schools contracts to an expanding community transport scheme.

The protest – scheduled for December 11 -will mark the most visible protest yet by taxi drivers who have announced the setting up of a Fenland wide association to raise their concerns about the Fenland Association for Community Transport (FACT).

But Jo Philpott, the manager of FACT which controls a fleet of mini buses in Fenland and has recently spread into Huntingdonshire, has hit back, lodging a protest over the actions of Wisbech district councillor Dave Patrick.

On Thursday her complaint against Mr Patrick- that he has used his councillor status unfairly to lobby charitable funders on behalf of taxi firms- will go before a conduct committee of Fenland Council.

Mrs Philpott told the council’s monitoring team that Mr Patrick “has recently made slanderous allegations against myself through my role as manager of FACT. He has approached funders of FACT from the last three years and has sent them a 15 page plus dossier of subjective information regarding the operating of FACT.”

She said allegations made against her in the document “are simply untrue. This is potentially very damaging to my own credibility also FACT’s credibility as well as people in our community whom we serve. I feel that by using his ‘councillor’ label he is both abusing his position within the council as this is only to gain maximum effect from the organisations he has targeted.”

Dave Patrick.

Mrs Philpott accused Mr Patrick of running a “vendetta” on behalf of taxi drivers and she wants the council to take action against him.

The conduct committee will meet on Thursday to consider the complaint but meanwhile Mr Patrick insists he was elected following other issues with taxi drivers and he had never hidden from his job.

He added: “I have taken up dozens of other causes both in my role as a town and district councillor – every time it is as a councillor and I see no difference on this occasion. Council colleagues always refer to me as ‘taxi Dave’ which may or may not be a compliment but there it is.”

In his letter to charities, which has been re printed by Fenland Council together with the ‘dossier’, he accuses the FACT management board of being “full of appointed councillors, transport portfolio holders and transport officers from both the district and county council”.

Mr Patrick said his action in contacting charities was to express concern over FACT’s “ruthless and indiscriminate fund raising activities” which had led to the association expanding fast and having a serious affect on the livelihoods of many taxi drivers.

Taxi drivers’ spokesman Dave Humphreys addressed a meeting in Wisbech last week of drivers from both Wisbech and March and at which the new association was agreed.

He claimed that by the end of this year FACT would have “potentially over £300,000 in commercial contracts which equates to £100 per week from nearly 60 drivers’ livelihoods. That’s half the taxi and private hire industry in the Fenland area.”

Alan Pain, corporate director and monitoring officer of Fenland Council, said the complaint by Mrs Philpott that Mr Patrick had breached the councillors’ code of conduct would be considered on Thursday.

“Councillor Patrick has been offered the opportunity to provide an initial written response to the complaint,” he said.

“The committee is being asked to consider the complaint and determine if it discloses a likely breach of the member code of conduct.”

Steve Barclay, MP for NE Cambs, chaired a meeting earlier this year of taxi drivers and FACT officials following which Fenland Council agreed an audit of the community transport provider.

That report, published in August, exonerated FACT of any wrong doing but Mr Humphreys said taxi drivers continued to challenge the findings.


Nov 04

Boosters of Bloomberg’s taxi reforms gird for de Blasio

Advocates for Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s taxi reforms are preparing for life under Bill de Blasio.

In recent months, an organization representing borough taxi operators and another representing taxi passengers have begun to take shape.

The first, called the Boro Taxi Trades Council, was incorporated with the state as a nonprofit in late October.

“We need a voice,” said Guy Palumbo, the group’s executive director.

Paul Herzan, the Cooper-Hewitt chairman who was instrumental in the Taxi of Tomorrow’s creation, is creating the second organization with the express purpose of representing the interests of taxi riders. 

“Now the Taxi of Tomorrow is under attack and the borough cabs are under attack,” he told me. “I think the failure of these projects to roll out would be a huge failure of government and a loss to the city.”

On the subject of taxi policy in New York City, Bill de Blasio differs from Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg has made himself the enemy of the often wealthy folks who control the city’s more than 13,000 yellow taxis.

