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This Is How Easy It Is To Become Illegal Minicab Driver

Thursday 3rd March 2016

LBC INVESTIGATION

An LBC investigation shows just how easy it is for illegal minicab drivers to operate in London while appearing to have an official license from Transport for London.

The black cabs association, the LTDA, has claimed that one in 10 minicab drivers in London may be driving illegally.

LBC's Political Editor Theo Usherwood went to Transport for London's test centre with someone else's car, someone else's log book, someone else's MOT and no proper insurance.

But he still walked out with private hire vehicle license, which gave him those yellow stickers you see on the windscreens of minicabs to she the car is licensed.

He then went to park on the side of the road near Bank Station and just waited. Four separate passengers approached him to ask him to take them home. 

After the investigation, Nick Ferrari spoke to Peter Blake from TfL - and it was a lively clash.

He told LBC: "What you've done is highlighted an issue that relates to drivers, vehicles and operators being licensed separately, which is the current legal requirements we go through.

"We continue through our promotional campaign to explain to people please don't get into a vehicle that is not pre-booked. It isn't safe."

UPDATE: Friday 4th March 2016

Boris Johnson has told LBC he is looking at changing the rules on people getting minicab licenses following LBC's investigation.

The Mayor of London says he is concerned about the ease with which the licenses are given out.

He said: "We are looking at changing it so that private hire vehicles must have Hire And Reward insurance at all times.

"Now this will cause a bit of a reaction we think in the private hire industry, but it seems only fair to me.

"There are huge numbers of these vehicles on the streets now and there are at least a couple of ways that it can cause problems."

Illegal Minicab Investigation Explained

LBC's Theo Usherwood reports: "Londonís black cab trade is finding it tough going. There are for the first time 100,000 minicabs on the cityís roads. Black cabs are now out-numbered four-to-one.

"The main issue Ė and itís one grasped in City Hall and in the corridors of Transport for London Ė is a failure to establish a level playing field between their trade and the minicabs.

"TfL are currently looking at a raft of measures to do just that. English tests for drivers and obliging operators to provide their driverís photo ID to customers, are just two ideas in the mix.

"But one measure the black cab trade wants introduced is an obligation on operators to insure all their vehicles to carry passengers.

"While ordinary car insurance might cost a few hundred pounds a year, cover to operate as a minicab can easily top £5,000.

"Some companies like Addison Lee automatically insure their fleet but others do not.

Taxi insurance Theo

"Meanwhile, black cab drivers applying for a license have to provide proof that they have the more expensive cover.

"Their argument is two-fold. Firstly, if minicab companies were obliged to make sure cars their cars were insured, prices between the two would be more evenly matched.

"And secondly, minicab companies should be held to the same standards when it comes to protecting the public as the black cab trade. As our investigation has demonstrated itís possible to license a car Ė and under the current rules itís also possible to obtain a minicab driverís license Ė without proving you have the much more expensive insurance cover to carry passengers.

"The other issue is that the vehicle and the minicab driverís license are separate. The logic is that a small minicab company may have a fleet of half a dozen cars that are driven by a pool 20 drivers. Smaller companies argue that linking a vehicle to a driver would make it impossible for a cab firm to successfully run their business. 

Taxi license Theo

For their part, TfL insists it is doing what it can to tighten insurance requirements. Peter Blake, TfL's Director of Service Operations for Surface Transport, said: "Current legislation requires private hire drivers, vehicles and operators to be licensed separately.

"The law means that we are unable to require vehicles to be linked to a particular driver. To address this we have recently concluded a wide-ranging review of private hire regulations and have proposed a number of changes.

"Among these are measures to tighten insurance requirements, improve the information given to passengers before their journey and require operators to provide us detailed information on all drivers and vehicles in order to better target enforcement."

The LTDA is unconvinced. General secretary Steve McNamara told LBC: "It is a scandal that in 2016 Transport for London are unable or unwilling to regulate the Private Hire Industry to even minimal standards to ensure that Londoners are safe. LBCís excellent investigative report highlights just how easy it is for anyone to get a vehicle licensed as a minicab by TfL, without even the most basic checks such as ensuring the vehicle is insured.

"Your reporter could have been released from prison that morning for any number of serious offences and been driving a TfL licensed minicab the same evening, at best the risk to the public is that their minicab is uninsured."

Taxi license Theo

The minicab industry also has reservations about whether enough is being done to clamp down on illegal minicabs.

Andy Boland, chief executive at Addison Lee, told LBC: "TfLís regulatory review is a step in the right direction to ensure consumers get the benefits of smartphone apps such as ours.  We regret though that TfL has shied away from raising the regulatory bar which, for our industry, is set far too low.

"TfL has not for example grasped the nettle on forcing minicab companies to insure all the vehicles which do their jobs, as Addison Lee does.  There is an unknown number of uninsured minicabs on Londonís roads which is unacceptable.  There is a real opportunity to raise the bar to become a leader in London to improve quality, safety and reduce congestion; Addison Lee sets the standard in driver vetting and training."

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