ANNEX - WRITTEN EVIDENCE
Letter from the Central
Rail Users' Consultative Committee
Thank you for giving the
Central Rail Users' Consultative Committee the opportunity to
comment on the draft Order.
Because of the short timescale
for consultation not coinciding with the cycle of Committee meetings
the matter has only been considered by the Chairman, Mr David
Bertram, and myself. I understand that you have also consulted
at least some of the regional RUCCs directly.
Having considered the further
papers which you provided we would welcome any change which would
assist the provision of alternative transport for rail passengers
during emergencies. We note that in certain cases this may lead
to the use of vehicles which are less accessible than those currently
provided. This may not be a problem for able bodied people but
it is important that Train Operators recognise that further provision
may still be needed for passengers with a mobility impairment.
We will press train operators to ensure that they recognise that
sole reliance on private hire operators and vehicles may
not be acceptable.
In the case of pre-planned
train service suspensions there are already often undesirable
restrictions on the conveyance of some bulky items such as prams
or cycles. Use of private hire vehicles in such circumstances
may impose further restrictions. The use of taxis in lieu of trains
often occurs in rural areas where the road network does not allow
the use of buses to access stations. In such circumstances it
is also often not realistic to attempt to summon a substitute
vehicle if the one initially provided is unsuitable. However,
depending on the locality, licensed taxis may already comprise
ordinary saloon cars with a minimum of modification.We will press
train operators to ensure that current levels of provision are
On balance we are unable
to justify a stance of opposition to the draft order but we will
expect train operators not to withdraw or reduce any current provision.
If operators meet this expectation the level of exploitation of
the new flexibility may be limited.
The Committee does not object
to the revision of the regulations to allow a holder of licences
issued in Northern Ireland to be granted a taxi or private hire
Please do not hesitate to
contact me if you wish to discuss matters further.
19 January 1998
Letter from the Department
of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
Pauline Gaunt, the Department's
Parliamentary Clerk, has asked me to reply to your letter to her
of 18 December about the above deregulation proposal.
As to consultation with
passenger groups, you will appreciate that the Department originally
consulted on a set of four deregulation proposals involving taxis
and private hire vehicles (PHVs - often known as minicabs). One
of these proposals was that the period of a taxi or PHV driver's
licence should be standardised at three years, some local authorities
at present fixing the period at one year. It seemed to the Department
that this proposal might be seen as having safety implications,
because criminal record checks are usually made by local authorities
in respect of the grant or renewal of a licence. It was for this
reason that the Suzy Lamplugh Trust was included in the consultation.
(Ministers have since decided not to proceed with that particular
The Department had not seen
the proposal about the use of PHVs for replacement rail services
as having safety implications, because it was deliberately couched
in terms of licensed PHVs. It is already open to railway
operators to use licensed taxis to replace trains, and outside
London both taxis and PHVs are licensed by local authorities.
The Department's information is that local authorities apply the
same safety checks in respect of both taxis and PHVs. This includes
criminal record checks on drivers, and mechanical checks on vehicles.
I hope this serves to answer
the first of the two questions on which the Committee requested
evidence. In short, the licensing regime for minicabs is essentially
the same as that for taxis, and the Department is not aware that
it is any less effective.
I should add that there
are, or have been, a very few local authorities outside London
which do not licence PHVs; and the Committee may be aware that
there is at present no legislative provision for PHV licensing
in London (although Sir George Young has a Private Member's Bill
for that purpose before Parliament at present). I should again
stress that the Deregulation proposal relates only to licensed
PHVs from those areas where they were licensed. Thus, for example,
a railway operator would under the proposal not be entitled to
use an unlicensed PHV from London.
As to the Committee's second
question, the Department is not aware of any statistics relating
to the number of attacks on passengers in taxis, licensed minicabs
or unlicensed minicabs. Our understanding is that police forces
do not keep statistics on this basis.
I hope this letter is helpful
to the Committee. Please let me know if the Committee would like
any further information.
I am copying this letter
to James Rhys in the House of Commons, and to Pauline Gaunt.
E C Neve
Head of Division
19 January 1998
Letter to the House
of Commons Committee from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the
You have had a copy of Dr
Tudor's letter of 16 January to Pauline Gaunt of our Parliamentary
Branch. Attached to it was a letter from the Director, Passenger
Services Group of the Office of the Rail Regulator. This gives
an up to date assessment of the need for our proposed order relating
to private hire vehicles being used for substitute rail services.
His conclusion was that the proposal would now have no effect
in practice. (You will appreciate that circumstances have
changed since we started the procedure for this order).
We are reviewing this advice
with our legal advisers, and may well feel that we should put
the matter to our Ministers again. That being so, and since we
are anxious not to take the Committee's time unnecessarily, I
wonder if you might feel that our appearance before the Committee
might best be postponed. Obviously we would aim to put a submission
to Ministers quickly.
