John Griffin goes back to court to appeal bus lane ruling

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Black cabs were granted permission to use London’s bus lanes under a “cosy deal” cooked up by Ken Livingstone and the taxi trade, the Court of Appeal was told today.
Nicholas Green QC, representing Europe’s largest minicab firm Addison Lee, said the arrangement breached European fair trade laws as it allowed black taxis an “accelerated course” through London that was unavailable to minicab passengers.

Three Appeal judges today began hearing Addison Lee’s bid to reverse a High Court ruling last July that maintained Transport for London’s ban on the capital’s 50,000 minicabs from using bus lanes.

TfL contests that only black cabs should be allowed to use bus lanes as they are unique in being able to “ply for hire” and it is easier for taxi drivers to be spotted and pick up passengers when using the lanes.

Opening the lanes to minicabs has sparked fears about buses being caught in congestion and a greater safety threat to cyclists.

Mr Green said: “My client has long taken the view that the initial decision to allow black cabs into bus lanes was a cosy deal between the then mayor, Mr Livingstone, and the black cab trade.”

He told the court he had just obtained previously undisclosed “dynamite” and “explosive” TfL research into bus lanes.

“It shows that the reasons TfL had worked on for 18 months to justify keeping private hire vehicles out of bus lanes would apply equally to black cabs,” he told the court.

But the Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson, who is hearing the case with Lord Justice Elias and Lord Justice Patten, said: “I can’t see anything that is explosive or dynamite at all.”

Mr Green said there was a “wafer-thin distinction” in practice between the way black cabs and minicabs were used – though minicabs must be pre-booked and cannot be hailed in the street.

He said Addison Lee, which has 2,900 minicabs, took £30m a year in fares for journeys to and from airports and Eurostar services at St Pancras but was penalised by being unable to use bus lanes to speed up its passengers’ journeys.

The case continues.

Source: Evening Standard

John Griffin sells Addison Lee for £300 Million.

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Founded with one car in Battersea in 1975, father and son team, John and Liam Griffin, sold the business today to the Carlyle Group — which also owns the RAC and health food chain Holland & Barrett.

The Griffins and the family of Lenny Foster, who co-founded the minicab empire, will share those spoils while retaining a small stake in the business.

It has been quite a rise to fortune for John Griffin as, in the Seventies, he was forced to ditch his apprenticeship as an accountant and turn to mini-cabbing in order to make ends meet and rescue his father’s business.

Today, Addison Lee uses a cutting edge IT system to manage bookings for its 4500 cars after emerging as the major competitor to London’s black cabs.

Under the terms of the deal, the elder Griffin, John, will remain as chairman and the younger as chief executive. Drivers who work for the company don’t own shares and so will not get a windfall after today’s deal.

Liam Griffin told the Evening Standard: “We’re very much concentrated in central London but now we can look at going further afield within the M25, like the suburbs. We’ll look primarily at that area first.”

Carlyle Europe Partners managing director Andrew Burgess said he was keen to roll out Addison Lee to other cities in the UK which could benefit from the cabbie’s use of apps and technology that creates such an “efficient dispatch” system.

Internationally, Addison Lee already has burgeoning joint ventures in Paris and New York and the younger Griffin said that Carlyle’s deep international experience — it has 33 offices around the world — would help Addison Lee make major breakthroughs overseas.

The cabbie is also looking to widen the range of accounts with blue-chip corporates, which should mean that it will end up hiring more than the 4000 cab drivers that Addison Lee employs today.

John Griffin courted controversy last year, when he spoke out against London cyclists.

He claimed they were to blame for their own injuries on the capital’s busy roads, arguing that they “leap onto a vehicle which offers them no protection except a padded plastic hat”.

He added that people were safer taking taxis as they would be “sitting inside a protected space with impact bars and air bags and paying extortionate amounts of taxes on our vehicle purchase, parking, servicing, insurance and road tax”.

He also argued that for compulsory training and insurance for London’s cyclists, who were sufficiently angered to accuse him of “victim blaming”.

Carlyle was advised on the transaction by Deloitte, OC&C and Latham & Watkins. Addison Lee was advised by Catalyst Corporate Finance.

Source: Evening Standard.

TAXI RANKS UPDATE

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15 April 2013

Below is the latest taxi ranks update to help keep you informed, follow the links provided for more information.

News

London Bridge bus station reopens
London Bridge bus station has now reopened following the completion of the works to repair the collapsed sewer in London Bridge Street.

The taxi rank in the station plus the drop-off bays and disabled pick-up bay are all now open, the temporary taxi rank in St Thomas Street is no longer in operation. Taxi drivers must not overrank or block access to the station for buses, taxis and other vehicles.

Baroness Thatcher funeral
On Wednesday 17 April 2013 the funeral of Baroness Thatcher will take place at St Paul’s Cathedral. A ceremonial funeral will be held with a procession between the Palace of Westminster and St Paul’s, details of the route of the procession and planned road closures are available here.

