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TfL’s director of surface operations Peter Blake outlined the key proposals of the private hire consultation paper at the annual LPHCA meeting at Heathrow.

Peter-BlakePETER BLAKE

TFL DIRECTOR OF SURFACE OPERATIONS

This is a 12 week consultation and I want to emphasize it is a consultation. I don’t have a signed list of issues that I am going to bring in the New Year.

We actually want to listen to your views in terms of that response. What we have said is that there will be things that you like and some that you won’t.

So we want to hear what you think and why. We want considered responses and we are particularly interested to hear views on if you think there is a problem with delivery.

There are several principal objectives of this consultation review. Firstly, passenger safety. This is what I am here to do and you would expect no less in my role as a regulator.

That means, on occasions and in terms of some of the consultation proposals, I am going to challenge the trade. I make no apologies for that. That is my role.

Equally, I want a discussion with the trade with how we can deliver some of the proposals and some of the public safety priorities.

We also need to update the private hire regulations because they are 17 years old.

The internet and smartphones may have just been a twinkle in someone’s eye when licensing first came in but we now need to update the regulations to the modern era.


TOPOGRAPHICAL SKILLS

We want to have greater oversight and involvement with the training of drivers.

The testing of topographical skills is the key entrance into the private hire market place and is the passport to be a private hire driver. We want to have a greater understanding about this.

From my prospective, a private hire driver should have a clear understanding of what their licensing obligations are before they get into a vehicle and transport people around.


COMPLAINTS

Equally, we want to have a greater understanding of complaints made against private hire drivers.

We want to get a sense of what the particular issues are, with regards to the drivers’ behaviour and vehicle condition.

We also want to understand whether there are particular issues with particular drivers, in terms of moving around and changing companies, with regards to public safety.


DRIVER AND VEHICLE ID

The ability to receive a driver’s photographical and vehicle details is something that would give passengers added comfort and security.

The consultation makes clear that there may well be passenger benefits if these details are provided five minutes in advance and a passenger has to wait five minutes for their vehicle to arrive.


SECURITY ON APP BASED PLATFORMS

If someone logs onto an app platform, books a job and is shown confirmation details of a driver and vehicle, how does that customer know that that is the driver and vehicle that will come to pick them up?

There are issues of security here and we need to work together to work out how to provide assurance that the photo of the driver is the same as the driver who will pick you up.


OPERATOR LICENCES FOR IN-VENUE OR TEMP EVENTS

With the advent of smartphones, online booking etc, it is an interesting question as to whether or not we actually need in-venue or temporary operator licences.

And what we are asking is; if not this system or method, then what else could we do? Is there a better way of managing this in the real world?


A LANDLINE ALONGSIDE AN APP

Going back to the focus groups, passengers said that while they appeciate the ease of use of online booking, if something goes wrong, they want to be able to speak to a real person.

So, we propose in the consultation that a landline should be available alongside an app or online solution.


VEHICLES MUST NOT BE VISIBLE FOR IMMEDIATE HIRE ON AN APP BASED BOOKING SOLUTION

If you come out of a club and see a line of vehicles touting by the roadside, is that not similar to switching on your phone and seeing vehicles circulating that are available for immediate hire?


DRIVERS CAN ONLY WORK FOR ONE OPERATOR AT A TIME

There are clearly potential health and safety benefits if the number of excess hours that drivers work is reduced. And from our prospective, we can also see with certainty who a driver is working for.

Obviously this could have profound ramifications for drivers and how they currently work, some for multiple operators.

There are clearly two sides to this and we really need to get under the skin and understand what is going on.


OPERATORS TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR PROVIDING INSURANCE COVER FOR ENTIRE COMPANY FLEET

We recognise there are financial consequences to this proposal.

But it’s an interesting relationship isn’t it? If the passenger has a relationship with an operator and the service is provided by a driver and a vehicle, doesn’t the customer have a reasonable exepctation that the operator has their back covered with regards to insurance?

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PHC Magazine

PHC Magazine