I will be happy to discuss
this with you, but Edward Neve and I will be in the House most
of to-day (at least until 14.30) in connection with Sir George
Young's Bill to regulate London minicabs.
I am copying this to Dr
Head of Taxi Policy Branch
23 January 1998
Letters from the Department
of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
Thank you for your letter
of 22 January about the above proposal. You may know by now that
officials' appearance before the House of Commons Committee has
been postponed to 3 February.
You raised two questions
in your letter, the first being about para 1 of Schedule 1 of
Sir George Young's Private Hire Vehicles (London) Bill. That
provision was included in Sir George's Bill merely for consistency
with the proposed deregulation order. Sir George said in the
Second Reading Debate on his Bill in the House of Commons on Friday
that the provision would be introduced in London only if it were
introduced elsewhere. (Commons Hansard, 23 January, column 1258.)
If the proposed deregulation order did not proceed, then either
Sir George's Bill would be amended, or the Secretary of State
would not bring the provision into effect. (You may like to note
that Clause 13(7)(b) of the Bill contains a similar provision
in connection with Northern Ireland driver's licences, the subject
of the other draft deregulation order).
You also asked about statistics
on attacks on passengers, in the context of the press cuttings
which you attached to your letter. We have checked with Home
Office colleagues, who tell us that police forces do not keep
records of criminal convictions by the occupation of the offender.
The press cuttings which
you sent both related to London, and we have further checked with
the Metropolitan Police on the background to them. The Met Police
have told us that before Christmas they ran a special one-off
crime prevention campaign about sexual offences involving minicabs,
using their information on reported crimes rather than convictions.
It seems important to stress
in this context that the term "minicab" can cover a
wide range of such cases, especially in London where the minicab
trade is not regulated, and where the vehicles do not carry any
identification as minicabs. In commenting on the figures, the
Metropolitan Police said that "whilst the victims all believed
they were passengers in a minicab", it was not possible to
confirm that, "as they merely reported being a passenger
in a large saloon car" - not necessarily a minicab as such.
The Police told us that the majority of victims were picked up
by vehicles which they had not previously booked, often after
being approached by the offenders - or their agents - on the street,
or after themselves approaching the offenders. You will appreciate
that touting on behalf of either taxis or minicabs is already
illegal throughout the country, as is plying for hire by minicabs.
The Committee will also
appreciate that the proposed deregulation order only applies to
licensed vehicles. It would therefore not apply to minicabs
in London, because they are not licensed. That position would
only change if Sir George Young's Bill providing for the regulation
of London minicabs were to become law, or if there were subsequent
From time to time, there
are reports about attacks on passengers by the drivers of London
taxis, although again we are aware of no firm statistics. Here
too, there is a problem of definitions; unless the offender is
successfully prosecuted, there is no way of knowing whether he
was a licensed taxi driver or merely somebody purporting to be
a licensed driver, either driving a stolen licensed taxi or an
unlicensed vehicle which had been sold out of the trade.
As I mentioned in my previous
letter, our information is that in areas where both taxis and
minicabs are licensed, the local licensing authorities apply the
same criminal record checks in respect of drivers for both kinds
To conclude, the Department
does not believe that the Order would have any adverse implications
in respect of 'necessary protection', since it will only allow
for hirings by train operating companies using licensed
private hire vehicles where the drivers had been subject to criminal
E C Neve
Head of Division
27 January 1998
This letter is to confirm
that Glenda Jackson has decided that our proposal for a deregulation
order relating to private hire vehicles and passenger train services
should be withdrawn. A fuller letter giving our reasons, and in
reply to one from James Rhys received this afternoon will follow.
I am copying this to James
Head of Taxi Policy Branch
28 January 1998
As you know, the Department
has decided that it would not be right to pursue further that
part of the above proposal which relates to the use of private
hire vehicles for replacement rail services. It seemed right
to record for the Committee why the Department had reached that
conclusion. The issue concerns section 4A of the Transport Act
1962, and whether it applies to passenger train service Franchise
Section 4A of the 1962 Act
relates to the British Railways Board (BRB). It empowers the
BRB to operate road passenger services in two cases:
(i) where a
railway passenger service has been withdrawn permanently; and
(ii) where a railway
passenger service has been temporarily interrupted (for example,
because of engineering work, or an emergency).
Under these powers the BRB
may provide a replacement road service using buses or licensed
By virtue of the provisions
of section 47 of the Railways Act 1993, the powers of the BRB
are exercisable concurrently by the Director of Passenger Rail
Franchising. We understand this to mean that if the Franchising
Director should run trains himself, then the powers and constraints
of section 4A of the 1962 Act would apply.
