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.