Category Archives: Published Articles

War is Over?

(Original edit of article written for Taxi magazine. Some edits were made in the published version).

I sure picked the right week to quit talking about Uber:  but it’s the big issue of the day, and it’s going to continue for some time yet.  So, here are just a few thoughts about TfL’s decision not to renew Uber’s licence.

Firstly, Uber should never have been licensed in the first place.  They call themselves a tech company, yet they were licensed as a private hire operator.  Either they are a tech firm incorrectly licenced, or they are a PH operator, subject to the responsibilities that they have so far evaded.  Either way, their licence is in breach.  It was clear Uber intended to ply for immediate hire through their app, and they even admitted that they don’t take advance bookings!  If they don’t take advance bookings, they are operating illegally, as private hire cars must be pre-booked.  They admit they still don’t have a landline on which they can be contacted:  as far as I understand it, this is a legal requirement for an operator.

TfL have been quiet about what constitutes plying for hire, because any court case will highlight how negligent TfL have been.  TfL knew Uber should never have been licenced, and when the bad publicity started, they tried desperately to tighten up on them.  Unfortunately, TfL were then hampered by Dave Cameron and his pals’ cosy relationship with the Uber organisation.

Many people think Uber will make concessions in order to be re-licensed, and that this is just a shot across the bows.  Possibly, but what some people forget is that Uber have already had the warning shots:  they were given four months in which to improve things.  They were expected to use that time wisely and to get their house in order.  Uber’s arrogance was such that they behaved even worse.  When it transpired they were covering up sexual assault allegations, things got serious and there was an increasing public clamour for something to be done.

I can understand why people use Uber, but did they really think that if Uber ever became the dominant force in the taxi and private hire world, their low prices would remain?  Surge pricing isn’t just for Christmas, tube strikes and after terrorist attacks.  Their supporters think Uber have a status somewhere between a mini-cab and a taxi.  There is no in-between.  They are a mini-cab, and they are driven my mini-cab drivers.  As one caller to LBC put it:  they are a mini-cab company with good PR.  They are subject to the same rules that all mini-cab operators must comply with.

Personally I think this is going to drag on for as long as Brexit.  I allowed myself a celebratory light ale when I heard the news, but most of us are realistic to know that this isn’t the end.  It might be the beginning of the end though.  They’re not gone yet, but they are weakened, possibly fatally.  I don’t see how they can carry operating in the same way now

Before TfLs decision turned the spotlight on Uber’s affairs, many people thought it was just taxi drivers whingeing.  The general public aren’t particularly interested in what constitutes plying for hire, whether a mobile phone can be used as a taxi meter, or whether a London-licensed mini-cab can legally work in Brighton.

People now have a bit more awareness of the taxi and private hire trades, and the roles and responsibilities within them.  People know there are issues over Uber drivers’ insurance, questions over their criminal record checking, and that Uber were picking and choosing what criminal allegations to mention to the police.  This came from the police themselves, who are thoroughly fed up with them.  These were the issues that made people sit up and think.  Everyone can now see how government interference and having investors in high places has protected them.  Using a footballing metaphor, Uber lost the dressing room.

People can see that the headlines on taxi magazines were true:  Uber haven’t been checking criminal records properly.  They really were ignoring criminal allegations.  An Uber driver really did try to cut someone’s head off at Leytonstone Station while shouting “Allahu Akbar.”  Another was nicked after waving a samurai sword around outside Buckingham Palace.  Those with a conscience can see how they are exploiting not just tax and VAT loopholes and a lax licensing regime, but also its drivers – who they want to replace with driverless cars ASAP.  LBCs James O’Brien likens Uber to a Victorian mill owner.  I like the analogy, although mill owners were locally-based and paid their taxes in the UK.

Have Uber’s investors actually made any money yet?  They must be getting very nervous.  Very nervous.  And their corporate account holders.  It might even make Tesco think about which partner organisations it promotes.  I think the biggest game-changer will be when their investors cash in their chips and Uber are starved of funds.  How many lawsuits are they currently involved in?  This sort of thing isn’t cheap.

