Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Twelfth Report






  We oppose the proposal for private hire cars to be used as railway substitution services because necessary protection would be removed as:

  Licensed taxis in London can cater for disabled passengers due to statutory requirements to be 100 per cent wheelchair accessible by the year 2000, private hire cars are not currently anticipated to be required to comply with such criteria.

  Passengers on a train do not have a choice - they have to accept the service which is given by the train operating company. This situation is directly comparable to when a customer hails a cab in the street - and they should therefore be able to expect the highest reasonable levels of safety and accessibility. The principle when providing a railway substitution service is thus equivalent to 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.

  Standards of passenger safety would be at risk due to the uncertainty as to whether private hire car drivers, when licensed in London, will match the standards currently expected of London.

  This order would not give the necessary protection to consumers if applied and specifically would be premature in London, where the conditions under which the minicab industry will operate have yet to be determined. It should be reconsidered after the issue of licensing London's private hire cars has been resolved, and dependant on a requirement for wheelchair accessibility for all private hire cars.

  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 are confirmed in legislation. Only at that time will it be possible to judge its effect on passengers and the licensed taxi trade.

  Geoff Trotter OBE
  Chairman, London Taxi Board
  14 January 1998


Memorandum by Newcastle Hackney Drivers Association

  [The first two sections of the memorandum have not been printed because they refer to matters which were consulted on but were not included in the final proposal]

  Northern Ireland Driving Licences

  The principle of this former recommendation would allow any person whether a member of the EEC or Northern Ireland to find that they have the same rights and opportunities as any person in this country to apply for a badge, that is our view because

    1)  It avoids discrimination

    2)  It protects the taxi and private hire trade from "cowboys" etc

    3)  It gives the public the service they deserve

  Private Hire Vehicles and Substitute Rail Service

  The Government we note wishes to increase competition by allowing private hire to compete in this segment of the industry.

  The Government's future proposals will be recommending that all taxis are to be wheelchair accessible, at present these vehicles are costing £22,000 plus and over. The next few years it is highly probable that the whole fleet in England and Wales may be renewed.

  We do not believe and nor can it be shown that a person who has invested £22,000 in a wheelchair accessible vehicle can compete on a fare basis with a person who has a vehicle costing £1,000 or less.

  The "Seville" report of 1992 states that all taxis at station termini will consist of wheelchair accessible vehicles.

  How do we compete? - unless of course the Government is to recommend that all private hire vehicles must also be wheelchair accessible or only those vehicles that are designated to carry rail passengers, that is fair competition.

  The other alternative of course would be for the local authorities to end licensing of private hire vehicles as in London, therefore those who have invested in the taxi trade as in London will face no competition.

  Never in Newcastle has British Rail had to wait for taxis to carry passengers onwards to finish their journey, nor can we see the scenario of the Station Manager telephoning around various private hire companies to find out on the night who will be able to take his 50 plus passengers to various locations and at what price.

  Private hire companies work on a pre booked system, if a train arrives late, say at midnight or 02.00 hours, no private hire company will be able to accommodate until their existing bookings are clear, normally within one hour.

  Can one really call that a service, would the then rail company be held to ransom by a company that can accommodate.

  As far as we understand the system at present works and gives the public the service they require, any tinkering with it will only create instability for all who use and rely upon it.


  This association believes that the Government's proposals are full of inadequacies detrimental to the future of the hackney carriage trade and most of all offer no real benefit at all to the public who are the fare paying customer, the most important "goods" of any form of transport.

  If the questions we have asked cannot be met with conditions then the four proposals should be discarded forthwith.

  D. Hay
  11th December 1996


Letter from the Office of the Rail Regulator

1.  Thank you for your letter dated 8 December 1997.

2.  You have asked me to comment on the proposal by the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions to allow the use of licensed private hire vehicles, as well as taxis and buses, where train services have been discontinued.

