Friday, 13 December 2019

Just Like Uber, Losses Mount For Indian Ride Hailing App Ola

In its latest move, Ola have started registering licensed private hire drivers in London. Interestingly, although Ola have been in talks with TfL for many months, the London foray only came about 24 hours after Transport for London found that Uber drivers had faked their identities on the Uber app and refused to renew their operators licence.

As India’s leading ride-hailing company, they have losses that have risen from $11 million to $23 million

The SoftBank-promoted ride-hailing company Ola has reported a 92% increase in losses for its cab-leasing business Ola Fleet Technologies, but despite their reported losses, revenue has increased by 59% from 3.70 billion rupees from 2018 to 5.91 billion rupees for the last financial year.

Revenue from the sale of services stood at 4.84 billion rupees. Unlike Uber who own nothing, Ola reportedly owns more than 100,000 vehicles.

Employee benefits expenses rose to 440 million rupees this year from 300 million, while finance costs stood at 1.24 billion rupees, up from 840 million rupees in FY18. The biggest chunk in expenses was depreciation, depletion and amortization expenses – 2.9 billion rupees that increased from 1.86 billion rupees.

Founded in 2010 by Bhavish Aggarwal, this ride-hailing startup is present in more than 250 cities in India with Uber as its biggest competitor. Ola also recently launched the self-drive car rental business with Ola Drive and aims to have a fleet of 20,000 cars by 2020.

With the cab services market nearing saturation, Ola has also diversified into a bike taxi service – Ola Bike – and it commands about 25% of the market share. It is present in 200 cities and has more than 300,000 bike partners.

This service is gaining ground in smaller towns which lack good public transport or last-mile connectivity. Moreover, they are more affordable than cabs, and can zip through congested roads. According to data from PGA Labs, the bike taxi service is now a $150 million market, growing at 20% month-over-month.

Ola also has a presence in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. It launched services in the UK last August in Cardiff and later expanded to Birmingham, Liverpool, Exeter, Reading, Bristol, Bath, Coventry, and Warwick.

Ola’s parent company ANI Technologies on standalone basis had reported a decline in losses from 26.76 billion rupees to 11.60 billion rupees, while its total income grew from 18.60 billion rupees to 21.55 billion rupees.

It plans to go public in less than two years after meeting profitability goals required for such a listing in India. An initial public offering will help many of the ride-hailing company’s investors, including SoftBank, to exit or partially sell their stakes and return funds to their shareholders.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

TfL Response to UTAG Pre Action Letter

Late on Tuesday, December 10th 2019 we received TfL's reply to our Pre Action Letter, which we shared with you last week.

Our QC has given us clearance to share this reply with you.

The content is arrogant, hubristic and disingenuous; it also shows the utter contempt in which TfL hold our trade and the lack of care for public safety.

We shall leave you to draw your own conclusions as to the response but would point you to a couple of relevant sections in this, to our mind, totally biased reply.

On Dec 5th, Mr Khan in conversation with James OBrien on LBC stated one reason to refuse a licence to ULL on the grounds of public safety was that 'the experts found that 'THE UBER SYSTEMS ARE NOT ROBUST', however,
Sec 2c of the reply seems to ignore the experts.

Sec 2d refers to TfL's concern that revocation would seriously impact the drivers and passengers.

Absolute nonsense, Kapten, Ola and Bolt could employ the drivers and the passengers could migrate to one of those apps in a heartbeat.

TfL's main responsibility is that of public safety, NOT the driver's jobs or public's travel arrangements.
They can both be catered for elsewhere.

The letter is totally unacceptable but we expected nothing else from this useless, inadequate and clearly biased regulator, and consequently, our legal team have been preparing papers for a JR well before any reply was received; in fact, they started to prepare as soon as the PAP letter was sent.

We shall be lodging Grounds for Appeal with the High Court as soon as the preparatory work is complete.
and keep you all up to date as things progress.

The links to the reply and Mr Khans interview are below.

Thank you for your solid support.

Best wishes

Trevor Merralls & Angela Clarkson

United Trade Action Group

Councils accused of hypocrisy over diesel after 91.6% of fleets found to run on the fuel

LOCAL authorities have been accused of hypocrisy after it was found that councils are punishing members of the public for driving diesel vehicles while running fleets of vehicles that predominantly run on the fuel.

Sixty-two council fleets consist entirely of diesels.

The 320 local authorities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that responded to Auto Express’s freedom of information requests are operating 61,045 diesel vehicles — a staggering 91.6% of the 66,617 total. Some 62 council fleets consisting entirely of diesel vehicles.