Private hire licensing had already slowed.  There will be even fewer drivers clamouring to join Uber now, and many will be trickling back to the mini-cab companies from whence they came.  Even if Uber were re-licensed today, they would find it hard to provide the same level of service as before.  Uber work on over-supply, and they will find it harder to saturate the market when its drivers desert a sinking ship.  As for our future, we need to raise our game and constantly guard against complacency.  TfL have recently shown they’re wise to dubious new start-ups, such as Taxify, but others will come and try it on.  We need to be ready.  When the war is over and the dust has settled, the public will decide who are the best.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Published Articles

Complying with the Regime

(This week, I compare TfL with North Korea – I think I can safely say I won’t be working for TfL again.  This is my original edit and original title of article published in Taxi magazine).

I always chuckle to myself when I see a copy of Taxi left on the back shelf of a cab.  The magazine is casually arranged to look like it’s been left there accidently, but the headline revealing Uber-related crime statistics gives the game away:  a point is being made.

Earlier this year, some drivers started displaying the esteemed LTDA publication Taxi – or a tabloid newspaper – on the back shelf of their cabs whenever it carried a prominent headline about our Uber friends.  And there have been plenty of headlines:  the Cameron government pressurising Boris to leave Uber alone; Uber drivers implicated in terrorist attacks; and the shocking Uber-related sex crime figures that few people want the public to know.  Factual reports, but unpalatable to those charged with the responsibility of doing something about them.

It’s good that TfL have expanded their army of enforcement officers, but they took things too far when they accused a driver of having “unauthorised signage” and removed a copy of Taxi from the back shelf of a cab on Harrods rank.  They felt the headline “Rapist Uber Driver Jailed for 12 Years” was “misleading” and “not TfL’s belief!”  The headline was a fact, not an opinion:  it wasn’t open to the charge of being misleading.  The Harrods driver was actually accused of not agreeing with the opinion of two TfL enforcement officers.  I don’t see how TfL can take any action against a driver displaying unapproved materials:  how can they prove a magazine wasn’t left there by a passenger?

Are TfL spooks officially called enforcement officers or compliance officers?  I’m not sure, but both titles sound rather militaristic and scary:  what are they enforcing?  What must we comply with:  the opinions of TfL staff?

Where else do we hear about people being intimidated for holding views contrary to the regime?…  Ah yes, the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea.  When you think about it, North Korea and TfL are quite similar:  both regimes supress free speech and operate a totalitarian approach; and their top people have delusions of grandeur.  And far reaching tentacles.

For a London transport licensing body, TfL have some strange outposts.  I’m sure we’ve all received TfL documents originating from Sheffield.  As a knowledge examiner I had to make phone calls to Sheffield to get clearance to use the photocopier.  And it took a suspiciously long time to get security clearance and finally obtain my laminated identity card: “007:  licensed to print A4 sheets in black & white.”  If TfL operate out of Sheffield, why not further afield?   Maybe they have an office in North Korea?

Has anyone heard from the harassed driver since this sorry incident?  Perhaps he was whisked away to Pyongyang under the cover of darkness, and is currently undergoing interrogation and brain-washing?  I imagine grainy images of the arrested driver being shown on North Korean TV.  In a stilted voice, and with a glazed expression, he can warn others thinking of displaying subversive publications on the back shelves of their cabs.  With his face perhaps showing evidence of confessing his crimes under duress, he can assure us that the regime is firm but fair:  “I’m not being harmed by the regime…”  After ideological re-education he could well be transported back to London, his memory skilfully wiped by James Bond villain-type scientists.  He will then be free to take his place as a servant of the regime.  He might even be turned into becoming an enforcement officer himself.

Have any other drivers disappeared?  There are cab drivers I used to see regularly in the caffs who I don’t see any more.  Perhaps they’ve retired?  Perhaps they’ve gone to the great cab rank in the sky?  Or their disappearance could point to something more sinister.  Thinking about it, some of them were prone to express opinions contrary to the regime.

Following the Harrods bust, I’ve noticed a lot more newspapers and magazines on the back shelves of cabs displaying contentious headlines.  The LTDA, and the newspapers, continue to supply headlines on the shortcomings of Uber – and the LTDA advan is out and about spreading warnings of Uber even further.  Transport for London’s censorship didn’t really work, did it?

TfLs role is as a licensing body; not as a censor or an enforcer of political correctness.  As for drivers wishing to take things further, is there any chance they can flash up any contentious headlines on those illuminated roof signs?

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Published Articles

Follow that Bus!

