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TfL under fire over bureaucracy burden and “woefully inadequate” consultation on new rules

Peter Blake, TfL’s director of surface operations, used his keynote address to recap the recent progress regarding the upcoming slew of new regulations.

This boiled down to the “lively discussion” surrounding a number of key issues, including the requirement for drivers to be insured at all times during the period of licensing; the requirement to issue a customer with booking confirmation details - Blake commented this was a popular feature with customer focus groups; agreeing a framework to implement a “destination and fares estimation” plan - another popular customer-focused feature; and the requirement for operators to provide a human contact point in the event of issues or complaints and not be solely reliant on technology to deliver a service.

Congress chair Mark Bursa raised a number of concerns surrounding the regulations and compatibility with the industry’s main disruptive competition: Uber. A worry was Uber’s inability to provide a human contact or the ability to offer pre-booked rides. Blake would not comment on the activities of individual operators, saying only that “all operators will be obliged to comply. I am hopeful… that enforcement isn’t required.”

Clarification over the apparent inconsistencies surrounding advertising on and branding of cars was seen as inadequate; a case in point, operator Spotty Cars can’t have trademark spots on its cars, yet eco-friendly cars are allowed appropriate branding. Blake’s general response was “you must get our approval beforehand,” which failed to convince many, including Spotty Cars’ owner Jackie Fletcher. Blake did concede that another look at the guidance might be necessary.

Similar concerns were raised over the likes of ‘as directed’ bookings regulations and the impact on chauffeur operators when compared to Uber, the bureaucratic nature of communicating advice to operators and even farcical situations where operators were prevented from working while they chased paperwork.

The prospect of upgrading to TfL-compliant IT systems was a concern for smaller operators, who complained about the short timescale and added financial burden. Alas, there was no sympathy from the man from TfL.

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Blake’s generally bullish approach, to the point of championing the consumer at the operators’ expense, wasn’t well received by the delegates. It was summed up by Joe Polley from Parker Car Service, who said: “This period has been the most woefully inadequate consultation with the industry I’ve ever seen.”

Polley was critical of TfL’s poor communication skills and the perception that small operators are disproportionally struggling under the weight of onerous regulations. Addison Lee’s Dominick Moxon-Tritsch added that there was scope for trade bodies to better represent operators, given that some parts of the regulations better suited larger operators than small ones and vice-versa.

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ProDriver Congress London 2016 photo gallery