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APPRECIATING APPS OLA – IT’S BECOMING A HABIT!


Once again we welcome a feature from Dr Mike Galvin, who is fast becoming (with thanks) a regular contributor to PHTM. Mike’s industry experience in both hackney carriage and private hire is extensive and spans many years; this time he offers some thoughts on the Ola development of last month.


Firstly, let me use some words not often seen in the trade press: I commend Transport for London (TfL) or more particularly the Taxi and Private Hire division (TPH) for its decision not to grant Ola a licence. My motives here are not based on spite, competitive reasons or any similar sentiments. I certainly take no view on the rights and wrongs or strength or weaknesses of the respective cases, merely on TPH’s resolution to continue to do what they consider the right thing despite the response of the court just days before, to their previous decision not to grant another major app operator’s licence application on the basis that they were not fit and proper.


I salute TPH and am in awe of its decision as, given the recent kick back by the court which decided to act as some kind of amateur regulator, TPH has stood steadfast and resolute – can the industry really ask for more?


I am certainly not going to be drawn into the rights and wrongs of what Ola has or hasn’t done; that is a matter between them and TPH - and presumably at some future point the courts. However, it does appear from what I have read that there are similarities in some of the rea- soning for TPH’s decisions with both operators who have recently been refused licences.


The public rightly need protection and need to know that when they book a journey in a taxi and private hire vehi- cle that the driver is licensed, the vehicle is safe and that there is some control in the way fares are charged. Given that TPH has given two common reasons for its refusal to renew licences, including unlicensed drivers providing journeys, perhaps this is an area that requires a deeper investigation to see how this can be avoided.


If it is simply a case of inept management, poor systems and processes, dishonesty and/or no transparency then TPH must throw the full strength of its powers in the direction of any erring licensed operator. After all if it does not, what is it there for? If there is more that can be done to integrate systems, provide visibility, data, and shared information likewise that should be investigated openly and transparently and if possible, it should be done.


As an industry - which includes regulators, operators, 64


drivers and importantly passengers as well as suppliers, professional and ancillary services and other important stakeholders - our future and success in the future is tightly bound to the service we provide; cost, and I would assert above all, safety.


VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE?


A succession of high-profile appeals against revocations or refusals to license, however well founded, will do little to engender a feeling of confidence and wellbeing amongst the travelling and importantly the prospective travelling public. This particularly applies where a licence is refused and the organisation concerned can carry on providing services, quite legally for many months or con- ceivably years whilst having been judged as not fit and proper.


So where does this leave the regulator? For the benefit of this piece not just TfL/TPH but regulators more generally. I would of course expect all regulators to act as TPH has done with integrity and with independence, and I can honestly say that has been my experience.


But I would also look to regulators to coordinate and engage with the industry with a view to reducing the opportunity for licensed operators to be subject to organised crime and fraud, and to send messages to would-be fraudsters that this is a tough nut. Regulators in other parts of the world have been able to muster the industry and use technology to eradicate fraud, as far as it is possible. The effective use of technology can also reduce the opportunity for operators large and small to be opaque or disingenuous in their dealings with regula- tors.


Legislation is there for all; it is not just there for the regu- lator, the police and other authorities – they don’t own it. Regulation flows from it but is it enough then for the reg-


NOVEMBER 2020


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