Medallion owners chafe at the imposition of the Taxi of Tomorrow program, which would replace nearly all of the city’s yellow cabs with Nissan-made taxis custom-designed for city streets. And they argue that the mayor’s borough taxi plan, which would empower 18,000 livery drivers to paint their cars green and offer metered street-hail service in the outer boroughs, infringes on the yellow taxis’ street-hail exclusivity, even though those same yellow taxis rarely venture to the neighborhoods that borough taxis are supposed to serve. 

De Blasio has received more than $350,000 from the yellow taxi industry and seems sympathetic to their concerns.

He has promised to fire taxi commissioner David Yassky, has yet to say whether he would defend Bloomberg’s Taxi of Tomorrow program in court, and in 2012 filed an amicus brief in a suit seeking to overturn the borough taxi plan.

Recently, he’s said that while he supports the notion of giving people in the outer boroughs street hail service, he’s concerned about undermining existing industry players.

The entrenched players’ constant litigation against Bloomberg’s taxi programs and Bloomberg’s imminent departure have folks with an interest in shaping taxi policy under de Blasio organizing.

Take Guy Palumbo. He used to serve as executive director for the Livery Round Table, which was founded by Dial 7 and Carmel, two big livery companies that shared the yellow medallion industry’s concerns that the borough taxi plan would destabilize the industry.

“I sang the company song,” Palumbo now says.

He has since left the Round Table (for what he describes as unrelated reasons) and has launched the Boro Taxi Trades Council, whose board will include two borough taxi drivers, a couple of vendors that service the industry and several representatives from borough-taxi-affiliated livery bases, including two from Brighton Beach, one from Bensonhurst, and another from Bayside.

“[De Blasio] has been getting advice or suggestions or whatever from both the yellow taxis and from the other associations that are livery-base organized who oppose the concept of the green taxis,” said Palumbo. “There’s been no group strictly for the green taxis. So we feel that’s one of our roles, is to provide that information to him and anybody else—’This is what’s good, this is what’s bad. Here’s where improvements are needed.’ That kind of a thing. We need a voice. We need a forum to be able to get that information to the mayor, to the City Council, to Albany if necessary.”

“It is a good thing,” said Cira Angeles, the spokeswoman for the Livery Base Owners, the existing livery organization that helped spearhead the drive for borough taxis. “I think what we created, it’s a great thing for everyone and people think they now need to protect it.”

Herzan, meanwhile, is busy trying to form the equivalent of the Straphangers Campaign for New York City taxi riders.

“As you know, the industry sort of dominates the agenda at the [Taxi and Limousine Commission],” he said.

It is, in fact, very rare to find a passenger at a Taxi and Limousine Commission hearing, even though the results of those hearings impact the 600,000 or so New Yorkers who take taxis every day.

“Passengers are like Sasquatch sightings at the T.L.C.,” Matthew Daus, the former T.L.C. commissioner, told me.

Herzan describes some of de Blasio’s positioning on taxis as “knee jerk,” and said he’s hopeful that once organized, his group will “have a platform to at least be heard on some of these issues.”

To that end, he has been reaching out to people he perceives to be natural allies in this endeavor, like taxi app developers. But he recognizes that his effort is a challenging one, in good part because taxi riders are hard to organize.

“Most people get in a car and they sort of zone out,” he said. “They feel like this is what it is. They don’t have a choice. There’s not much they can do about making it better.”

He’s hoping to launch his organization before Bloomberg’s administration ends on December 31.

“I’m gonna  do my darndest to see that all the good work that’s been done thus far isn’t completely washed away,” said Herzan.


Nov 04

Cyclists and cabbies slam Haymarket tram “chaos”

Cyclist Aga Kosla, 28, from Bruntsfield, at Haymarket

CYCLISTS and taxi drivers have hit out at continuing “chaos” along a stretch of the tram line at Haymarket.

A week after a new sign was erected outside the railway station in an effort to stop riders coming a cropper on the tram tracks the situation has been branded “crazy”.

Cabs are still queuing beyond the end of the taxi rank – which has been criticised for being far too small – and on to the road, forcing cyclists to move out across the tracks.