The fleets include bin lorries, gritters, community minibuses and park-maintenance pick-up trucks — vehicles that are recognised as vital for the ongoing maintenance of our streets. But as many councils clamp down on residents for driving diesel cars, especially in city centres, the motoring magazine branded them “hypocrites” for not switching to electric vehicles fast enough.

Air pollution has been found to cause 40,000 premature deaths a year in Britain, with older diesel vehicles being a large contributor to the problem. Diesel fuel produces fine particulates and nitrogen oxide gases, which can cause respiratory disease and heart attacks. Of Britain’s 5.4m asthma sufferers, two thirds say that poor air quality makes their condition worse.

The UK government has launched a Road to Zero strategy, which aims for all new cars to be capable of “effectively zero” emissions by 2040. The devolved government in Scotland has outlined even more ambitious plans with the aim to end new petrol and diesel car sales by 2032, eight years earlier than the rest of the UK.

Bristol City Council, which has been the most strident in its efforts to clean up with plans to ban all private diesel cars from its city centre by 2021, runs 369 diesel vehicles out of a total of 453 (81.5%). 

Councillors recently confirmed plans to purchase 64 new diesel vans, according to Auto Express.

London has introduced a £12.50 daily charge for diesel vehicles that do not meet the Euro 6 emissions standard to enter the city centre ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ), but 89% of the 4,844 vehicles operated by London councils run on diesel, with at least 724 (15%) still being pre-Euro 6. The mayor, Sadiq Khan, has blasted diesel cars as “dangerous to health”.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents English and Welsh authorities, told Auto Express that “councils are eager to switch to electric vehicles or low-emission alternatives where possible,” but “the vast majority of the types of specialist vehicles councils operate do not have viable electric alternatives because they don’t exist”.

New Year New Challenge for London Cab Drivers

After three London cabbies lost twelve stones and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2019 for charity, the new year is heralding a much bigger challenge for a group of thirty London Cab Drivers

Two of the original Cabbies Do Kilimanjaro, Daren Parr and John Dillane, have embarked on a much bigger challenge for 2020. Thirty London Taxi Drivers responded to a request to change their lives, by losing weight, getting fit and climbing Kilimanjaro, while raising money for the London Taxi Drivers’ Charity for Children and a children’s community project in Tanzania.

But Daren and John will be pushing themselves even harder in 2020. Not content with climbing one mountain their challenge will be to climb Mount Meru first and then meet the other Cabbies at the foot of Meru’s neighbour to attempt the six-day ascent to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro.

London Cab Driver, Daren Parr, says, “Climbing Kilimanjaro was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. The cold, the relentless climb, the lack of sleep and the altitude sickness, all combined to make us all feel very miserable, but this was a challenge for charity, and we weren’t going to give up. John and I tripped and stumbled up the final 600 metres but standing on the roof of Africa and seeing the curvature of the earth was the most incredible sight and made all the days of pain fade away.”

London Cab Driver, John Dillane, continued “We never expected to do a second challenge, but we had so many fellow cabbies who were inspired to join us in Tanzania, that we decided to do it again. As if it wasn’t hard enough climbing Kilimanjaro, Daren and I decided we needed something new to challenge us. 

I suggested we climb Mount Meru, before climbing Kilimanjaro and that was it, without hesitation we looked at each other smiled and nodded!”
The thirty male and female Cabbies have begun the challenge to lose a massive 52 stones and are being supported by Be Military Fit who are helping them devise training plans to ensure they are fit enough to climb Kilimanjaro in September 2020.

About Cabbies do Kilimanjaro
After successfully raising £18,000 for The Taxi Charity for Military Veterans in 2019 by losing 12 stones in weight, getting fit and climbing Kilimanjaro, two of the original Cabbies Do Kilimanjaro, Daren Parr and John Dillane, have put together a much bigger challenge for 2020.

A group of 30 London Licensed Taxi Drivers, will be attempting to lose 52 stones, get fit, with the support of Be Military Fit and then travel to Tanzania where Daren and John will climb 4,562 metre Mount Meru before being joined by the rest of the cabbies to climb 5,895 metres, to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

The Cabbies do Kilimanjaro team is hoping to raise £7,500 for the London Taxi Drivers’ Charity for Children and £2,500 for a children’s community project in Tanzania

Follow their progress on;
Twitter @cabbiesdokilimanjaro
Facebook CabbiesDoKilimanjaro
Instagram Cabbies_do_kilimanjaro

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Fuming taxi drivers slam ‘nightmare’ changes at Brighton station

Brighton’s Taxi Drivers are  up in arms as they say they’ve seen a 30 per cent drop in their business, since their Taxi rank was moved from the front of Brighton station to the rear.

