heathrow Airport Taxi Trade Meeting Update

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The Taxi Trade was represented by Michael Calvey & Paul Brennan of the LTDA, Michael Callis of HATDU, Micky Samroo and Dennis Brown of UNITE and Mark White of the LCDC.

Peter Cannon of the Club and Eddie Symes, Chairman of HATDU, were both unable to attend due to HAL’s change of time and date and their annoyance at such late change of notice was relayed to Andy Cameron of HAL, who apologised, saying it was due to unforeseen circumstances. This did not sit well with the Reps, who accused HAL of treating the Taxi Trade at Heathrow with contempt.

The meeting started off with an update on the handover from NSL to APCOA which has been extremely poor. The Heathrow Taxi Reps listened to an account from Sean Taylor, the Manager of APCOA, of how hard they had worked to recruit and train staff, after 50% of the former NSL staff walked out over a change in the terms and conditions of their working practices.

Sean Taylor, when challenged that the staff had been offered less favourable terms and conditions argued that this was not true. The new staff are now employed rather than self-employed; they work 4 day shifts and 4 off, followed by 4 night shifts. They now do 12 hours a shift instead of the previous 8 and the hourly rate has been cut from £10/hour to £7.40. They now get paid holidays and sickness entitlement.

Andy Cameron defended Sean Taylor, saying that the loss of the Agents had been unforeseen. When the Trade Reps pointed out that it wasn’t hard to see what would happen if you cut worker’s pay, he suggested we bring our crystal ball to the next meeting! The handover had been unbelievably poor. Previously when NSL took over from Meteor, the vast majority of the staff moved seamlessly from one company to another.

This time over 50% left to find employment elsewhere and on one occasion, it was reported that staff had walked out leaving Sean Taylor to cover Cab-in staff and process Driver’s credits.

Both HAL & APCOA were criticised over the effect this has had on the Taxi business at the Airport; pictures of large queues were given to illustrate the fact and the Reps said the situation was unacceptable and needed to be rectified post-haste!

Rank Agent recruitment continues and APCOA’s Alison Crothorne said training would be done both in the classroom and on the job to bring Agents up to speed. However, it was pointed out that this should’ve been done prior to the handover, not after it.

Sean Taylor told us he had excellent man-management skills and would turn the situation around as quickly as he could. However, the longer it takes him the more business we lose: the more customers walk away from Taxi Ranks to go and get alternative transport. It was pointed out that this is happening whilst Drivers are waiting for longer periods than necessary in the Feeder Park and earning less money.

HAL’s Andy Cameron did not take too kindly to the criticism but promised that improvements would be made. The Reps probed how this would be done, criticising both the training given, the staffing levels which are insufficient and also the quality of staff hired.

Reps asked to be given Service Level Agreements that two Agents would be on all Terminals at all times and that Minimum Standards for Agents include good spoken English. It was then agreed, by Sean Taylor, that all his staff would wear their HAL ID’s and numbered bibs or jackets for the purpose of Identification.

Eventually the meeting moved on after an hour on the subject. Taxi Movement Data and Operational Matters were discussed.

Figures for Feeder Park costs and contributions were asked to be supplied as the Mayor of London has a Consultation on Heathrow in September. Peter Cannon, the Club’s senior Rep who was unable to attend, has already been liaising with Colin Fox, from HAL’s Accounts department and more detailed information was promised to help analysis.

RE-OPENING OF TERMINAL TWO:
Rank issues were raised with Andy Cameron, who was quick to say that he was in agreement with the Taxi Trade and that something had gone amiss with his original instructions. The Reps were assured that the matter would be given the most urgent attention and the site, signage and access would be improved and information improved through liaisons with TfL T&PH’s Darren Crowson, the infrastructure and strategy manager.

What made this even more annoying is that London Assembly Member, Caroline Pidgeon, was asked in January, when she visited the Construction site to look at the Cab Rank.