The small sign directing riders towards a dedicated cycle lane next to the taxi rank was put up after the Evening News highlighted a succession of accidents in which cyclists were sent crashing as they crossed the tram tracks.

The main concern with the latest arrangements is that in order to avoid the tracks cyclists are encouraged to cross the path of taxis entering and leaving the taxi rank.

When cyclists approach Haymarket on the left of traffic, they are diverted into the cycle lane which puts them on the right of the parked taxis. To exit the cycle lane and go back out on to the road they then have to cross back through the taxis on their left-hand side or face heading out sandwiched between cabs and passing 

Aga Kosla, 28, from Bruntsfield, cycles the route twice each day. She said: “It’s all very confusing. You have to leave the road and pull in to these lights where you find yourself between both the taxis pulling out and the cars on the road you were just on. If the lights are green it can be very dangerous to get back in to the left-hand side. It’s crazy.”

This view is echoed by cabbies who have been left to queue up to 15 deep, when there is room for just three taxis to park legally.

Such tight waiting restrictions result in those dropping off passengers blocking the cycle lane down which riders are being ushered.

Driver James Mills, of Central Taxis, said: “This whole thing might have looked like it would work up in some guy’s office but in reality it’s utter chaos.”

In April, the News revealed how campaigners had identified an inherent design flaw in the road as the narrow cycle lane forces bike wheels into the tram tracks – literally railroading wobbly riders out of their saddles.

As many as two falls were being reported a day, with several of the accidents being caught on camera.

Councillor Lesley Hinds, the city’s transport convener, has told how a road safety audit is now nearing completion and further measures may result.

She said: “The council is fully aware of the issues being raised by both cyclists and taxi drivers at Haymarket and we have committed to taking steps to address these concerns.

“We’re also meeting with taxi organisations soon to discuss Haymarket and will shortly be finalising and implementing proposals to help cyclists cross the tram tracks in this area. We have been listening to the comments put forward.”


Nov 04

Teenage trio in court over armed minicab attack in Eston

Teesside Crown Court

A minicab driver had a knife and a bottle swung at him by three teenagers when he declined to take them into his cab.

One of the boys pulled out a knife, stabbed the minibus minicab’s back tyres then lunged at the cabbie with the blade.

A judge told the teenagers that wielding knives could have “tragic consequences”. Luckily the knife only caused damage to the driver’s jacket, Teesside Crown Court heard.

Another of the teenagers swung a large glass bottle at the victim’s head.

The bottle shattered on hitting the driver’s elbow as he raised his arm to protect himself.

He had six passengers in his Ford Transit minibus when he was attacked outside the vehicle, prosecutor Shaun Dodds said yesterday.

One of the passengers got out and hit two of the teenage attackers, knocking one to the ground.

The three troublemakers then ran off from Bankfields Road, Eston, in the early hours of November 4 last year.

The minicab driver had been dropping off people from a group of 12 when he was approached by the teens.

They asked him for a lift for £5. When he declined, as it was after 1am and he wanted to get home, they became violent.

When he asked the lad with the knife what he was doing, he was told: “Just get back in your van.”

And when he asked “why are you being an idiot?”, one of the teenagers replied: “What are you doing to do about it?”

William Sapio, 19, Arron Richardson, 19, and a 17-year-old boy who cannot be named for legal reasons were all sentenced yesterday.

Sapio and Richardson each blamed the other for having the knife.

It was not possible to determine which of them brandished the weapon, though a knife had gone missing from a block at Sapio’s family home.

They both admitted affray, and the third 17-year-old defendant admitted a lesser charge of threatening behaviour.

Sapio’s barrister Peter Makepeace said he committed no crime until a “plethora of offending” last year, including possession of weapons.

Sapio had a happy childhood but went “wildly off the rails” after he left home, following a dispute, and misused alcohol.

He committed a series of criminal damage offences on the same night as the minicab driver incident.

He’d already suffered the “short, sharp shock” of a six-month detention sentence for those crimes, and there had been no trouble since, added Mr Makepeace

Judge Howard Crowson sent Sapio to a young offenders’ institution for 14 months, saying it was a very serious and frightening incident.

