CTN: The knowledge.
We know that you have said that when you were Mayor you always resisted attempts to introduce a ‘quickie’ Knowledge. But how important is it to ‘you’ that London maintains its high standard of taxi driver qualification.
KL: Absolutely no question that the knowledge will be preserved intact as it stands. It is every bit as important as the black cab itself – it defines the trade. Everybody wants to get in a black cab, be they Londoners or Tourists and to know they will get where they want to go.
How Important do you think it is for TfL to keep its services and responsibilities within the realm of the Mayors office and resist the temptation to ‘outsource’ (whether within the UK or abroad) many of the jobs that have been traditionally done by working Londoners.
KL: I am opposed to this. All that ever happens is the cost to individuals goes up an the excess money goes in huge bonus to the people who have taken it over , the services gets worse and then people loose their jobs. If possible, I want to bring things back in house. I can’t believe that Boris would have got the support from the cab trade if he had said 4 years ago ‘Vote for me we’ll close the Carriage Office’
CTN: Satellite Offices.
The private hire industry recently asked you about the suspension of operating licenses in popular night-time venues. Unite Cab Section, in line with the rest of the taxi trade oppose these type of licences, mainly because of the lack of enforcement regarding the rules that govern this type of operating centre, which we believe in turn puts venerable passengers at risk, plus the fact that we maintain that a taxi rank should always be established first. How would you square this circle?
KL: If the police recommended that there should be a satellite office in a particular location for safety reasons, any Mayor would be mad not to listen to their advice. What we don’t want is an erosion of the standards we set for mini cabs when we regulated them about a decade ago and I am opposed to anything that undermines the security that we built into the system. We don’t want to make it easy for anybody who is dodgy to get back into the system.
CTN: Private hire numbers.
All over London now, taxi drivers are seeing lines of parked private hire cars, seemingly waiting for a job. This suggests to us, that there are too many private hire drivers and it would appear some sections of the private hire trade agree with us. Would you consider a suspension of new private hire driver licenses?
KL: It is certainly something that could be considered if it could be shown there was a need. Lets make it absolutely clear there has got to be the proper booking and recording and nothing must be done to erode that, otherwise we’ll get back to the horrifying levels of sexual violence we experienced before the regulation of the mini cab trade.
CTN: Taxi age limits.
Boris came into office saying that he would scrap the Western Congestion Zone. His Consultation document said one of the ways he could justify this environmentally, was because he would introduce age limits for taxis, creating cleaner cabs. Do you think this was the right thing to do for London and its taxi trade?
KL: An arbitrary age limit is wrong. I think we should be looking at how polluting is the vehicle. We are going to try to introduce an all electric bus into London and long term we would like to look at extending this to taxis for health reasons, which includes the drivers but I suspect this is not going to happen during the next Mayoral term.
To the taxi trade, Rickshaws are dangerous and a blight on our city. What would you do regarding the capital’s Rickshaw Problem?
KL: I think we should ban them they are dangerous and also a rip off.
CTN: The Law Commission has suggested that there should be Private Hire waiting areas established in busy late night locations i.e. London’s West End, especially at weekends.
Do you agree with them?
KL: I think that having private hire waiting areas or lines of mini cabs waiting on the streets would blur the distinction between the two trades. We need to look at new technology, smart phone apps etc. I think the key to solving the late night travel problem, is to invest in better public transport, increasing the number of buses in line with population growth. Boris has not done this. We have the same number of buses now as when I left office.
CTN: What would you do about London’s touting problem?
KL: Basically this is one of the things the police are paid to do. You want police out in these areas late at night to deal with these problems. If you increase the police presence you will be able to do that. I have made a commitment to increase the police numbers to address these situations. They should be out there to enforce every law.
CTN: What do you think about the Addison Lee affair? Given that, from what started as a private hire bus lane issue it has escalated into a cash for influence one.
KL: John Griffin has already announced he wishes to run for Mayor of London after Boris has finished. He is a huge donor to the Tory Party. I don’t have the slightest intention of allowing him to flaunt the law. We will pursue every one of the illegal entries into bus lanes that he does. If it is found that his letter has broken the law the police should prosecute him. He should not get off just because he has given the Tories a quarter of a million pounds. He has certainly never given me any money.
CTN: The vast majorities of London’s taxi drivers not only work in London but live in it too. What difference do you think you can make to they’re lives as Londoners?
KL: Cutting bus fares, cutting the cost of energy, Providing home insulation to elderly Londoners, restoring the Education Maintenance Allowance, generally helping them through these very difficult times and ultimately putting a bit more money back in their pockets will be some degree of benefit to the back cab trade overall. The vast majority of back cab drivers live in London and it is hard to see new drivers being able to afford to buy a first home. I am committed to building half a million homes over the next decade so housing becomes affordable again.
The London Mayoral Elections are on Thursday May 3rd
For more on Ken’s policies for London visit – kenlivinstone.com
Interviewer Peter J Rose