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TfL Grilled at the LPHCA Roadshow

TfL’s latest raft of legislative proposals came under fire at the recent LPHCA Roadshow. The private hire association has been hosting the annual event for the private hire industry since 2008 and there’s unlikely to be another year with a more packed and controversial agenda.

A large turnout made up of private hire operators, drivers and members of the industry community were ready to take the opportunity to express their dismay at the new regulations proposed by TfL, which they consider a potential threat to their livelihoods. The LPHCA’s founder and chairman Steve Wright openly criticised TfL’s legislation, describing it as discriminatory.

Transport for London (TfL) Presentation

TfL were given a slot during the roadshow meeting to discuss the progress of the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ). This was presented by James Ingram, Principal Policy Advisor, Transport for London. Ingram was given a subdued reaction following his explanation of the ULEZ plans which are set to go ahead in April 2019, with further vehicle compliant policy zones expanded in 2021.

Following his explanation, the floor was open to the attendees and he was then barraged with questions:

  • “Why are PHVs drivers being pushed to own plug in hybrids cars?” One member of the floor highlighted the negative effects to these vehicles when they are not fully charged but still in use. Also, how realistic is it to expect every PHV driver to own a zero emission capable vehicle, when the charging infrastructure and range of vehicles are not able to the support the level of demand?
  • A representative from the Evening Standard then raised their concerns about the knock on effect of drivers having to charge their cars every 30 minutes, pointing out the missed earnings during the time their vehicles remain stationary. He also pointed out the fact that, of the charging points available in London, some of them are not situated where people live, meaning a lot of hybrid car users are simply just driving with petrol which is much worse for the environment.

Ingram chose not to give a direct response to any of the topics, but repeatedly stated that more information would follow, showing there may still be some alterations required in order to address teething issues with the policies that are being introduced – although it was made clear that TfL is still planning to enforce all upcoming regulations.

Although hands continued to raise with many seeking answers to their vehicle compliance queries, no further questions were taken, to the audience’s dissatisfaction.

Steve Wright then took the podium to express his discontent over the regulations being posed by TfL which he thinks will drain the PH industry. He particularly highlighted the English Language test. He described the level required as inappropriate and explained that this initiative has led to drivers that failed the test being put off of joining the PH industry.

The next major topic raised was TfL’s proposal for PHVs to have cameras fitted to increase the security of their passengers. Steve Wright and his panelists made it very clear that they were open-minded with the proposal and can see the potential benefit of such an initiative.

However, Steve Wright raised a couple of concerns:

  • Costs – the fees to fitting CCTV and the difficulty of sourcing suitable cameras and having them installed across an industry with so many various vehicles and licensing councils
  • Ethics – it was asserted that there have been no firm guidelines from TfL about what is and isn’t acceptable protocol? For example, what actions should be taken when VIPs and celebrities who may not want to be recorded travel in these vehicles? How can drivers meet the regulations whilst ensuring that they protect the privacy rights of their passengers and avoid potential legal action being taken against them.

The debate simply came down to whether CCTV cameras are a suitable proposition and whether installation should be a mandatory requirement or voluntary.

The 11th edition of the LPHCA Roadshow certainly didn’t shy away from tackling the current issues facing PH drivers and operators. Not many answers were forthcoming, and there are certainly more debates to be had, as the industry confronts a challenging and changing regulatory landscape.

Not all answers were given, and there are certainly more debates to be had, as the industry is facing some challenges in a changing regulatory landscape. The latest government announcement to scrap the grants for plug-in hybrid vehicles will add to their concerns, as drivers wishing to drive in ultra low emission zones may have to consider going fully electric.

For more on the LPHCA: Click here