3.  I have not been consulted by DETR in relation to this proposal but I assume that what is proposed is an amendment to section 4A of the Transport Act 1962 (the "1962 Act"). Section 4A provides that the British Railways Board (the "Board") shall have power to secure the provision by other persons of services for the carriage of passengers by road, where a railway service has been temporarily interrupted, or has been discontinued. However, section 4A(7) provides that such services are not to be provided otherwise than by means of public service vehicles or licensed taxis. Section 4A was inserted into the 1962 Act by the Transport Act 1985 (the "1985 Act") and replaced much wider powers, previously conferred on the Board, to provide services for the carriage of passengers and goods by road. The Board's powers under section 4A have been, by virtue of section 47(1) of the Railways Act 1993, transferred so as to be exercisable concurrently with the Board, to the Franchising Director. However neither the BRB nor the Franchising Director currently run any rail services (all services being provided through contracts which do not restrict the ability of operators to use private hire vehicles).

4.  In principle, if BRB or the Franchising Director were to operate section 4A of the 1962 Act rail services would be applicable to two situations. The first is in relation to the provision of so called bus substitution services under section 119 of the 1985 Act. These are services which are required to be provided by the Board, its successor companies, or the Franchising Director as a condition of a consent of the discontinuance of a railway passenger service. Section 119(2) of the 1985 Act provides that such services are to be secured by the Board or the Franchising Director in exercise of their powers under section 4A of the 1962 Act, but section 119(2) of the 1985 Act further provides that the provision of the bus substitution service "shall be subject to the condition requiring the bus substitution service and to any other condition imposed by the Secretary of State [or the Regulator] in connection with the closure". This would appear to allow the Regulator and/or the Secretary of State to continue to require the provision of such services using licensed taxis, notwithstanding the removal of the obligation in section 4A(7) of the 1962 Act if he considered that was desirable.

5.  It is my understanding that the only service currently being provided pursuant to section 119 of the 1985 Act, is from Tilbury Town to Tilbury Riverside.

6.  The second situation where section 4A may be relevant relates to the provision of services where a railway service has been temporarily interrupted. This commonly occurs where lines are closed to allow engineering work to take place. However, although the provision of such services by the Board or the Franchising Director must comply with the requirements of section 4A, it is my understanding that other train operators, including the successor companies of the Board, would not be similarly bound. Since such operators are not currently required, by section 4A, to use taxis to convey passengers the relaxation of the requirements will have no practical effect. An obligation to comply with the previous practice of the Board could be required under a franchise agreement.

7.  For the reasons set out above I do not think that the proposal will have any practical effect and therefore I do not see that any necessary protection will be lost as a result. I am copying this letter to the Franchising Director in case there is anything which he wishes to add.

  J A Rhodes
  Passenger Services Group
  16 January 1998


Letter from Castle Harman Solicitors on behalf of the Plymouth Hackney
Carriage Association

Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing Deregulation Proposals Substitute Train Services

  We act on behalf of the Plymouth Licensed Hackney Carriage Association. The Association are very concerned about the above proposals and we enclose their Response to the proposals for your consideration.

  If any aspect of the Response requires clarification, do not hesitate to contact us.


4.1  It is relevant to note that the proposal will have little impact in London because minicabs are not licensed. Thus the taxi driver licensed by the Metropolitan Police will retain a degree of protection. In provincial areas where a Mandatory Order is in place (and therefore London type cabs are required) there will be no such protection as against the licensed private hire vehicle. A Mandatory Order is in place in the City of Plymouth licensing area. The Association's response is therefore directed particularly towards the effect of the Government's proposals in mandatory areas.


4.2  Many train passengers are likely to be accompanied by substantial amounts of luggage. It is also common for people to be travelling in family groups. Pets often travel by rail. The purpose built taxi is able to accommodate these types of travellers. Not so the private hire vehicle. There will be instances where two or more private hire vehicles are required and other instances where because the saloon is unable to cope with the load, passengers will simply have to make their own arrangements. The suitability and adaptability of the London cab is a good reason for continuing to exclude private hire vehicles.

4.3  It should be in the train operator's interest to keep replacement road services to a minimum. Licensed taxis are generally on hand at station premises and indeed usually pay a substantial annual fee for the privilege of being available to the rail user. In Plymouth (and elsewhere) the taxi trade provides an excellent service to Rail Stations. In the Association's experience, excess passenger demand can be met by the taxi trade without difficulty. If not available immediately additional taxis can be summoned within minutes. If train operators are concerned at whether demands can be met taxis can be booked in advance through a radio office.


