Hundreds more compliance officers will be deployed on the streets of London over the next year to crackdown on taxi touts. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has pledged to quadruple the number of uniformed officers with an extra 250 by September 2017, as part of a drive to improve customer safety and support the taxi trade business.
The expansion of the Transport for London (TfL) team responsible for tackling rogue taxicab operations is in response to the illegal activity which affects the capital’s taxi and private hire businesses.
Mr Khan, said: “I want Londoners to feel safe when they take a taxi or minicab and that is why I have approved a major increase to the size of our team that targets touts and illegal activities.
“It is the first part of a wider programme I will be introducing that will drive up standards in the industry and help our world famous cabbies continue to thrive.”
The Mayor’s announcement will see the size of the team boosted to 322 officers who will provide a visible uniformed presence in the West End, City and across other parts of London, heralding a new era for taxi and private hire trades.
The new officers will be funded through changes to private hire operator licensing so larger firms pay a greater share of the costs of enforcement.
The news is welcomed by the capital’s taxi and private hire companies which rely on fares to keep companies running.
Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, said: “This is fantastic news for Londoners and the black cab trade; it is so refreshing to have a Mayor who recognises the danger posed to the travelling public by illegal minicab activity and is prepared to act to ensure their safety.
“We welcome this substantial increase in compliance officers, and look forward to working with Sadiq in the future.’
Operation Neon is carried out regularly to deter and put a stop to illegal minicab activity and in turn protect the public.
The joint operation is run by TfL, the Metropolitan Police and Westminster City council every weekend.
Between May 2015 and July 2016 Operation Neon has run on 127 occasions and resulted in:
- 9699 private hire drivers advised and moved on to keep roads clear for taxis and booked private hire cabs.
- 448 private hire drivers were reported for not having a badge and were stopped from working for the remainder of the evening.
- 5116 private hire drivers were reported for not wearing their badge.
- 65 private hire drivers reported for plying for hire offences.
- 1265 private hire drivers reported for parking on taxi ranks.
- 2916 Parking tickets issued.
Steve Burton, TfL’s director of enforcement and on-street operations, added: “Illegal minicab activity not only poses a serious risk to passenger safety but undermines licensed, law abiding taxi and private hire drivers.
“This welcome boost to our enforcement team provides Londoners with additional reassurance and also sends a message to those not complying with the law that they will be caught and dealt with robustly.”
The announcement is the first part of a comprehensive strategy overseen by the Mayor that will also see the greenest taxi fleet in the world.
Other improvements already underway following TfL’s review of Private Hire Regulations include from October 3, 2016 all taxis in London will accept card payments, including contactless, to provide an even more convenient service to the public.
Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM, chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee said:
“This is a long overdue step towards increasing passenger safety and cracking down on dangerous practices and rogue operators.
“The Transport Committee has called for better enforcement of the taxi and minicab trade since December 2014 and we welcome TfL’s plans to increase the number of compliance officers tackling illegal minicab activity.
“Now TfL must ensure that these extra officers are given the proper powers, resources and training to identify and stop touting, which is widespread across parts of the city.”