(original edit of article written for Taxi magazine, with original title).

We were told access to Bank Junction was denied to taxis because of safety concerns, but we all know it’s really about TfL protecting bus timings – and making a bit of money on the side.  If it was about safety they’d realise it was more hazardous having taxis, mini-cabs and vans tearing around Lothbury and Bartholomew Lane to by-pass Bank Junction, than to have vehicles forming an orderly queue at the lights at Poultry.

The authorities won’t tell us how many cabs are involved in accident statistics, but bus accident figures are high.  Twenty-five people have died in bus-related incidents in London over the last two years, mostly pedestrians.  Around 12,000 people were injured.  Incredibly, the bus companies have targets for punctuality, but not for reducing accidents.  Driving a bus must be the hardest , most hazardous, job in London.  Their drivers are under immense pressure, and have many distractions as they go about their work.

I’m not sure if buses still have an Inspector Blake-type figure telling drivers to “Get that bus out!”, but bus operators clearly have their work cut out keeping to timetables.  Timings are affected because of madcap road remodelling projects, and by allowing multiple road and building works to close roads at the same time.  The bus companies are controlled by TfL, who have allowed the chaos in the first place.  TfL licence cabs as well as buses, but we get few concessions:  they only look after bus drivers and cyclists.

Timings are important to the bus companies because they are losing customers.  Half empty buses crawl along like a solid block of red on Regent Street, then queue to clear junctions like Oxford Circus, or to block everyone else at Piccadilly Circus.  Many of the roads buses use have been narrowed, making it impossible to get past them.  It’s not their fault, it’s the system.  I shudder when I see a bus bound for Streatham or Crystal Palace.  We sometimes grumble about going into the Deep South, but imagine what it must be like dragging a bus through Camberwell and Brixton.  Or sitting on one as a passenger.

I’m more a West End than a City man, but the closure of Bank Junction impacted on me when I took an account customer from St James’s Square to the Mansion House for a function.  I didn’t panic because I knew I could swing around into Bucklesbury before being confronted by the blue warning signs.  However, Bucklesbury was closed and I had to discharge my dinner-suited gent next to a building site, and amongst a gaggle of mini-cabs that had done the same thing.  If there’s another entrance to the Mansion House outside the exclusion zone I’m not aware of it.  How do we access Number One Lombard Street or the Ned Hotel?  How do we get a wheelchair there?  We’d been making great strides in making buildings accessible, but things are being reversed in the misguided name of safety.

Further west I’ve noticed bollards blocking the entrance to the Lyceum Theatre too.  And where does safety fit in with allowing the drivers of the number 3 bus to park up for their break on the cycle Lane in Jermyn Street?.

I’m dismayed people have been fined for driving into Cornhill from Leadenhall Street.  I also thought the warning sign referred to the section further towards Bank Junction.  The City of London notification concerning the closure features a map.  It’s in different colours.  It reminds me of the maps we received prior to the Olympics.  Maybe I’m being over-cynical but both maps gave the impression they were designed to confuse us.  The exclusion zone is in red, and the “Access Only” sector is coloured blue.  This looks like you can drive into Cornhill to access the Royal Exchange.  The map also gives the impression you can drive into Cornhill and leave by Finch Lane before you hit the red section.  I sincerely hope those drivers fined will get their money back with an apology.

You can do what you want at the weekend, so for the purposes of research I drove around there the other weekend.  It seems you can access Cornhill from a left turn from Threadneedle Street.  I couldn’t check the signage coming into Cornhill from Leadenhall Street as the road was closed.  It’s only open two days a week, and it was closed!

Motorists have lost an incredible amount of road space over the last couple of years.  The East-West Cycle Superhighway is congested most of the time, even at the weekends.  If the traffic is bad driving from Westminster to the Tower we need to think twice before diverting away into quieter streets.  With Bank Junction out of bounds, we know we are likely to get caught in heavy traffic in Eastcheap.

The recent spate of road closures are meant to be about safety, but the congestion is causing pollution, which is killing people.  The Ambulance service has complained that they can’t get past on emergency calls.  This is also killing people.  It’s not for safety, it’s against taxis – and other motorists. The closure of Bank Junction is only a trial, but from day one it was a cash from cameras scheme, bringing in a whopping 16K an hour!  It’s generating money for nothing, and we’re paying for it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Published Articles

New Electric Taxi: £55,600 (+interest)

(Original edit of article for Taxi magazine)

Are we ready for the electric revolution?

