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TfL Review Safety and Safeguarding For Private Hire Passengers

The UK Department for Transport has proposed new standards to Improve safety for taxi and private hire vehicle safety. With a TfL consultation to follow.

The UK Department for Transport (DfT) has set out new standards to enhance the safety of taxi (black cab) and private hire vehicle (PHV) passengers. The Statutory Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Standards aim to safeguard vulnerable passengers, including children and adults with special needs and ultimately benefit society as a whole.

Most of the Standards have already been implemented in London, but there are still 10 more Standards that need to be enforced. The Department is now consulting on how to implement these remaining Standards. Additionally, it is proposing nine extra proposals to make PHV services safer to use and reviewing four more areas.

Some in the private-hire industry believe this could lead to some negative outcomes for passengers, such as increased taxi and PHV fares and longer waiting times for a ride. Its often been the case that where TfL go other authorities follow.

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How will the consultation work?

The consultation is divided into three parts, each addressing different issues and affecting different licensees.

The first part of the consultation covers how the new DfT Standards will be introduced and includes ten proposals. These proposals aim to improve criminal record checks and requirements, assess taxi drivers’ safety, equality and regulatory understanding, and enhance records that private hire vehicle operators must maintain.

The second part of the consultation requests suggestions on how taxis can be made safer. The Department would like to know how passengers could check whether taxi drivers and taxis are licensed in advance of their trip.

The third part of the consultation proposes nine extra proposals to make PHV services safer, including new and enhanced requirements for operators, which will cover the records PHV operators must maintain and how complaints are managed. The Department is also seeking feedback on whether licensing changes are required for public liability insurance requirements, ridesharing, and licensing conditions for different-sized PHV operators.

What specific issues is this change addressing?

TFL believe that the proposed Standards and proposals will help to reduce the risk of crime and make it easier for passengers to report issues with taxi and private hire services. However, there is a possibility that these changes could create additional costs or barriers, which may impact the number of licensed taxi and PHV drivers.

Here are some of the more pressing issues the standards are looking to tackle:

Safeguarding for children

The department for transport believes that licensing authorities should consider the role that those in the taxi and private hire vehicle industry can play in spotting and reporting child abuse. They have said that it is ‘overwhelmingly the case that those within the industry can be an asset in the detection and prevention of abuse or neglect of children and vulnerable adults.’

This is certainly a huge pressure to put on working drivers, and there need to be clear avenues for reporting and steps to take in the case of suspicious behaviour by passengers.

County lines

The term ‘county lines’ refers to organised criminal networks that export illegal drugs, primarily crack cocaine and heroin, into one or more importing areas in the UK.

The practice relies on the exploitation of children and vulnerable adults to transport drugs and money between locations. The majority of those involved in county lines are children aged between 15-17, but they may also be younger. Boys and girls are groomed and exploited by the offenders, who use coercion, intimidation, violence, and weapons to ensure their compliance.

The Home Office is trying to raise awareness of county lines and is providing materials to help taxi and private-hire drivers to identify victims and report concerns. They want to make drivers aware of the warning signs, such as travelling at unusual hours, travelling long distances, being unfamiliar with the local area or children travelling alone.

What happens next?

The Department has conducted an independent Integrated Impact Assessment (IIA) to evaluate the impacts of the proposed changes. The IIA includes an analysis of the potential benefits and drawbacks of the new Standards and proposals.

The consultation period ends on the 12th of May 2023, after which a detailed report on the findings will be published.

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