Some taxi rank suspensions will be in place from 05:00 on Wednesday morning along and around the procession route. Drivers must not park or leave their taxi on any suspended taxi rank otherwise it could be towed away and where possible drivers should try to avoid the area.

The following taxi ranks will be suspended from 05:00 on Wednesday 17 April:

– Aldwych (Waldorf Hotel)
– Aldwych (rest rank)
– Aldwych (One Aldwych Hotel)
– Aldwych (ME Hotel)
– Strand (Charing Cross Station)
– Strand (opposite Australia House)
– Strand (Clement Danes Church)
– Exeter Street (Strand Palace Hotel)
– Arundel Street (rest rank)
– Temple Place (refreshment rank)
– Embankment Place (under Charing Cross railway bridge)
– Whitehall Place (Corinthia Hotel)
– Whitehall Place (Liberal Club)
– Whitehall Court (Royal Horseguards Hotel)
– Pall Mall (RAC Club)
– Millbank (Media Centre)

The Strand (Clement Danes Church) taxi rank will also be suspended on Monday 15 April and Tuesday 16 April but drivers will be able to use the first three spaces of the taxi rank on these days.

Hammersmith Broadway works

Emergency repair works are taking place in Hammersmith Broadway and during these works the taxi rank will be unavailable but a temporary taxi rank has been provided in Queen Caroline Street. The works are expected to last for up to six weeks and taxi drivers should use the temporary taxi rank but must not overrank or try and use the rank when it is full as the rank is being closely monitored.

Liverpool Street marshalled taxi rank
The late night marshalled taxi rank in Liverpool Street continues to be popular with drivers and the public but since the scheme was first started more bars and clubs in the City have started to open on Saturday evenings.

In response to this increase in late night activity on Saturday evenings, and following discussions with the City of London Corporation, we have decided to change the evenings the marshalled taxi rank operates. Instead of the rank being marshalled on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings it will now be marshalled on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.

We intend to trial this and see how well the rank is used, if it is successful we will consider making the change permanent.


We Are FVSTL

On Saturday 25 May 2013 We Are FVSTL takes place at Damyns Hall Aerodrome, Upminster.

The festival is between 11:00am and 02:30am and will be attended by 15,000 people. Shuttle buses will run from Upminster Station to the festival site on Saturday but to help people who want to take a taxi there will be taxi marshals at the station between 10:00 and 15:00 on Saturday.

At the festival site there will be a designated drop-off area plus a taxi rank and this will be marshalled from 10:00 on Saturday morning until the festival ends on Sunday morning. The drop-off area and taxi rank will be accessible from Warwick Lane.

Taxis will be an essential form of transport for people going to and from the event so we hope that the local drivers will use the station taxi rank and the taxi rank on the festival site. Information about the event can be found on the We Are FVSTL website here.


Whitcomb Street

Following a public consultation by Westminster City Council the taxi rank in Whitcomb Street, outside the Thistle Piccadilly Hotel, has been revoked.

The council proposed a number of changes in Wardour Street and Whitcomb Street including removing the Whitcomb Street taxi rank, extending the Blue Badge parking bays and relocating some residents parking. The taxi rank ceased operation on Monday 8 April 2013 and drivers should not park where the rank was located.


Hornchurch taxi rank trial

The Hornchurch taxi rank trial is continuing and the feedback so far has been positive. Since the trial started there have been some small changes and the taxi rank is now in three portions:
– 1st portion is still in Hornchurch High Street and is for 4 taxis only
– 2nd portion is in Billet Lane but the front of the 2nd portion has been moved closer to Hornchurch High Street and extended to 8 spaces
– 3rd portion is in Billet Lane and is for 10 taxis

There are temporary taxi rank stops at both of the portions in Billet Lane to tell drivers where to rank.

The trial will continue to be monitored and drivers are reminded that they must not:
– Rank outside of the agreed taxi rank portions
– Overrank or cause any obstructions
– Block buses or any other vehicles

Overranking

Complaints have continued to be received about taxis overranking at the Selfridges taxi rank, parking on the pavement and also parking in the bus stop. Drivers must not overrank or obstruct the bus stop otherwise they will be issued with a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) by the borough.

Complaints have also been received about taxis queuing on the corner of Hans Road/Basil Street/near Walton Place.
This is obstructing other vehicles and causing problems for local residents and businesses. If the taxi ranks serving Harrods are full then drivers must not queue in the road and should move on.

Richmond Station

The new taxi rank serving Richmond Station is now operational and marked out on the road. The rank is in four portions which are set out as follows:
– 1st portion, this is for 4 taxis and operates 24 hours a day
– 2nd portion, this is for 17 taxis and operates 24 hours a day
– 3rd portion, this is in the shared loading bay, is for 4 taxis and operates between 19:00-07:00
– 4th portion, this is in the shared loading bay, is for 6 taxis and operates between 19:00-07:00

There have been reports that a small minority of taxi drivers have been ranking in drop-off area on The Quadrant but this area is not designated as a taxi rank and drivers must not park in or ply for hire from this space. This area has been designated as a drop-off area only, if taxis rank here then it prevents taxi drivers and other motorists from being able to safely drop-off passengers for the station.