The new electric cab has arrived, priced at £55,600.  If I buy one, will I ever get my money back?  The makers say the average cab driver could save £100 a week on fuel.  By this reckoning I would save even more as a high fuel-user living thirty-five miles out of London.  But there are some things I’m uncertain about:  where are the charging points?  Will the price of electricity sky-rocket in the wake of the emission-free revolution?

One factor that’s not talked about much is the government’s interest in going electric.  Most of the price of a litre of diesel goes to the government in tax.  If everyone goes electric, the government will be losing a lot of revenue:  that’s why the government keep people drinking, smoking and gambling; so they can make money out of them.  Will they put a higher tax on electricity?  Recently, British Gas raised their electricity prices by 12.5%.  Are higher prices and taxes the way forward?  We have little choice but to use electricity in our homes.  If our vehicles become dependent on electricity they will have an even bigger mandate to charge us what they like.

I still see few car charging points around: I thought there would be hundreds of them in London by now.  Are there any rapid charging points in London yet?  There aren’t many slow ones.  I’ve seen a few around Berkerley Square but I can’t spend several hours a day waiting for my cab to be charged up on a working day.  Surely, there will need to be whole streets dedicated to rapid car-charging bays if there is to be a serious switch to electric vehicles – maybe use the stretch of Harrow Road from the Metropole to the Paddington ramp?  I’ve not seen any in my town, so that’s a negative for me.

It’s going to take many years for every London taxis to be converted.  During the long transition period we will surely see the number of charging points increase.  We’ll also see a decrease in the number of conventional fuel stations.  There could come a middle period where neither electric nor diesel drivers find adequate re-fuelling facilities.

There’s a gap in my education, and I’ve no idea how electricity is produced.  The National Grid say we are becoming increasingly reliant on imported electricity.  I didn’t know electricity was something that’s transported around Europe on a lorry – and by mostly foreign-owned companies.  In Brexit Britain, I don’t like the sound of that.  Transport for London research is reported to have said that Britain would need up to twenty new power stations to service the electric vehicle revolution.  It’ll take more than a few fields full of plastic windmills then?  I notice many new motorways no longer have a continuous hard shoulder.  They could be useful in the future for proving sanctuary to vehicles caught short of electricity.

On one hand TfL see problems with providing enough electricity and charging points; but on the other they are forcing us to buy electric cabs!

There’s even doubt in some quarters whether electric vehicles are actually much greener than current models.  I understand that fine particle pollution is caused by brake linings and tyres.  If electric vehicles are cleaner than conventional ones, how about giving us some carrot to go with the stick, and allow electric taxis to use Bank Junction?

The price tag is going to put drivers off, as is the cost of finance.  The £55,600 cash price is only the start of it.  Many of us would like to buy a new cab, but we’re not earning enough to put our faith in such an expensive new vehicle, with unresolved worries about range and charging.

I wondered at first if the London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) was hoping was to sell most of their new taxis abroad, but using us as guinea pigs first.  But I can’t believe that taxi drivers in other countries are doing any better than we are.  If they are, maybe I should study for the Knowledge of Baku, Azerbaijan.  Have other countries sorted out their charging points?

No, it seems the LEVC think they are onto a winner with us in the UK.  They must be frustrated over the lack of charging points too, but have faith that things will improve.  Apparently, the electric cab can run to Scotland and back without charging.  I make it about 800 miles to Glasgow.  This cab would allow me to drive from Bedfordshire into London for a day’s work for almost a full week.  The battery is guaranteed for five years, but should last about 15 years.  I’m still sceptical, but if the future really is electric, maybe we should give LEVC the benefit of the doubt?  If the new cab fails to deliver on its promises, there’s nowhere to hide.

Then again, maybe we should think further ahead and forget about the electric car revolution completely.  Aren’t we meant to be calling up self-driving pods in a few years’ time?

Leave a comment

Filed under Published Articles

Speed Awareness Course

(original edit of article written for Taxi magazine.  If you’re looking for something to do in Newport Pagnell on a Sunday morning, please read on…)

Summer of Discontent

One of the best aspects of our job is its flexibility:  there is satisfaction in knowing we can use the 24-hour clock to choose which days and times to work, and it’s nobody’s decision but ours.  However, I’m increasingly changing my week around to accommodate London’s disruptive programme of special events and road closures.

