TfL to work to introduce formal licensing of motorcycles as Private Hire Vehicles

Three London private hire operators have provided motorcycle private hire services in London since the 1990s with up to 17 motorcycles used for passenger transport.
Although the scope of the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 includes motorcycles, the vehicle regulations made in 2004 restricted licensing to vehicles with 4 road wheels.
As a result, during the transitional arrangements put in place when licensing was introduced, temporary permits authorised by the Department for Transport (DfT) were issued for the existing motorcycles to allow them to continue to provide these services until such time as a decision of formal licensing was made.
These permits have been replaced subsequently on a like-for-like basis and the operators and riders are licensed as for other private hire services.
These operators have high standards for riders and vehicles and very good safety records.
TfL conducted a consultation in 2009 in order to inform a decision whether to formally license motorcycles or revoke the existing temporary permits.
The proposals for licensing gained support from many respondents but also drew some opposition. At the time TfL felt that it was appropriate for the Government to make a decision on this issue as it was a national rather than regional one.
In July 2012, the DfT published guidance on whether and how to license motorcycle PHVs. The Department urges licensing authorities such as TfL to license as wide a range of vehicles as possible consistent with safety, and does not consider that there is a compelling case for ruling out motorcycle PHVs on safety grounds.
TfL has now reviewed the DfT guidance, the responses to the previous consultation and the experience of the existing operations and has decided to bring these operations fully within the licensing regime
The relevant regulations will now be changed to allow the licensing of two-wheel motorcycle PHVs and there will be specific requirements on licences for operators using motorcycle PHVs services and for motorcycle PHV riders to ensure that safety standards are maintained.

Key elements of the regulations will be:
• Only two-wheeled motorcycles will be licensed, with a minimum engine size (to ensure a large, stable vehicle), anti-lock brakes and capability to carry passengers with luggage. Three-wheeled or four-wheeled motorcycles will not be licensed;
• Motorcycle PHVs must be no more than two years old at first licensing and will not be re-licensed when they are over five years old, to ensure that the vehicles are modern and in good condition;
• Riders must have an advanced rider qualification and experience in riding motorcycles;
• Operators will be required to provide suitable safety equipment for the passenger including a properly-fitting helmet with intercom between driver and passenger, and hygienic liners if necessary;
• Operators and riders must ensure there is no reason why the passenger cannot be safety carried (because of impairments, age, weight, luggage, use of alcohol or drugs, or any other reason), and offer alternative transport if needed;
• Motorcycle PHVs, like other PHVs, must be booked before the journey commences and cannot ply for hire.
Other licensing requirements and processes will be similar to those for PHV cars and the fees applied will reflect the cost of establishing and delivering licensing.
Existing licensed drivers or operators that want to use motorcycle PHVs will have to meet the additional criteria for motorcycle operators or riders and apply for variations to their licences.
It is intended to have the licensing regime and associated processes in place by early 2014. TfL will now engage with relevant stakeholders and work to introduce the new licensing regime.
Current transitional provisions will remain in force for a short period after licensing is introduced to allow existing operators and riders to make the necessary changes to comply with the new regulations.

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London Taxi Drivers New Design Licences and Area Identifiers

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In March 2013, TfL will commence issuing replacement licences and area identifiers to all licensed London taxi drivers. The new licences and area identifiers will be of a similar design to existing ones but will contain a number of new security features.

In addition, following feedback from the trade, the new suburban area identifiers will have a larger space to show the areas for which a driver is licensed to ply for hire.
One of the key reasons for replacing all taxi driver licences and area identifiers is to combat fraudulent licences.

The introduction of the area identifiers has highlighted issues that have existed within the trade for a number of years. Between March and December 2012 some 27 arrests have been made by the police for the use of fraudulent documentation. Of these, a number were completely unlicensed drivers that had received no character and medical checks or undertaken the Knowledge of London. These drivers are putting the public at risk and also damaging the earnings and reputation of legitimate taxi drivers.

Accompanying the new documents will be instructions advising how to return existing documents to TfL.
Any driver who has not received his or her replacement licence and area identifiers by 31 March 2013 should contact us via support@tph.tfl.gov.uk or 0845 602 7000.

In order to facilitate this change a number of drivers were recently asked to submit passport size photographs which will allow a digital version to be reproduced on their licence. Any driver who has not yet responded to this request is urged to do so without further delay.

Until a new photograph is provided we will be unable to issue the replacement licence and identifiers. Photographs can be emailed to TPHphotos@tfl.gov.uk or posted to:
Taxi Driver Photographs 4th Floor, Green Zone Palestra
197 Blackfriars Road London SE1 8NJ
After 31 March 2013

any driver not displaying new style identifiers will be liable to compliance action therefore it is imperative that drivers provide a photograph as requested.

Through the issue of the new licences and area identifiers which contain additional security features, along with continuing to undertake regular compliance checks, we will be able to safeguard the public from rogue drivers and protect the reputation and the earnings of the taxi trade

China’s Geely buys black cab maker Manganese Bronze

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LONDON (Reuters) – Chinese car maker Geely has bought Manganese Bronze, the maker of London’s black taxis, for 11 million pounds, safeguarding jobs and production of the vehicles in Britain.

Manganese Bronze, whose taxis have been on British streets since 1948, went into administration last October, with about a third of its 300-strong workforce losing their jobs.

Geely, which already owned about a quarter of Manganese Bronze, on Friday said it had agreed a deal with administrator PricewaterhouseCoopers to buy “the business and principal assets” of the company.

“Geely’s priority will be to re-establish the manufacture, sale and servicing of new and current vehicles on broadly the same basis as existed before the business went into administration,” Geely Chairman Li Shufu said.

“This will include the continued assembly of the TX4 at Manganese Bronze’s existing Coventry plant in the West Midlands.”

Manganese Bronze has failed to turn a profit since 2007.

Late last year the company said its financial position was unclear after the discovery of a safety defect in its new TX4 model that led to a recall of 400 taxis and a halt to sales.

The recall was the latest in a spate of problems to have plagued the taxi maker and coincided with market share gains by rival Eco City Vehicles’ Mercedes Vito taxi. Japan’s Nissan Motor Co Ltd is also due to launch its own taxi in Britain.

Manganese Bronze shares closed at 10 pence on October11, the last day they traded on the London Stock Exchange, valuing the company at about 3 million pounds.

In 2006 Geely paid 53 million pounds for a 23 percent stake in Manganese Bronze and 52 percent of a Shanghai-based joint venture with the company. However, it took a charge of 100 million yuan ($16 million) to write down that investment in 2008.

“I am not sure why Geely would get itself into such a deal … the black cab is too British to win mass appeal anywhere, not even in China,” said John Zeng, Asia Pacific director for consultancy LMC Automotive.

“The best hope for Geely is to move the production line to China, cut costs and sell it back to London.”

As well as technical difficulties, Manganese has been hit by a weak economy and delays in fulfilling key orders. The company sold 1,502 taxis in 2011, 9 percent fewer than in 2010.

Manganese reported a loss of 4.6 million pounds in the six months to the end of June on sales 11 percent lower than the same period a year earlier.

London mayor Boris Johnson said he was “delighted” with Friday’s news and is keen to hear Geely’s proposals for producing a “low-emission taxi to serve London in the near future”.