Uzma Khan, representing Richardson, said: “Caught up in a moment of drunkenness he found himself following others.”

She said the immature 19-year-old was very remorseful and accepted his responsibility. She added he suffered depression as the case hung over his head for a year, and distanced himself from negative peer pressure.

The judge gave Richardson, who had only one minor previous conviction, a 13-month sentence suspended for a year with 100 hours’ unpaid work and a nine-week tagged curfew between 8pm and 6am.

Rod Hunt, for the 17-year-old, said he was making steps towards finding work, moving away from his “hobby” of hanging around and getting into trouble.

The boy was given a youth rehabilitation order with six months’ supervision and 80 hours’ unpaid work.



Nov 04

‘Help us before a cabbie is killed’

Taxi drivers Abdul Sadaat, Tommy Sandhu and Mohammed Tariq at the rank in Far Gosford Street

Coventry taxi drivers demand action after spate of stabbing and attacks

Taxi drivers say they are risking their lives on a daily basis in Coventry.

Cabbies are demanding more is done to protect them from violence and theft following the stabbing of a driver.

Tommy Sandhu, chairman of Coventry Taxi Association, hit out after a cabbie was stabbed in Chapelfields after picking up four men in the city centre.

Mr Sandhu believes many taxi drivers are abandoning the profession over fears they could be even end up being killed on the job.

He said: “Threats to drivers are a daily occurrence and the police have got to do more about it. People are leaving the profession because they think it is too dangerous.

“At the end of the day people are out there providing a public service and trying to make a living, but if you constantly have problems with passengers you have to make a decision.

“If you are a young man with a family do you want to be stabbed or possibly killed for the sake of a fare?”

Mr Sandhu was also critical of the police following the attack on the 44-year-old cab driver on October 26, which has left the driver traumatised and unable to work due to the severity of his injuries.

The attack happened just after 2am on Queensland Avenue after the driver picked up the men from Far Gosford Street.

“We meet regularly with police and we have regular taxi committee meetings, but one discussion that comes up regularly is that police don’t take our complaints seriously enough,” he said.

“The police seem to fob us off with the attitude ‘Well it’s part of your job’ and if a driver gets hurt or the passenger runs off without paying a fare they say it’s a civil matter.”

Superintendent Claire Bell, from Coventry Police, said: “We work very closely with the Coventry Taxi Advisory Group and have a strong relationship with their representatives in the city.

“As part of their day to day duties our officers are regularly in contact with taxi drivers to ensure their views and concerns are addressed.

“It’s disappointing to hear these comments and I would encourage anyone with concerns to come to us directly so that we can listen to them and overcome any problems.

‘‘This was a really nasty attack and the investigation has included close liaison with other taxi drivers to provide reassurance to them that we are taking this attack very seriously.”

Last week, the Telegraph reported how a taxi driver was attacked in Bedworth and a Hinckley taxi driver was recently punched and bitten by a gang from Coventry who attacked him while still at the wheel.

In August last year, a cabbie was robbed at knifepoint in Foleshill.



Nov 04

‘Caring family man’ who pulled knife on taxi driver is jailed

A FATHER-TO-BE who pulled a knife on a taxi driver has been jailed for three-and-a-half years. Keiron Robins produced the blade after Yellow Cabs driver Abdiaziz Malin picked him up from Stockwood.

Bristol Crown Court heard that Mr Malin handed over £55 when Robins said: “I stick you with this knife or you give me your money.”

Robins, 26, of Sturminster Road, Bristol, pleaded guilty to robbery and possessing a knife. He asked for offences of theft and criminal damage to be considered.

Judge Michael Harington told him: “The offences are so serious neither a fine nor a community sentence are justified. I hope you come out of prison able to turn over a new leaf and avoid further offences in future.”

Julian Howells, prosecuting, said Robins was seen smashing a window of the McDonald’s restaurant in The Horsefair and police were called to respond to that as well as damage to bus shelters. When a “slurring and aggressive” Robins was found in Stokes Croft, he told police: “If you touch me I’ll batter you,” and took off his top, the court heard.