Some road closures are so extensive that a day off is the only sensible course of action.  I often take Sundays off in July when they close Regent Street for their summer shopping extravaganzas.  I worked around the first Sunday closure this year, but then the yellow signs sprouted up warning us of various sporting events scheduled for almost every Saturday and Sunday in July (August seems to be going the same way).  How they can schedule running and cycle racing in Central London on the day they shut Regents Street and surrounding roads?

Why Regent Street anyway?  The Mayor missed a trick here:  If he’s planning to permanently close Oxford Street, he could have tried to soften us up there first.  While we’re at it, is there some kind of bus festival going on around Cavendish Square this summer?

I intended to work Saturday the 29th, but on checking the TfL website it seemed that almost every useful road in Central London was being turned into a cycle race track. I’d already decided to take Sunday the 30th off as I wasn’t prepared to try to work around a cycle race while Regent Street was closed.

I chose Sunday 30th to book my Speed Awareness course.  I’ve a pretty good driving record, but I’ve clocked up two incidents so far this year.  My first crime was getting caught on camera touching the yellow box junction as I turned left from Midland Road into Euston Road  (buses also touch the sacred yellow grid, but I’m sure they don’t get photos of their vehicles posted to them with a demand for money).

My second unfortunate incident was getting caught driving at 48 miles per hour in a 40mph limit.  This was on the A5 in Dunstable as I drove home from London one evening.  I had the choice of a £100 fine and points on my licence, or to attend a speed awareness course at my own expense.  I’d attended such a course about seven years’ ago when I lived in Northampton.  I was filmed rushing back with a KFC Bargain Bucket a mile from my home.  Since then, they’d turned off all the speed cameras in Northamptonshire to save money.  I assumed they did the same in Bedfordshire.  I’ve lived there for 2 ½ years and I’ve never seen any flashes go off.

I was interested to learn that you can book a course in any location you want to.  At first I thought I might like to make a day of it and book a course in a seaside town:  maybe even work a weekend in Devon around it. Thinking more seriously, it wouldn’t really be fair on the missus to leave her to amuse herself for several hours while I get lectured at.  I decided to go somewhere on my own, nearer to home.  So, I found myself in an office block in Newport Pagnell on that Sunday morning.  Newport Pagnell is only thirty-five minutes away – if I put my foot down.   The courses also vary in cost: mine was one of the cheaper ones at £80.

I’ve got to say, it was quite an enjoyable experience.  After checking there were no wives of politicians present, proceedings commenced dead on 8am.  Talk about speeding:  the male trainer clearly wanted this event over with as quickly as possible, and spoke so fast it was hard to keep up. He set a challenge: if any of us could correctly identify the speed limits of various classes of roads, we could go home at coffee break.  None of us did.  It took me the full four hours to get into my head the difference between a single and a double carriageway (what looks like a dual carriageway is actually a single carriageway if there’s no central reservation).  The speed limit on a dual carriageway is 70mph unless otherwise indicated, so you don’t want to get it wrong.  We learned that we concentrate for fifteen minutes in every driving hour, and that we tend to drive faster if the music we are playing is faster than our heartbeat.  The trainer quipped that we should be OK with Coldplay (I suspect I was blasting out Motorhead on that fateful day in June).

Do you get irritated by the constant changes in speed limits on a smart motorway?  The red-circled speed limit signs aren’t triggered by a person, but are set automatically by radar in the cats’ eyes.  Rather than having everyone come to a halt on a congested motorway, the system merely slows you down, so you progress smoothly through.  Our two-wheeled friends weren’t discussed very favourably, but when one man claimed that all motorcyclists break the speed limits, the trainer reminded us that out of the twenty-four of us, there were no bikers present.  When we were asked to list a hazard I held back from shouting out “Uber drivers!”

I don’t want to give the impression I’m a serial speeder – I’m not.  I rarely go above 65 on the motorway, and I’m always scratching my head at the speeds some people drive at on country roads (the deadliest roads of all).  The course did its job:  I try to drive more carefully, and I’m thinking of switching to Classic FM. I don’t intend to get done again.  Though if I do, I have a few weekends free next July.

