Transport for London’s performance in regulating the Taxi and Private Hire trades has been described as “woefully inadequate” by London Assembly members.
The criticism comes as the Assembly’s Transport Committee published the findings of a six month investigation into the state of the trades and TfL’s role as regulator.
In their report, AMs say the capital’s transport agency has allowed itself to be seen as a ‘soft touch’ which fails to uphold regulations.
Citing industry concern about mini cab Uber and whether their app breaches the law on meters, today’s report says TfL’s reputation has been damaged by a perception that it “has at best, failed to present a significantly robust challenge to an operator trying to strong-arm changes to enshrined legislation to suit its own business interests, and at worst, has actively colluded with that operator to create an imbalance in the market.”
During their investigation, Michael Galvin, from the Licensed Private Hire Car Association, told AMs: “You now break the law or breach the regulations, and TfL, if you are big enough, will change the rules.”
In addition, the report points to TfL’s failure to clamp down on unlicensed ‘marshals’ – who take private hire bookings outside venues despite a ban on plying for trade on the street – as a cause for its bad relationship with the Taxi trade.
AMs say TfL will need “to work hard to restore its credibility,” including by showing that it’s ready “to hold the line on regulation.”
However they also warn that the trades need to “embrace the technological changes that passengers are now demanding of modern, fit for purpose transport services” or risk falling behind the competition.
Committee chair Caroline Pidgeon says recent focus on Uber “has become a distraction” which has overshadowed the need to address other “very serious issues”.
These include clamping down on drivers who refuse to carry disabled passengers and looking at ways of incentivising the adoption of wheelchair accessible private hire vehicles.
AMs also want reforms implemented that would make it easier for passengers to complain about a driver or operator as well as assurances that TfL and the Met police have sufficient resources to uphold regulations.
They’re also calling for the introduction of taxi ranks outside Tube stations operating 24 hours and improvements in how drivers show that they’re licensed.
Ms Pidgeon said: “Transport for London’s performance as regulator and enforcer has been woefully inadequate and the interests of the passenger are being largely ignored. A strategy and vision for the future is essential in order to support the industry and provide the service that passengers require.
“TfL needs to get to grips with the basics – such as improving signage, installing more taxi ranks and staying ahead of the rapid technological advances, putting the passenger first – which is what Londoners and our visitors expect and deserve.”
Commenting on the report, TfL said it was already working to address a number of issues raised by the Assembly.
Garrett Emmerson, TfL’s Chief Operating Officer for Surface Transport, commented: “London’s taxi and private hire services are the envy of the world and, under Transport for London’s oversight, are thriving.
“The number of trips are up, customer satisfaction rates are high and, due to our stringent licensing processes and enforcement work with the police, journeys in taxi and private hire vehicles have never been safer.
“We will, of course, carefully consider the Assembly’s recommendations and note that many of the areas highlighted are already being worked through in collaboration with the industry.
“We agree wholeheartedly that the needs of passengers must remain our top priority and we will continue to work closely with both trades to ensure that this remains the case.”