Muswell Hill Broadway rank

The Muswell Hill Broadway taxi rank has been moved to Dukes Avenue. The relocated taxi rank is for two taxis, operates 24 hours a day and a new taxi pole has recently been installed at the rank.

Law Commission taxis and private hire vehicles review – interim statement

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News release: 9 April 2013

Law Commission sets out early thinking on reforms for the taxi and private hire trades

Following an extensive consultation on the regulations governing taxis and mini-cabs (private hire vehicles), the Law Commission has announced, in an interim statement, a change of direction on two key proposals: setting restrictions on local taxi numbers, and licensing for wedding cars.
The Commission initially proposed abolishing the right of licensing authorities to restrict the number of taxis permitted to operate in an area. But it has been convinced that the benefits of change are outweighed by the advantages of continuing to allow restrictions. On the one hand, the Commission accepts that restrictions can have a place in combating congestion and over-ranking, and supporting a viable taxi trade to maintain high standards. On the other, there is no compelling evidence that de-restriction reduces fares or has a significant effect on waiting times. It will also recommend that areas where numbers of taxis are now limited should be able to retain their traditional “plate value” systems. If new areas regulate numbers, however, licenses would not be transferrable, preventing plate values from accruing.
The proposal to bring wedding and funeral cars into the same regulatory framework as mini-cabs has also been revisited, and the Commission will be recommending that they retain their statutory exemption from licensing, rather than relying on the Secretary of State or Welsh Ministers to exempt them.
The Commission has restated its commitment to keeping the two-tier system that distinguishes taxis from mini-cabs. It will recommend retaining the local nature of the hackney trade, with only taxis being able to pick up passengers from a rank or on the street (“ply for hire”). Mini-cabs should continue to be restricted to offering a pre-booked service.
Frances Patterson QC, the Law Commissioner leading the project, says: “The legal framework governing the taxi and private hire trades is complex and inconsistent. The purpose of our review is to improve and simplify it, and ensure it is fit for purpose.
“We listened to a great many people during our consultation – drivers, operators, licencing authorities and passengers. They confirmed what we have always believed, that the two-tier system distinguishing taxis and mini-cabs should stay. And they convinced us that the trade and its passengers will benefit if licensing authorities continue to have the power to limit taxi numbers.”
The Commission is half way through its review and expects to make final recommendations for reform to Government at the end of the year. In light of the consultation, which brought in more than 3,000 responses, it has reached a number of other early decisions on what it will recommend, including:
· Applying a national set of standards for mini-cabs.
· Introducing compulsory disability discrimination training for all drivers, and making it a licence condition that drivers should not discriminate against disabled passengers.
The interim statement and responses to the Commission’s consultation can be found on http://www.lawcom.gov.uk. The final report, with a draft Bill, will be published at the end of 2013.

Processing of Taxi and Private Hire Fares by Credit and Debit Cards – The Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations 2012

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TPH NOTICE

This notice provides the taxi and private hire trades with very important information on the processing of credit and debit cards.

On Saturday 6 April 2013 ‘The Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations 2012’ come into effect. The regulations ban traders from “charging consumers more than the cost borne by them for accepting a given means of payment” which includes processing card payments.
The regulations cover taxi and private hire passengers who pay by card and are being introduced following a consultation by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. A copy of the consultation outcome, the regulations and guidance on the regulations are available on the Inside Government website here.

New businesses and micro-businesses will be exempt from the regulations until 12 June 2014 but from this date the regulations will also apply to them. Broadly speaking a micro-business is one with fewer than 10 employees, this includes all self employed London taxi and private hire vehicle drivers. A new business is one which began trading between 6 April 2013 and 12 June 2014.

If you accept card payments it is vital that you are aware of these changes and ensure that you comply with them. From the appropriate date you must not charge passengers more than it costs to accept and process a card payment.

Taxi services

We currently set the maximum extra charge for card payments for taxi journeys at £1.00 or 12.5% of the metered fare and we have no intention to immediately change this prior to any formal consultation. This “extra” sets a maximum amount that can be charged when a passenger pays by card. However, taxi drivers and taxi booking companies can charge less than £1.00 or 12.5% of the metered fare and many already do so.

Taxi drivers and taxi booking companies that accept card payments should be aware of how much it costs them to accept and process a card payment and from the appropriate date must not charge a passenger more than this amount.

Enforcement
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and trading standards officers have the powers to enforce these regulations. Complaints about being overcharged when paying by card, including for taxi and private hire services, will be considered by the OFT or local council trading standards officers. Where we are made aware that drivers or operators are charging more than the cost for processing the payment we may review their fitness to be license