Caroline Pidgeon, Chair of the London Assembly’s Transport Committee at Heathrow.
The meeting then moved onto Touting and Enforcement. HAL had been informed that there had been several instances of staff in Terminals seen putting work into cars or soliciting Car Companies in the Terminals by the Cab Trade Taxi Marshals. There were also accounts of Heathrow Express staff giving misinformation to Passengers that resulted in lost fares or people told to use the HEX only to find that they now faced a Taxi to their onward destination from Paddington that would have been cheaper in a Taxi straight to their original destination from Heathrow.
Complaints about HOTEL DESKS, HEATHROW AMBASSADORS in Purple Jackets and BAA STAFF were promised further investigation by Heathrow’s Neel Gohil, including one instance where it was reported that a Windsor Taxi was seen having a fare put into his Cab.

It was also pointed out by the LTDA’s Paul Brennan that computer screens in the new Terminal 2, actually allowed Passengers to use the internet free to book Heathrow Taxis that linked them to Car Companies in breach of the Law. Further investigations were promised by Neel, who said he would put a stop to it.

Mike Bristo, of Heathrow Police, then told the Trade of the work he has been doing since his return to working at the Airport. He explained that new Bye-Laws will be used to enforce SET DOWN points and both Taxi and Private Hire cars will be asked to move on after two minutes stopping the practice, mainly by PH and out of Town Taxis, of picking up from all 5 Terminals without using the Car Parks.

Mike has promised us more details of what to expect and about future operations so that Taxi Drivers will be aware and not fall foul of new regulations that will see Drivers asked for their licences on the Terminals before being checked against new computerised records at TfL that were brought in by John Mason and should identify the correct person driving any Taxi or PH vehicle.

Mike Bristo went on to tell the Trade Reps that he hoped to hold a number of Operations at Heathrow checking on Cabs every 6 weeks instead of the average every 6 months that has been the norm However, he went on to say that in order to do this he had to be invited on to Heathrow Airport. It was pointed out to Mike, that after some excellent work by the Club’s Peter Cannon, and additional questions to Siwan Hayward, Deputy Director of Enforcement at TfL, that TfL and Cab Enforcement do not need to be officially invited to enforce legislation appertaining to or on Hackney Carriage’s or PH in London.

Therefore, the Trade should see more robust enforcement at the Airport which Peter Cannon is monitoring along with the other Trade Groups. Mike Bristo was given the relevant information at the end of the meeting.

Following the meeting, both Paul Brennan and Mark Shulton of the Taxi Marshals have agreed to set up some web addresses so that individual drivers can help the Trade collate instances of problems at Heathrow, in order to put them to the Authorities. Details will be posted in the Trade Press and at Heathrow.

There will also be additional web addresses so that faults in the Taxi Feeder Park can be reported.

The Trade was told that there is due to be Surface Upgrade works due to Feeder Park Survey carried out in May: it was asked that the Feeder Park Exit be looked at due to increased traffic and visibility be improved. The conditions of Toilets/Canteen block including road surface, crossing, lights and fences will also be looked at and Paul and Mark will be recording incidents and faults for further reports.

Brief news was given about the Fuel Station, which has reopened: there should be more details at a later date.

Andy Cameron then proposed a review of conditions for Taxi Drivers Operating at Heathrow Airport. Peter Cannon is due to have further discussions before responding on behalf of the LCDC with regard to issues over mandatory Credit Card and other BAA Business proposals that included changes to the Local Journey system and compellability.

There are Consultations with the Mayor and TfL over Credit Cards and Heathrow Airport later in the year plus the London Assembly are holding an Investigation into Taxis and PH in London up until the end of September, with conclusions and recommendations made in December, so any response to HAL/BAA would be premature.

The Trade were asked to meet again in August to discuss Andy Cameron’s proposals but Sean Taylor said that he was unavailable on the suggested date, so we await a new one. However, that is unlikely to be before September as it’s the holiday season and there are other priorities with the City Hall investigation.
LATEST UPDATE:

We have just heard today that Terminal 1 is to be closed down and vacuum packed due to the high amount of asbestos in the building. We await confirmation.

Mark White.

