20 Feb London Mayor wants more powers to control private hire vehicles
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has called for more powers to stop drivers with licenses from one local authority operating all over the country in a move which has been “cautiously welcomed” by industry experts.
It comes as more than 3600 TfL registered private hire drivers live in areas as far away as Bradford and Cardiff.
Fareed Baloch of zoom.taxi said the Mayor’s proposals that trips should ‘start and end within a licensing area’ “will only solve half of the problem and may not work for all councils across the country.”
“There are companies who work in areas, particularly outside cities, whose passengers come from many different local authorities and they will not want to keep changing cars at the authority border,” he said.
Letters released by the Mayor’s office show there were 747 TfL registered Private Hire drivers in Birmingham and 378 in Bristol. The way licensing operates this means that the local authority in that area have no control over those drivers and the requirements needed to be issued a license or the number of vehicles on their roads.
The largest percentage of TfL licensed drivers companied to drivers licensed by the local authority is found in Birmingham followed by Bristol, then Milton Keynes, Manchester and Leicester.
Mr Khan has called for greater powers to be granted to his office and has told the Department of Transport (DfT) he wants to be able to cut the number of licenses issued in London and for minicab journeys to begin or end where the driver is registered. The letters were released following a BBC Freedom of Information Act Request.
The number of drivers operating outside their licensing area has increased with the use of apps which the market has demonstrated is a preferred method of booking for many users.
Mr Baloch said legislation “has not kept pace with the market and in particular with technology which has led to these loopholes companies and drivers will naturally seek to exploit in a competitive marketplace.”
“Deregulation in 2015 allowed for potentially unsafe practises to become legal and what people are now trying to do is find a solution which combines competition with safety.
“If Uber hid drivers from their app working outside licensing area, that will be good start,” he added. “This is something that our app can already do.”
‘Triple licensing lock’ where a passenger can only be accepted if the vehicle, the driver and the booking are under the jurisdiction of the same authority, doesn’t work anymore because drivers using apps – like Uber or the ones provided bespoke by zoom.taxi, mean drivers can live and work anywhere in the UK regardless of where their license was issued.
“We saw the data from the Department of Transport showing the huge increase in the number of licenses being issued in Wolverhampton: this is happening because there is a race to the bottom by local authorities who want the money from drivers and companies and are making the application process simpler and cheaper.
“This may work in terms of filling a funding gap in local authority budgets but it is not the best practise for passengers, drivers or companies.”
There is now a situation in the UK where local authorities have no jurisdiction over some of the private hire vehicles operating in their own towns. According to the BBC, TfL have even sent officials to places such as Brighton because there are so many registered drivers there.
Steve Wright, chairman of the Licensed Private Hire Car Association, criticised the mayor’s proposed ban on cross-border hiring, saying it would make the current situation worse.
“It would be overly prohibitive, and wouldn’t solve the problem of app users showing themselves available in areas far from where they are licensed,” he said.