However, the Franchising
Director does not in fact operate passenger train services. He
franchises the right to do so to private sector operators. Through
Franchise Agreements, the Franchising Director has required that,
in the event of a disruption to a passenger train service, a Franchise
operator use all reasonable endeavours to provide or secure the
provision of such alternative transport arrangements for passengers
as are reasonably feasible (having regard to safety and cost);
this is so that the passengers who would have travelled by train
can do so by the alternative transport. This wording does not
appear to pass on to a Franchise operator the provisions and constraints
of section 4A of the 1962 Act.
The Office of Passenger
Rail Franchising (OPRAF) did at an earlier stage question the
need for the order. Mr McDonald, the then Assistant Director
of OPRAF, told us on 17 June 1996 that he was "not fully
convinced that the Transport Act restrictions do bite on Franchise
operators...". At that time, the Department took the view
that it was preferable to proceed to resolve any doubt; we also
took account of the fact that the Association representing the
Train Operating Companies subsequently expressed support for the
proposal. It was also the case that the British Railways Board
were then still running train services, though they have since
ceased to do so. (You will be aware that the draft order was
held over from January 1997, after the proposal was originally
ready for submission to the Deregulation Committees, because the
Committees considered that they would be unable to complete consideration
of the proposal before the general election; the proposal therefore
waited until December 1997, after the Committees were re-formed).
However, the most recent
development has been the letter of 16 January from Mr Rhodes,
of the Office of the Rail Regulator. This led the Department
to reconsider the legal position; on reflection, and in the light
of Mr Rhodes's letter, the Department takes the view that the
assessment of the legal position put forward in that letter is
correct. It follows that, in the words of Mr Rhodes's letter,
'the requirements will have no practical effect'.
On that basis, and having
reconsidered the matter, the Department came to the view that
we could not satisfactorily point to any regulatory burden which
would be lifted by the proposal. This view will of course be reconsidered
by the Department if circumstances should change (for example
if there were to be some significant change in the role of the
BRB). But it now seems clear to the Department that it would be
wrong to take the time of the Committee any further with the proposal,
since we could not argue to the Committee that it fell within
the terms of the Deregulation and Contracting Act 1994.
The Department accepts with
hindsight that this conclusion could and should have been reached
at an earlier stage, and it is clearly right to offer the Committee
our full apologies for our not having done so, and thus for having
taken the time of the Committee unnecessarily.
I am writing in similar
terms to James Rhys, Clerk to the House of Commons Deregulation
E C Neve
Head of Division
29 January 1998
Memorandum by the
London Taxi Board
The London Taxi Board represents
over 90 per cent of the drivers, owners and manufacturers of the
London Taxi trade. Members of the Board are the Joint Radio Taxi
Association, London Motor Cab Proprietors' Association, Licensed
Taxi Driver's Association, London Taxis International, Metrocab
and the Transport and General Workers' Union. More than 23,000
licensed taxi drivers operate in London ensuring that more than
2 million passenger journeys are completed each week. The licensed
taxi trade is proud of its long history of public service, and
worldwide reputation for high standards of customer service and
We noted with interest the
two draft orders that the Department of the Environment, Transport
and the Regions put forward to the Deregulation Committee last
NORTHERN IRELAND DRIVING
The proposal to recognise
Northern Ireland driving licences as qualifying towards a taxi
or private hire vehicle drivers' licence would seem entirely reasonable.
An anomaly has existed for a number of years and this would seem
an opportune means by which to rectify this strange irregularity.
The Board fully supports the Department's proposal on this issue.
The proposal to allow private
hire vehicles to be used for railway substitution services concerns
the London Taxi Board as it would compromise current standards
of customer safety, reliability and accessibility in London -
thereby removing 'necessary protection'.
There is a requirement for
all London's licensed taxis to be wheelchair accessible by the
year 2000. At present more than 70 per cent of the fleet is wheelchair
accessible and this ensures that the disabled will have full access
to our vehicles. This piece of legislation was implemented on
the basic principle that disabled people should have equal access
to all forms of transport services -specifically without having
to make special arrangements. Private Hire Cars are not required
to meet such criteria. It is not anticipated that they should
have to, even when licensed in London.
Passengers on a train do
not have a choice - they have to accept the service which is given
by the train operating company, ie the situation is analogous
to when a customer hails a cab in the street - and they should
therefore be able to expect the highest reasonable levels of safety.
The principle when providing a railway substitution service is
thus equivalent to the requirements for plying for hire.
We understand that the Government
is due to stipulate that all new trains and buses should also
be 100 per cent wheelchair accessible, taxis have already been
regulated in this fashion. As the entire integrated transport
network becomes 100 per cent wheelchair accessible it would seem
to be a backward step in necessary protection to allow railway
substitution services to utilise a non accessible means of transport.