4.5  The Association notes that the proposal is concerned with the removal of a burden on the train operating companies rather than the effect on the licensed taxi trade. The Association invites the Government to consider the effect of the proposal on the licensed taxi trade and any increase of existing or additional burdens which will be felt by the taxi trade including financial burdens.

4.6  This paragraph ignores essential differences between the licensed taxi and private hire trades. The former is operating under considerable additional regulatory burden - notably the requirement for a London type cab and metered fares. The statement referring to the introduction of a `a healthy element of competition' is misleading. The licensed private hire trade is not required to comply with these regulatory burdens, and if Mandatory Orders and fare regulation remain in place, it will be impossible for the taxi trade to compete. The Association notes that there is no collateral proposal to remove Mandatory Orders or taxi fare regulation for journeys inside the district in which the taxi is licensed. It is hardly helpful to suggest that taxi drivers `can refuse to make such a journey'. The Association's members are self employed businessmen trying to make a living in an extremely difficult market. Most businesses are able to target particular businesses and make themselves more or less appealing to specific customers. This is not an additional benefit. The taxi trade is burdened with inbuilt costs which it cannot avoid. If taxis refused to make journeys then such action will certainly make the private hire trade healthier. Taken to its extreme, such action would achieve the extinction of the taxi trade.

  Cost Savings And Financial Benefits

4.7  The benefits to train operating companies and to the private hire trade are clear. There is no benefit to the licensed taxi. The statement "allowing private hire vehicles to be used for substitute services is unlikely to make any significant financial difference to taxi drivers..." is we suggest rather presumptuous. It will have a significant effect on some of our members. The suggestion that the public may well get a better service, particularly in emergencies, is again supposition not based on fact. We have already pointed out that there is no shortage of licensed taxis available at many Rail Stations. The ability to summon additional taxis is not a problem we recognise. If the train operators can point to locations where the supply of taxis is a particular problem, perhaps the Government could look at ways of encouraging and increasing the number of licensed taxis in those areas. We rather doubt that the train operators yet have sufficient data in view of the short time for which many of them have been in existence.

4.8  The licensed taxi trade, particularly in mandatory areas, will be the first to confirm that they can be easily undercut by the private hire trade. Undoubtably, there would be cost savings to the train operators in employing private hire vehicles. However, the service provided would not be the same service that is provided at the present time. A private hire car is not a taxi. As far as cost savings to the licensed taxi driver are concerned, while he or she is required to drive a purpose built vehicle, fuel costs alone will mean that the taxi will always lose on price. A purpose built vehicle averages twenty-four miles per gallon according to our Association members. A saloon car averages anything from thirty-six miles per gallon upwards.

  Necessary Protection

4.9  This is another stark example of somewhat blinkered thinking on taxi and private hire matters. No doubt the proposal has the full backing of the private hire lobby. The effect will be that the taxi trade's position is further eroded and that more businesses will transfer from the licensed taxi to the licensed hire car. Time and again our members make it clear to us that they are not competing on a level playing field while operating under a Mandatory Order. There are two important aspects to protection:

    (a)  Protection of the Licensed Taxi Trade - we would argue that while a Mandatory Order is in force reducing the competitiveness of the taxi, the Government owes the trade a duty to protect it against unfair competition from others - whether they be licensed or unlicensed - who are not required to adhere to the same stringent rules. If the Government do not accept this principle, then they must realise that the licensed taxi is a condemned species. Why should anyone choose to add to their costs if they can achieve the same or a better standard of living operating under a different banner, without the additional cost burden, and at the same time enjoy the same benefits available to the licensed taxi driver?

    (b)  Protection of the Travelling Public - the introduction of Mandatory Orders in City areas was in part motivated by the principle that the purpose built vehicle gives the public a degree of safety which the saloon is unable to match. From the early days of the Hansom cab, it was accepted that uniformity of appearance protected the public against interlopers. Passengers travelling from different parts of the country will arrive in any given licensed area without any knowledge as to the appearance of the licensed taxi in that area. Purpose built vehicles are instantly recognisable as licensed taxis to allcomers. It is not difficult to `dress up' a saloon car to give it the appearance of being a licensed private hire car. The Association do not believe that the licensing of private hire cars affords sufficient protection to the rail travelling public.