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Taxi and Private Hire smartphone apps in London Letter to all drivers and private hire operators

Latest TFL press release :

This notice provides an update to all taxi and private hire drivers and private hire operators regarding the use of smartphone apps in London. The content of this notice has also been sent directly to all licensed drivers and operators.

The taxi and private hire trades play a vital role in London’s transport system, carrying over half a million passengers around the Capital every day.
I am conscious that the growth in the use of smart phones is changing the way many of us organise our lives, with passengers and drivers
increasingly using apps that serve London’s taxi and private hire market.

While apps offer tremendous potential benefits, TfL as the regulator has a duty to ensure that the way in which they operate complies with the licensing and regulatory framework in London. Over the last few months you will have seen a lot in the media about this, in particular about the Uber app, and I this note explains our current position on the use of smart phone technology.

Taximeters

As you will know, private hire vehicles in London are prohibited from being equipped with taximeters. However, it is not unlawful for a private hire operator to charge its customers on the basis of time taken and distance travelled in respect of journeys. TfL’s view is that smartphones that transmit location information (based on GPS data) between vehicles and operators, have no operational connection with the vehicles, and receive information about fares which are calculated remotely from the vehicle, are not taximeters within the meaning of the legislation (section 11 of the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998).
The main taxi and private hire trade organisations fundamentally disagree with how the law should be applied to the use of smart phones in this way. TfL has no specific vested interest in which interpretation is correct, other than that we would like clarity so we can regulate the industry and enforce effectively where necessary and appropriate.

In order for us to resolve this issue as quickly and fairly as possible, allowing all interested parties to make representations, we consider the most appropriate way forward is to invite the High Court to issue a declaration as to how the law should be applied in this area.

However, we are now aware that the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) has commenced private prosecutions in the Magistrates’ Court against a number of individual drivers who use the Uber app. These cases will delay the resolution of this issue as the High Court cannot be invited to issue a declaration while there are ongoing criminal proceedings. Nor will the private prosecutions provide a definitive legal position on this issue, as the decisions of one Magistrates’ Court are not binding on another.
Rather than resolving this issue quickly and fairly, we believe that the LTDA actions are prolonging the inherent uncertainty on this issue and are unfairly pursuing a small number of licensed private hire drivers which we are of the view is not in the public interest. It would be preferable for the LTDA to withdraw their private prosecutions and work with us to get the issues before the High Court as soon as possible in order to get a definitive resolution.
Record keeping and recording of destination

The Licensed Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA) assert that the regulations relating to record keeping for private hire operators require a destination to be recorded before the commencement of a journey on all occasions.
TfL is of the view that the law as it currently stands only requires operators to record a destination if a passenger specifies one at the time of booking and not otherwise. We do however agree that these regulations are unclear on this point. The power to make the regulations is now vested in TfL. We therefore intend to consult on potential revisions to the regulations to provide clarity and help ensure the highest standards of public safety and customer service are maintained. More details of this consultation will be publicised later this year.

Uber’s operating model

Concerns have been raised regarding the nature of Uber’s business operating model in London. While it is right that TfL takes into account the reasoned views of others as to how the law should be applied, our role as regulator is to reach an independent view of the law, without improper influence, taking into account all relevant considerations.

In April we carried out TfL’s largest ever compliance inspection and at the time of that inspection Uber met all requirements for a private hire operation in relation to record keeping. We have also been in extensive correspondence with Uber to understand precisely how their business model operates in London.
Following this review, we have reached the conclusion that the way Uber operates in London is in accordance with the law as it applies to private hire operators and specifically in the way bookings are accepted and invited. However, TfL is aware of one incidence where it appears that a driver may have carried out private hire bookings for Uber using a vehicle without insurance and that matter is being dealt with appropriately.

Technology continues to advance quickly and we will continue to monitor developments in way that the market develops in London to ensure that operators and drivers remain compliant.

I would like to emphasise that TfL continues to recognise, and defend, the important distinction between the services provided by taxis and private hire vehicles. TfL is therefore continuing to defend the right of taxis to utilise bus lanes in the ongoing litigation including at the European Court of Justice.

Leon Daniels
Managing Director – Surface Transport Transport for London

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