They were furious when the rank was relocated behind the station last month and have complained to Govia Thameslink Railway.  

Govia plan to turn the old space into a “covered pedestrian plaza” with a cafĂ© and an area for bikes. (Where have heard that before?)

They say the new rank is larger and allows quicker access for journeys out of the city.

But taxi drivers say they have lost nearly a third of their income since the move.

Niti Halili, 48, from Whitehawk, has been a Brighton Cabby for 10 years. He said: “I’ve seen at least seen a 30 per cent drop in business.

“It’s bad. We have to work longer hours just to make a living.
“It’s becoming hard. We’re losing time, money, and jobs. People coming out of the station just don’t know how to find us”.

“We’re losing all the work we used to get out the front. When customers see us right in front of them, they’re tempted to get a cab. Not any more. Now it’s a nightmare.

“The new rank is causing a major bottleneck. It’s one in, one out. It limits business and it gets very congested.”

Other Cabbies said their business had taken an even greater hit. Cabbie Mina Guirguis, 34, said: “I’ve seen more than 30 per cent of my business go. It’s more like 40 per cent.

“It’s so much more difficult to drop and pick off customers. It’s left me so stressed.”

Govia Thameslink Railway has been contacted for comment.

At the time of the move, the company’s lead facilities manager Karl McCormack said: “The rank is moving because 16.5 million use the station now each year and it simply isn’t fit for purpose for the number of vehicles.”

He said the company recognised the potential concern from the taxi trade and had “a new wayfinding campaign within the station to help passengers find their way to the new rank”.

He said: “We have advertised the new rank extremely clearly with vinyl floor stickers along the walking route from the ticket gates, banners on the walls of the station, fences and in the location of the old rank, new signposts, station PA announcements, posters, and messages put out on the trains as people arrive.

“We have also given taxi drivers leaflets showing the location of the new rank for each driver to give to their passengers when dropping off.”

Drivers Warned Not To Offer Lifts For Profit This Christmas, Following Reports Of Services Being Offered On Social Media.

Drivers are being warned not to offer people lifts home for profit this Christmas, following reports of people offering their services on social media. 

Those offering lifts may see it as an easy way to make some extra cash to help cover their motoring costs or pay for Christmas – while people accepting them may think they can save money on a taxi fare home.
It seems the public are prepared to put them selves in all sorts of danger, if they think they are saving a few pounds!

But GoCompare Car Insurance is warning that drivers advertising their services in this way and making a profit would effectively be acting as an illegal taxi service.

They may end up committing several offences and invalidating their private car insurance policy – meaning they would not be covered in the event of an accident.

Pembrokeshire County Council has recently gone on record saying "we had been made aware of "illegal taxis" operating in the county – mainly young drivers offering "lifts" on social media.
"legitimate taxi drivers need to go through rigorous checks to ensure that they are safe and suitable to transport people".

The council also said police will be targeting those suspected of acting illegally – and anyone thinking of offering lifts for payment should be aware that they will not have the appropriate insurance – and if caught they could face a fine or be banned from driving.

GoCompare, which reviewed 362 private, fully comprehensive car insurance policies found that private car insurance policies typically prohibit "passengers carried in the course of a business for hire or reward".

One in 10 (10%) policies provide no cover for lift sharing and where private car insurance permits lift-sharing, it is restricted to social journeys and drivers are prohibited from making a profit.

Lee Griffin, chief executive of GoCompare, said: "The rising cost of motoring coupled with the current financial squeeze for many people has made lift sharing an attractive proposition.
"Most insurers will allow genuine lift sharing and there are loads of legitimate schemes across the UK

"But drivers are not allowed to make a profit from their passengers and can only charge enough to cover petrol and other costs.
"If drivers make a profit, insurers are likely to class the lift share as a taxi service, for ‘hire and reward’ and invalidate their policy.

"As well as the driver breaking the law, passengers are left incredibly vulnerable by illegal taxis and people need to be aware of the dangers."
Cllr Phil Baker, from Pembrokeshire County Council, previously expressed his concerns about social media platforms being used to offer "cheap lifts".

"I would urge everyone not to accept these offers regardless of how attractive the fare may sound," he said.
"You may be compromising your safety and the consequences could be devastating".