Leave a comment

Filed under Published Articles

Round the U-Bend

(Original edit of article for Taxi magazine).

Some people still think there are too many cabs on the streets – or more accurately, too many cab drivers.  In fact, driver numbers are reducing, and there are fewer people starting the Knowledge. Drivers are retiring, and fewer would-be cab drivers are prepared to sign up for three years of blood, sweat and tears; not knowing what kind of future the trade holds for them.  Their big question is:  will Uber destroy the London cab trade?

Uber’s aim is clear:  to build up a power base of investors and government lobbyists, then use loopholes in taxi and private hire legislation in order to dismantle taxi and private hire operations around the world (well done to Reading and North Tyneside for having the courage to ban Uber).

There’s been a lot of talk about English tests for private hire drivers, but it’s a minor factor.  It might slow licensing down, but other factors are likely to prove more decisive.  The employment status factor is interesting:  should Uber lose their appeal and be forced to treat its drivers as employees, they will have to provide the rights and benefits that apply to regular employees.  Uber can currently undercut taxis and competing PH firms, but if they are forced to grant employment rights it’s a different story.  Uber’s business model will be destroyed and it won’t be able to sustain cheap fares.

Then there’s the publicity angle.  Many high-ranking employees have left in the wake of negative publicity:  over twenty staff members left following allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination of female staff.  The high number of sex attacks Uber’s drivers have been accused of has also caused concern:  the Met recently reported a 50% rise in allegations against Uber drivers.  One of the most alarming incidents concerned the rape of a woman in India by an Uber driver.  The driver who attacked the woman was jailed for this, and other crimes; but not before an Uber executive obtained the medical records of the victim in order to discredit her.  The executive responsible was sacked after journalists discovered details of the incident.

As the bad publicity continued, Dodgy Dave Cameron’s friend, Rachel Whetsone found it too hot and left.  More recently, CEO Travis Kalanick, was forced to resign when investors turned against him.

The biggest turning point will be when investors start to pull out of this increasingly toxic brand.  Reports suggest that those trying to sell their investment are finding it hard to find buyers.

There’s such a vast conveyor belt of drivers required to maintain Uber’s model of over-supply, that if licences are capped, the company will be weakened.  It will no longer be able to guarantee a car within three minutes – a pretty impressive selling point to be fair.  Its drivers might be less inclined to put up with current working practices should they become more sought after.

The good news is that private hire licensing is already slowing down.  It’s reached saturation point where too many drivers are chasing too few jobs and no-one is making any money.  Unless numbers continue to fall, a cap on licences looks inevitable.  No-one thinks having 117,000 mini-cabs on the streets of London is a good thing, and if that figure rises, something will have to be done.

London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, isn’t happy about the traffic mayhem and pollution that unrestricted PH licensing has caused.  Mr Khan and the government have been arguing whether the Mayor actually sought a change in the law to restrict PH numbers.  Mr Khan said he’s “written a number of times” to Transport Under Secretary, Andrew Jones.  Mr Jones replied in the House claiming he’d “made no formal representations on capping the number of private hire licences in London to the Secretary of State or Department of Transport Ministers.”  Who should we believe?  This sounds like Cameron’s government denying they’d put pressure on Boris when he wanted to curb Uber.  We’ve seen the emails, Dave.

Uber, as they stand now, can put competing PH firms out of business in the race to the bottom.  We’re in a stronger position as we can ply for hire in the traditional way.  Our numbers might be gradually reducing, but there’s still a trickle of new blood through the Knowledge system.  Those of us left standing will still be able to respond to street hails and service the many hotel and station ranks.  That work won’t necessarily go to Uber.

If PH licensing is capped, the number of drivers will reduce dramatically.  Most people don’t stay in the PH trade for long.  There will be a queue of drivers attempting to apply, but those already licensed will still renew their licence every year.  Those who stop driving a mini-cab will keep their licence should they ever want to return in the future.  A PH license also serves as a Congestion Charge season ticket:  who’s going to give that up? (something else that needs looking at).

I don’t think TfL have the courage to refuse Uber another licence: there’s too much pressure from powerful people.  But I think things will become less favourable for the PH trade anyway; particularly for Uber, when their investors desert the sinking ship.  With Uber gone, or at least greatly weakened, many of its drivers might return to the less rapacious PH companies.  Things might settle down in the taxi and private hire world and go back to where they were a few years’ ago.  Wasn’t it great when all we had to worry about were Addison Lee?