  The Government must not look at this issue in isolation but should take an overall view of trends in the taxi and private hire trades. It is fair to say that in some areas where Mandatory Orders are in force, the taxi trade find that one by one the privileges they were afforded in return for operating under the burdens of regulation are being progressively whittled away. The Government white paper rejected proposals to introduce a one tier system of licensing. The two tier system therefore remains. This Association has seen its members forced to accept competition from licensed private hire vehicles who are now permitted considerable signage suggesting to the public now well aware of their presence on the street that they are taxis. In some districts they are allowed to use bus lanes. Some private hire operators fit meters, giving the appearance of a taxi meter and private hire vehicles openly form `quasi ranks'. Use of the word "taxi" is blatant. Touting is commonplace and largely unchecked in many licensing districts. The current proposals amount to yet another incentive to desert the taxi trade and join the private hire bandwagon.

  Non implementation of the proposed amendment to the Transport Act 1962 will go a little way to reverse the apparent trend from taxis and give our members some hope that their trade does enjoy a worthwhile future.

  Castle Harman
  18 February 1997

Letter from the Rail Users' Consultative Committee for Wales

1.  Thank you for your letter of 18 December to our Chairman Mr Charles Hogg, on the issue of necessary protection.

2.  The Committee believes this is a subject which should cause some concern. As the law stands now, the Licensing Authorities for Hackney Carriages (commonly called `taxis') and Private Hire Vehicles are, in so far as Wales is concerned the Unitary Authorities. Hackneys tend to be subject to stricter conditions than private hire vehicles. Also the standards applied to drivers tend to be higher but the Committee would stress that as each authority is autonomous the practices may vary considerably across the Principality.

3.  In Conway the Authority carries out significant Police and DVLA checks on aspiring drivers. Those for Hackney Carriage licences are actually interviewed by a panel of Councillors and tested on their knowledge of the streets of the locality applied for and on the Bye-Laws. About 10 per cent are refused a licence for having an unsatisfactory criminal record or poor street knowledge. Sometimes a combination of both.

4.  Regarding vehicles some authorities impose quite stringent conditions on Hackney Carriages which can have the effect of ensuring only the conventional "London" type taxis are used. It is difficult to introduce this provision especially in the more rural areas. Therefore the vast majority of vehicles in use (both Hackney and Private Hire) are not disabled friendly.

5.  The Committee would be opposed to any reduction in current standards. As it is likely that licensing authorities apply less stringent standards (generally) for Private Hire Vehicles and Drivers we would feel, on balance, that this proposed relaxation would not be of benefit to vulnerable groups. The public needs more information about what a licensed private hire vehicle is. Some passengers ask whether it is a car, a minibus etc. and also what insurance does it have. Could we therefore query and define the use of the word `taxi' as the public uses this term to apply generally to both Hackneys and Private Hire vehicles? If they mean Hackney Carriages we suggest they should say so.

6.  There must be accountability to a regulatory body should private hire vehicles be given this opportunity. This regulatory body could be the local licensing authority or a statutory strategic transport authority, enabling complainants to follow up any problems encountered. There should also be a recognition that both taxis and private hire vehicles become included in any local `integrated transport policy'.

7.  The Committee is concerned about the protection now given to potentially vulnerable groups of passengers when they are transferred from trains into minibuses and taxis, when trains do not run or last connections are ignored. How does the hapless passenger know that the taxi driver is not an alcoholic, or sex offender.

8.  We need to persuade the Train Operating Companies to provide details of their procedures and methods of selecting companies they employ when train services are disrupted and connections missed. These must be sensitive to the needs of the rail user.

9.  Whatever their purpose all vehicles employed for taxi or private hire work should be required to meet the highest standards of safety and should offer a reasonable level of comfort to their passengers - including any who are disabled. It is also imperative that all operators and drivers should be entirely reliable and trustworthy in every aspect of their work.

10. I am copying this letter to Mr James Rhys, the second Clerk to the House of Commons Deregulation Committee.

  Clive G Williams
  14 January 1998

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