He was zapped with a stun gun and arrested, before being released on police bail.

Mr Howells said six days later Robins robbed taxi driver Mr Malin, leaving the cabbie extremely shocked.

The day afterwards Robins stole two dog treats and two dog leads from the Wilkinson store in central Bristol and was detained by security staff.

Robins told police who arrested him: “Putting a knife to a taxi driver is going to get me jailed, isn’t it?” He admitted not intending to pay for the ride and accepted causing damage when he had been drinking after an argument with his girlfriend.

Nigel Fryer, defending, said his client had not “stuck two fingers up to society” but had struggled with mental-health issues and had problems without or with changes to medication. Mr Fryer said Robins had a son, and another child on the way. Mr Fryer said: “His partner’s view is he is a caring family man.”


Nov 03

And the most stupid enforcement decision by a local authority this week goes to……..

Taxi driver flouted sign as he picked up fare, 93

A taxi driver broke the law when he went to pick up a frail 93-year-old woman passenger.

Terence Chaplin drove through a no entry sign on to a pedestrian zone and was seen by a council official.

Chaplin, 68, of Woodcock Close, Thornton, pleaded guilty to failing to comply with a traffic sign.

Lynda Bennett, prosecuting for Blackpool Council, said a public protection officer was carrying out observations on taxis on March 29.

At 1.30pm the official saw Chaplin enter the Promenade from West Street. He had failed to comply with a no entry sign into a pedestrian zone.

Chaplin said he had gone to pick up a 93-year-old woman who had been having lunch at the Mitre pub. At the time the street was completely deserted.

A letter from the woman passenger was read to the court. It stated: “I am a little frail, the taxi was only there a very short time while I walked to the cab. I’m very sorry for being the cause of this fellow being in court.”

He was fined £45 with £100 costs plus £20 victims’ surcharge by Blackpool magistrates who also put three motoring penalty points on his driving licence.


Nov 02

Court reduces sentence of sex offender

Mashain Pitchei, 45, of Rosebery Way in Tring, jailed for sexual assault

A man who pretended to be a taxi driver and sexually assaulted a young woman who got into his car has won a reduction in his jail sentence.

Two Court of Appeal judges in London cut the original four years’ imprisonment imposed in the case of Mashain Pitchei, 45, of Tring, Hertfordshire, and replaced it with a new jail term of 32 months.

His challenge against the length of the sentence handed down at St Albans Crown Court in April, following his earlier guilty plea to sexual assault, was allowed by Mr Justice Globe and Judge Anthony Morris QC.

Pitchei’s case is one of the first to be broadcast from the Court of Appeal after a near 90-year ban on allowing cameras in court was lifted.

It was argued on his behalf today that the original custodial term was “manifestly excessive”.

The appeal judges found that the sentence was “too long”, even taking into account the “aggravating features” of the offence.

Giving the ruling of the court, Judge Morris said the offence took place in October last year when Pitchei sexually assaulted an “extremely drunk” young woman who had been out drinking with friends in Hemel Hempstead.

Judge Morris said a CCTV operator saw her on camera and “seeing her state was concerned for her welfare”.

He added: “In a very public-spirited way he thereafter monitored her movements on camera.”

The judge said that in the early hours the woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons and was referred to as “K” in court, walked across a road to Pitchei’s car which was parked at the rear of a line of taxis.

“The appellant is not a taxi driver, but it appears that K thought that he was,” he added.

She got into the front passenger seat and the car was seen to drive around for about six minutes. It stopped in a dark area and then the vehicle’s lights went out.

Judge Morris said the CCTV operator “was so concerned for the safety of K that he called the police immediately”.

One of the aggravating features of the offence identified by the sentencing judge was the degree of planning and premeditation involved in his pretending to be a taxi driver to “lure” a woman into his car so he could sexually assault her.

The appeal judges said they considered the appropriate sentence after a trial would have been four years, “which after giving full credit for the guilty plea should be reduced to 32 months imprisonment”.

Quashing the sentence imposed at the Crown Court and replacing it with the 32 months, Judge Morris said: “To that extent this appeal is allowed.”


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