It seems unreasonable to
impose a 100 per cent wheelchair accessible fleet on the licensed
taxi industry in London and then jeopardise one of its key market
segments. The Disability Discrimination Act was specifically
amended so that those who are disabled need not worry with regard
to the availability of a transport service. This order would
remove that guarantee should a train be terminated between stations.
This would appear to go against the principle and intentions
of the Disability Discrimination Act.
The licensed taxi industry
is highly regulated and has a world renowned reputation for providing
a safe and reliable service to all customers. All drivers in
the industry are required to undertake training which involves
a criminal record check, a medical, a rigorous topographical examination
(the knowledge) and a driving test to police standards - if private
hire cars are licensed in London it is unlikely that they will
be required to meet all these rigorous standards. The safety
of the public who have no choice of service is an important requirement
and it would be compromised should this order be implemented in
its current format.
The well publicised physical
attacks which those utilising minicabs have suffered in recent
months should not be allowed to also threaten those who originally
intended to travel by rail, but whose service has been terminated.
Licensed taxis are required
to undertake intensive topographical training. Minicab drivers
in London may not be required to undertake such rigorous training
and as a result would be unable to safely, reliably and quickly
transfer passengers in the event of a rail substitution requirement.
Passengers, already late due to a rail failure, should be able
to reach their destination as soon as is feasible - licensed taxis
are clearly able to do this - private hire cars without parallel
standards of training would be unable to do so.
Furthermore, rail passengers
stranded short of their final destination may not be able to guide
a minicab to its ultimate destination, as they may not have detailed
knowledge of the area.
Although this will not affect
London until minicabs are licensed (we are supporting Sir George
Young's Private Member's Bill to do so) we believe that this legislation
should not be amended in any circumstances prior to the licensing
of London's Private Hire trade.
DOCUMENT - BOARD'S COMMENTS
In explaining the rationale
behind the order the Department, whilst referring to journeys
outside the District in which taxis are licensed, stated that
'[for a private hire car] a fare can be established in advance;
the contract being made at the time of booking.' This is also
the case for licensed taxis - contracts already exist with the
train operating companies, airports and corporations establishing
agreed fares (which are often below the meter fares) with licensed
taxi operators in London.
When travelling outside
their licensed areas the agreed fare for a journey is made in
advance - in the same way in which a private hire fare is agreed.
Only when plying for hire
can a licensed taxi refuse a fare that goes outside of the metropolitan
area and only providing the driver has good reason to do so.
Rail substitution services are provided by the radio circuit taxi
industry and thus are booked for the job by telephone. Drivers
who provide the service are therefore committed to the destination.
Healthy competition already
exists and charges are set at appropriate levels commensurate
with passenger safety, economy and government policy on wheelchair
accessibility. The train operating companies place substitution
services out to competitive tender.
Benefits exist only if the
issue is reduced to the lowest common denominator - cost savings.
However, passengers already bear the costs of training, safety
and accessibility when they use trains, buses or licensed taxis
now, or in the future.
The Board would like to
see the Department's evidence to justify the statement that 'allowing
private hire vehicles to be used in this way is unlikely to make
any financial difference to taxi drivers'. It will be impossible
for the licensed taxi industry in London to compete with the private
hire industry, who do not carry the running costs inherent with
accessible vehicles, fully trained drivers and PCO inspections
We are currently assessing
the financial impact on the licensed taxi industry and will advise
the Committee of our findings as soon as possible.
However our case is fundamentally
based upon principle rather than finance.
The principle being that
customers utilising rail substitution services do so involuntarily
and are a completely random cross section of the community who
have no choice in the type of substitution service chosen by the
operating company. These principles form the basis of the regulation
of the licensed taxi trade in London and operating conditions
and costs imposed upon it by the Government. It cannot be reasonable
or in public interest to make an exemption in this instance.
The Departmental consultation
document stated that there was nothing in the order which has
the effect of removing or reducing necessary protection.
However, it is clear that
necessary protection would be removed from passengers - as they
would not be guaranteed the necessary levels of safety or accessibility
that they currently enjoy.
We believe that the current
rail substitution regulations provide passengers with necessary
protection and ensure that customers reach their intended destinations
as safely and as quickly as is possible. The Board feels that
this order would remove this protection and potentially put the
travelling public at risk.
Our proposal is that, at
the very least, London be exempted from the order at this time.
The issue of its application in London should be addressed once
the conditions of licensing minicabs in London is confirmed in
legislation. Only at that time will it be possible to judge its
effect on passengers and the licensed taxi trade.
This order goes against
the established principle of Government policy of ensuring a comprehensive
wheelchair accessible transport network.
I enclose an executive summary
of our main points.
We have no doubt that, if
asked, those who use rail services in London would view this order
as a removal of a protection and service they currently benefit
from in the event of having to use substitution services.
Should the Board be able
to assist the Committee in any further way we would be delighted
to do so.