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Sunday, 9 December 2012

Night time enforcement

This weekend I was able to join two of my night time enforcement teams who are working continuously to maintain and improve safety on London's streets.

Operation Kansas targeted stretched limousines and novelty vehicles and together with VOSA we set up a facility on Victoria Embankment where vehicles could be inspected and checked.

The population of stretched limos has grown considerably in recent years and many operate in dubious legal territory. Vehicles with more than 8 seats need an Operator's Licence but many run without them. Moreover the construction of these conversions is often dangerous. We found plywood roofs, non-flame resistant materials, and glass which cannot be broken or cut in an emergency. With such potential traps for passengers in the event of a crash or fire, we were staggered to find doors which could not be opened, as well as faulty brakes, steering and defective lighting.

Some vehicles were so dangerous they were immediately impounded, others had to be towed away.

As you would expect,  for as long as vehicles are operated in this condition we will continue to target them. It causes some inconvenience to the occupants but without a doubt they had no idea their safety was being risked. Needless to say there are respectable operators and their vehicles fully comply and are well maintained. Indeed after spending £80,000 or more on such exotic equipment you really would take good care of them, wouldn't you?

Later I joined our Taxi and Private Hire compliance team and we toured Kings Cross, the West End and Camden. Again we were specifically looking for Private Hire vehicles which were plying for hire - something only licensed black cabs are legally entitled to do. Late night venues are an obvious place for such vehicles to congregate and we found again cases where drivers were taking passengers who had not pre-booked, as they are required to be. These drivers will now find their licences being reviewed, as will those black cab drivers who only hold suburban (yellow) licences but were plying for hire with their lights on inside the central London area.

Why do we do this? The law provides two quite distinct types of 'taxi' services in London - both designed to suit different markets but both arranged to protect customers, many of whom are vulnerable. Unless we ensure the services are operating legally the way is open for unscrupulous people to take advantage - if you get in an unlicensed vehicle then it's just like getting into a stranger's car.

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