PHC highlights the key points and recommendations of TfL’s official response to the London Assembly Transport Committee’s private hire and taxi survey
By May 2015, the Mayor and TfL should develop specific public awareness campaigns which show how to correctly identify whether a driver / vehicle is licensed.
TfL already has a well established Safer Travel at Night (STaN) campaign which started in 2002/3, in collaboration with the Met Police and City of London Police, and focuses on how to book a legal licensed private hire vehicle (PHV), rather than how to identify a licensed driver/vehicle.
The award winning STaN campaign, which last year won the Safety Campaign award at the Suzy Lamplugh Trust National Personal Safety Awards, has been extremely successful in raising public awareness of the dangers of using unbooked minicabs, and improving understanding that any minicab picked up off the street without a booking is dangerous.
In light of the Committee’s recommendation we will investigate further potential tie-ins with colleagues at London & Partners, Heathrow and London City Airport. By May 2015 TfL would be happy to consider any further proposals the Committee has for joint working in this area.
By May 2015, TfL should further develop the database that links PHV drivers to vehicle and operator information. TfL should work with app developers to produce a tool that will enable passengers to check the status of their driver, vehicle or operator.
We understand and support the principles behind the recommendation to allow private hire operators to link drivers and vehicles through our database. However we are constrained by a series of practicalities, including;
- PHV drivers have the flexibility to work for multiple operators and freely move between them at any time
- As with taxis, licensed PHVs can be driven for private purposes by unlicensed drivers or can be driven by multiple private hire drivers through sharing arrangements
- Strict limitations in the legislation that require PHVs drivers, operators and vehicles to be licensed separately
- Any changes would need to be considered within the legal boundaries of data protection of driver details
There is currently no requirement for operators to upload details of the drivers and vehicles registered with them to Transport for London’s licensing database. We are planning to amend our online functionality to include a bulk upload facility for operators to upload details of the drivers and vehicles they are using and expect to introduce this by late 2016.
By May 2015, TfL should produce a signage strategy for the licensed taxi and private hire industries, including plans to pilot number plate-based fixed signage.
TfL intends to pilot the idea with a separate number plate surround, with a view to eventually securing statutory approval from the DVLA to incorporate the signage into the manufacture of the number plate itself.
In addition to the proposed number plate identifiers, the signage strategy will include clearer driver photo ID to be displayed on the vehicle and a requirement for all private hire operators to provide a passenger with details of the VRM and driver ID of their booked vehicle ahead of the passenger entering the vehicle, as already provided by many operators including Addison Lee and Uber.
TfL action date: Trial to commence Autumn 2015
By May 2015, the Mayor and TfL should set out how they intend to monitor and improve supply and demand, for both taxi and private hire industries, across London. This should include a specific study into potential demand for taxi services in outer London town centre locations.
TfL’s role is to regulate and licence the taxi and private hire trades, not to manage supply and demand. However, a detailed study of driver working patterns via a driver diary survey will be undertaken this autumn. We will explore with the two trades the potential to use technology to undertake this survey.
TfL action date: Autumn 2015
TfL and the Met Police have put together a bespoke process to collect and extract information on cab-related crime which we use as intelligence and analysis to improve the effectiveness of TfL and police response and crime reduction activities. We will continue to work together to improve this area.
However, in many cases of cab related crime, especially in cab-related sex offences, a suspect is never identified and it can often be unclear whether the driver was licensed or the private hire vehicle was booked.
TfL has established systems, such as our online reporting tool for touting and other cab-related offences. Further improvements are currently being made to intelligence systems and processes to target resources more effectively.
By May 2015, The Mayor and TfL should provide the Committee with an assessment of the resources currently devoted to enforcement, setting out costed plans to increase these where necessary and address funding gaps. This should include options to increase licence fees to ensure adequate enforcement resources are available.
TfL and the Metropolitan Police Service have over 400 officers available for taxi and private hire compliance and enforcement operations. We directly fund 68 dedicated police cab enforcement officers, and now have 41 TfL compliance officers (rising to 48 by March this year) and a further 32 vehicle inspection staff.
Major operations also use Safer Transport Team officers and a group of 290 female police officers are called upon as part of covert anti-touting operations. When this is taken into account, we believe these stand us in good stead against any comparable world city, including New York, which according to the Committee transcript is reported to have a total of 189 enforcement officers available for similar work. TfL will discuss options with the trade for increasing enforcement and compliance officers and the impact this will have on licence fees.
By March 2015, The Mayor and TfL and the Metropolitan Police should set out specific steps that will be taken to improve the efficiency and visibility of non-covert, night-time operations.
We, alongside the Met Police Roads and Transport Policing Command (RTPC) and City of London Police use a broad range of tactics including high visibility roadside driver and vehicle licence checks, Automatic Number Plate Recognition operations, and uniformed and covert patrols in hotspot locations to deter, disrupt and detect illegal cab activity.
Furthermore, we are working with the Met Police to ensure there is greater flexibility for the Command’s 2,300 Police and Police Community Support officers to boost cab enforcement numbers for specific operations.
The Mayor and TfL should immediately clarify the policy on destination bookings and reinstate the requirement for private hire drivers and operators to record a destination at time of booking.
- The date on which the booking is made and, if different, the date of the proposed journey
- The name of the person for whom the booking is made or other identification of him, or, if more than one person, the name or other identification of one of them
- The agreed time and POB, or, if more than one, the agreed time and place of the first pick up
- The main destination specified at the time of the booking
- Any fare or estimated fare quoted
- Name of the driver carrying out the booking or other identification of him
- The booking has been sub-contracted and the registered number of the vehicle to be used or such other means of identifying it as may be adopted.
- Private hire operators being required to provide TfL with general information regarding driver related complaints
- Private hire vehicle owners being required to display the TfL contact details for complaints on public facing material, such as web sites to encourage reporting direct to TfL
- TfL Taxi and Private Hire public facing literature being reviewed to make clear customers can contact TfL directly to complain about a private hire journey.