UTAG High Court Judgement Update

About Us

UTAG represents hackney carriage drivers (otherwise known as taxi drivers), vehicle owners, and other industry stakeholders such as those who supply taximeters and card payment terminals for taxis.

UTAG was founded in September 2018 by two Licensed London Taxi drivers in collaboration with suppliers of goods and services to the trade; for example, fleet owners from whom taxis can be rented, garages who repair/service taxis and those who supply taximeters and credit card equipment for taxis. There is a symbiotic relationship between the drivers and suppliers; without one the others cannot continue in operation.  UTAG membership is substantial and comprises taxi drivers, suppliers of goods and services to the trade and supportive members of the public. 

We are currently being adversely impacted by a weak and ineffectual industry regulator in the shape of Transport for London and the resulting unfair competition from a number of PHV operators who have been permitted to enable drivers to unlawfully ply for hire which is the sole earned right and privilege of Licensed London Taxis. 

This blurring of the two-tier system means PHV operators can continue to operate notwithstanding the serious risks they can pose to passengers’ safety and security in London. 

Our position is Transport for London are setting a dangerous precedent when regulating surface transport with their handling of PHV operators and that they are knowingly keeping the travelling public at risk. As a heavily regulated and socially responsible trade, we simply cannot sit idle and allow this to continue.

Our Journey

London’s Taxis have been seen on the streets of the capital since the 17th Century. In 1654, an Act of Parliament was passed making taxi driving a profession.  This profession is maintained by the famous ‘Knowledge of London’.   Introduced as a requirement in 1865, the Knowledge spurred social mobility, allowing working class people to find solace and pride in a trade that encompassed London.

The Knowledge of London is undertaken by a wide range of individuals because the training required has no bias towards sex, race, religion, or class. There is no barrier to entry just sheer hard work, determination and endeavour required by any individual to become a London Licensed Taxi Driver. Individuals self-fund their lengthy studies with no recourse to benefits and this remains the only entry point to the London Licensed Taxi trade since the Knowledge of London was established in 1865.

To promote and encourage future cabbies, we are linked with the Knowledge Companion which is a subscription for Knowledge students

After having invested considerable time studying London’s complicated road network by completing the Knowledge of London which is based on the shortest route between two points, we are required to operate within a highly regulated two-tier system in return.

The Licensed London Taxi trade takes public safety seriously and the importance of ensuring there is public confidence in the regulation of the carriage for hire industry, of which it forms part.   

In London, both Taxis and PHVs are licensed and regulated by Transport for London.

It is critical to the commercial viability of the Licensed London Taxi industry generally, that consumers can be sure that the industry is properly regulated and safe to use.  Any diminution in consumer confidence regarding the adequacy of regulation or safety of the sector generally, is liable directly and adversely to impact on the Licensed London Taxi trade. 

UTAG therefore has a particular interest in ensuring that public confidence in the robust regulation of the carriage for hire industry is maintained.

There is obviously a degree of competition between Licensed London Taxis and PHVs, however their mode of operation is clearly vastly different and only Taxis can lawfully ply for hire.  Members of the public have a choice about which service they use or indeed whether they opt for other forms of public transport such as the London buses.

UTAG has no problem with this degree of competition, which is of long standing, provided that both London Licensed Taxis and PHVs are properly and fairly regulated.  The Licensed London Taxi trade is obviously concerned to ensure that the competitive market within which it must operate is a fair one, and that equally stringent standards of regulation are applied to PHVs as they are to Taxis. In particular, UTAG’s membership is concerned that the regulation by Transport for London should be no less rigorous than the regulation of other participants in the carriage for hire market.

The reality of the markets in which taxis and PHVs operate is more complicated and both are subject to fundamentally different regulatory regimes:

  • The standards imposed on Taxis are more far-reaching in several respects than those imposed on PHVs. For example, the vehicles must meet the Conditions of Fitness and the drivers must pass the ‘Knowledge of London’ examination. Taxis are also compellable (up to a prescribed distance/time) and may not charge more than the metered fare (which is set by Transport for London).
  • Taxis are legitimately permitted to take passengers in certain circumstances in which PHVs are not. Specifically, taxis may take customers who hail them from the street (ie ply for hire) and customers at taxi ranks. PHVs, by contrast, are limited to prebooked journeys.

This two-tier system is justified by the “very different characteristics” of the pre-booked market and the market for hailing and picking up at ranks. It is the latter market which accounts for most of the journeys made by Taxis in London.

The requirement to be able to hail safely and conveniently is of particular significance for disabled and elderly passengers, who may find it more difficult than non-disabled passengers to spot taxis and to attract their attention. It is also of relevance given the stringent accessibility requirements to which taxis are subject – including the requirement to be able to accommodate a standard-sized wheelchair. By contrast, PHVs, which are not permitted to operate in the street hailing market, are not subject to the same accessibility requirements.

Our unique and iconic vehicles have been trusted to transport passengers safely for over a century.  Our integral central protection screen with whole vehicle type approval meets environmental, safety and security standards and creates separation between the driver and passenger cabin to improve privacy and peace of mind.  Every licensed London taxi is wheelchair accessible and features a host of accessibility aids such as:

  • Wheelchair ramps
  • Swivel seat
  • Intermediate step
  • High visibility seat panels
  • Large, coloured grab handles
  • Low level floor lighting
  • Intercom
  • Hearing aid induction loop
  • Ability to carry assistance dogs at no extra charge
For wheelchair users, access via the ramps allows safe boarding. The large, spacious passenger cabin allows the chair to be moved into the securing position where the seatbelts restraints secure the chair safely and securely. For passengers with limited mobility the swivel seat extends to the exterior of the vehicle to allow seamless movement into the vehicle. An intermediate step assists passengers with limited accessibility to use the high visibility grab handles to aid entering the vehicle.  Hearing aid induction loops are a standard fit to assist passengers with hearing impairments.

Taxis can expand travel horizons for those requiring safe, accessible travel options such as those passengers within protected groups like the elderly and those with visible or non-visible disabilities who need to utilise a fully accessible, door to door service, which involves being picked up or dropped off at a location convenient to them.

“We have a proud history and we must ensure the iconic taxi is part of London’s future. It is incumbent on all of us to put the same determination into defending our badge as we did to achieve it.”

Trevor Merralls, UTAG Director

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