Are we doing ourselves a massive disservice?

 

The above-mentioned report was commissioned by my taxi and came into my possession a few days ago.
I believe it sets out a wish list for the future of the taxi and private hire industry. You will notice many of the things that are now happening here in London have already happened in many cities across Europe. The City that stood out the most is Dublin. If you read the report you will see that Dublin taxi drivers suffered many injustices brought about by the regulating authorities. Ireland has, essentially, regulated a single tier system.

The authorities and Government allowed a tsunami of new drivers to enter the market almost overnight. Between 2000 and 2008 the number of taxi licenses in Ireland rose from 3,913 to a peak of 27,420. Also, several anti-car measures have been introduced within Dublin that limit traffic from the centre at peak times and plans for the pedestrianisation of parts of the city are in the pipeline.
500 unregulated rickshaws are also allowed to operate in Dublin City. The expansion of tram services also sees taxis competing for road space in the City.

It is in my mind clear from this report that there are many things the authorities would like to achieve. Whatever happens next it is clear that the regulators and policy makers, as well as the entire transport sector including the taxi and phv industry, will need to continue responding to a series of critical technological and demographic challenges in the future.
Markets, consumers and suppliers will not standstill and the pace of change in the taxi transportation industry across countries is accelerating.

The report states that;
‘Business models throughout the industry will continue to evolve. Innovation needs to be encouraged. In addressing the needs of millennial consumers and older people for example and in developing shared ride transport systems in major cities, with increased demand taxis could become subscription-based service ‘akin to Spotify or Netflix.
Rather than owning their own vehicles consumers would pay a monthly or annual fee to access the taxi services within a defined geographical area models such as these have the potential to revolutionise the shared transportation sector.’

With all this potential change facing our industry we should be in there shaping our future, this would require a committed taxi trade working as one to achieve the best results for our industry now and into the future.
It should not be left solely to planners, taxi app companies and regulatory authorities to make far reaching and sometimes damaging decisions without the full involvement of the drivers themselves. If we allow this to happen we will be the losers. An example of this, in my opinion, was the introduction of the electric taxi, hugely expensive and without the correct infrastructure to sustain its use effectively.
Also, allowing thousands of phv’s to enter the immediate hire market and ply for hire using apps. This has been allowed to take place in complete disregard of the promises made in 1998 when the phv bill was passed to license Private Hire in the House of Commons. Did the representative groups fail the trade in 1998? By not calling for a definition when they were better placed to do so!
Have all these factors placed downward pressures on driver’s incomes making these hugely expensive vehicles unviable in today’s market? Forcing drivers to work longer shifts to maintain their incomes.

The following is taken from Hansard in 1998;
• Sir, George and the government have both made clear they have no intention of changing the position on plying for hire. In London as elsewhere, that will remain the exclusive right of the taxi trade it will continue to be illegal for minicabs or any other vehicles to ply for hire”.

• Clause 30 and 31 restrict the way in which minicabs can be advertised to avoid them plying for hire or giving the impression that they are taxis. Those provisions are unique to London.

• The bill is broadly drafted on purpose, because it must be flexible enough to stand the test of time, to cope with the evolution of policy, public attitudes and technology.

We at the RMT London taxi branch have, in the past, approached both Halo/My Taxi and Gett to ask them directly would they assist us with our campaign to get plying for hire defined. The answer from both taxi apps was a definite no. They have their eyes on a much bigger prize.

Only by coming together and organising ourselves into a strong and focused group of drivers, committed to representing ourselves, will we stop planners, regulators, taxi apps, and vehicle manufacturers continue to ignore us as we move forward and modernise. If we are to stand any chance of playing a meaningful role and preventing others making decisions without our involvement it matters not which group you choose to be a member of as long as those groups are working together with one aim in mind, the full protection of the licensed taxi trade and all its drivers now and for the foreseeable future.

Mick Bailey
Chair London taxi branch

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