Leave a comment

Filed under Published Articles

Code of Practice for Cab Customers

(original edit of piece written for Taxi magazine, and published this week).

Code of Practice

Putting aside traffic-related issues, most of our problems come from our interaction with passengers.  It’s not always their fault: there’s poor communication and misunderstanding on both sides, and either party can be reluctant to make clear their wishes and expectations.  I think it’s time we compiled a Code of Practice for cab customers:

 

  • Just looking at the oncoming driver is not enough: you need to thrust your arm out with confident intent.  London is no place for limp-wristed hails (an underarm Asian-style hail is acceptable so long as it’s clear)
  • If you’re not hailing a cab, please don’t wave your arms around on a London street: we’ve all stopped for people waving to their friend across the road
  • Stop a cab somewhere sensible. Don’t expect a cab to stop at a busy junction or at traffic lights (yes, I know many cab drivers indulge you and stop at such daft places, but they spoil it for everyone.  Please don’t encourage it)

The same applies to setting down:  it takes a couple of minutes to process a credit card, so have your cash ready if you really must get out on double red lines on Euston Road.  We also don’t like you sitting in the back counting out the contents of your piggy bank with a queue of buses behind us on Oxford Street

  • Don’t stand at the back of the cab at Pancras expecting the driver to put your bags in the boot. Taxi boots are tiny, and are only big enough to accommodate the equipment we’re obliged to carry in order to make us accessible:  such as a wheelchair ramp and harnesses. There’s room for little else, even the driver’s golf clubs
  • Please try not to stop a cab on one-way streets if you are going in the opposite direction: particularly on northbound streets like Tottenham Court Road if you’re going south.  You’re quite within your rights, but it spoils it for the driver who thinks he’s on his way home if he stops for you
  • State your destination clearly and accurately. I know you’ve read about a cab driver’s enlarged hippocampus, but it doesn’t help him read your mind as to what part of Edgware Road you want.  It’s a very long road…
  • Don’t send your husband out into the street to stop a cab while you’re still at the till at The Rainforest Café gift shop. Or before you’ve got your kids in the pushchair and your shopping bags ready
  • Yes, you can bring your dog, cat, rabbit, or any other pet, with you: it’s the humans I’m suspicious of
  • Don’t put your feet on the seats, eat or drink without asking first, or throw pistachio shells on the carpet
  • No, you can’t smoke. Even if you open the window.  It’s against the law.  Vaping is also against the law, according to a sticker TfL made me put in my cab
  • Don’t indulge in any other anti-social behaviour not mentioned above. There’s one notable exception:  Man Spread isn’t encouraged on the tube, but it’s fine in a cab.  Go ahead, enjoy yourself Sir
  • Don’t ask for Paddington; then add that you want an obscure B&B on Sussex Gardens when we’re going down the ramp off Bishops Bridge Road
  • It’s bad luck say “the roads are clear today” when you are only half way there
  • Saying you want to be dropped off “half way down” is meaningless when the driver can’t see how long the road is. Just shout when we’re there
  • The driver is not responsible for the traffic. Please direct your comments on madcap road schemes to TfL
  • We have no control over taxi fares either
  • “I’m in a hurry” doesn’t cut any ice. Everyone’s in a hurry, and all trips are urgent.  In fact, Every Journey Matters – for want of a better phrase.  I respectfully suggest you look at your own time management.  Don’t try to turn your problem into my   If you’re running late for a hospital appointment, I have sympathy.  If you’re having to wait twenty minutes for the next train home, tough
  • Best not attempt to engage the driver in a discussion on Uber: like the afore-mentioned madcap traffic schemes, this is another touchy subject best avoided
  • I’ll take Euros, but ask first. My exchange rate is 1:1
  • I’ll stop at a cashpoint if you insist, but it’ll be easier for us both if you use a credit card. The meter’s still running while you queue at the cashpoint, so a card would be cheaper

Well, there you have it; these are my top tips for smooth customer relations.  I think we now understand each other.  So, sit well back in your seat for comfort and safety, sir, and away we go…  …feet off seats please…

Leave a comment

Filed under Published Articles