THE INDEPENDENT Transport Commission (ITC) hosted their ‘winter discussion’ evening’ at the Cowcross Street Gallery in Farringdon, Central London, to ask the question: ‘What will be the future shape of taxi and private hire services in the UK’?
Key themes raised in the discussion included:
- Do we need stronger regulations on cross-border operations?
- What is the purpose of private hire and taxi regulations?
- How can private hire solve the transport challenges of the UK?
- How can regulations be effectively enforced?
- How can safety rules raise the barriers against dubious operators?
A spokesman for the ITC said:
Rapid advances in technology and changing behaviours are altering the shape of private hire and taxi services. The number of taxi and private hire vehicles is now at a record high in the UK and more people than ever before are choosing the convenience that these services can offer.
“This has partly been driven by the development of apps and new platforms for using these services and these are expected to wield a greater influence in the future. But, what will the future shape of private hire and taxi services look like in the UK and what are the implications for users, drivers, businesses and the wider public?”
The ITC meeting was hosted by Kris Beuret of Transport Wales and guest speakers included Andy Boland of Addison Lee, Nicolas Andine of Karhoo and Jamie Mackenzie of Watford Borough Council.
ANDY BOLAND / ADDISON LEE – Mr Boland gave an overview of the trends affecting the private hire industry and said the global car services market was now worth over £100bn.
He added: “Consumers are increasing their use of these services, with new apps helping to increase market awareness, but the industry remains fragmented and suffering from a lack of investment.”
The Addison Lee boss went on to say that he thought the future of the private hire sector in the UK would most unlikely consolidate along the lines of quality and price.
He also noted that: “The entire ecosystem around vehicles is changing, with car ownership falling, connected car technology improving and a powerful trend towards automation and the electrification of cars. Future challenges include the need to provide user-led services and to develop the infrastructure necessary to support integrated mobility services.”
NICOLAS ANDINE / KARHOO – Mr Andine outlined how private hire and technological innovation could help to address the policy objectives of politicians and the trade and said: “Major cities, including London, are facing similar policy challenges in urban mobility to reduce congestion and improve air quality.
To achieve these objectives, major changes in urban mobility will be needed, including cross-modal connectivity, the use of zero-emission vehicles and the increased use of ride-sharing.
Indeed, a recent study showed how autonomous ride-sharing in Lisbon could dramatically reduce the use of cars in the city.”
Mr Andine went on to suggest private hire and taxi services could, in the future, act as a feeder system for public transport and support, “peripheral trips outside the city core”.
JAMIE MACKENZIE / WATFORD BOROUGH COUNCIL – The business compliance manager at WBC spoke of the regulatory challenges coming from taxi and minicab services and suggested that new regulations might be needed to bring enforcement and compliance by local authorities into the 21st century.
Mr Mackenzie added:
The rapid technological changes in taxi and private hire operations means that regulators now face a series of tough licensing challenges. In particular, the growing trend for private hire services to operate a long way from their licence location.
Cab licensing by councils has traditionally been a local authority issue but it is now becoming harder and harder for us to keep up with rapid technological advances.
“There is a need for greater collaboration across cities and countries, to explore cross-border issues and maintain standards, and it could be the case that existing legislation may need to be tweaked to address these new technological developments.”