Posts Tagged ‘congestion charge’

A Busy Monday

Thursday, February 11th, 2021

Kashmiris call for independence

Monday 11th of February 2019 was an unusually busy day for me covering protests in London, with several unrelated events taking place across Central London.

My day began outside in Marsham St, where groups outraged at the callous hostile environment introduced by Theresa May as Home Secretary from 2010 to 2016 and carried on by her successors Amber Rudd and Sajid Javid (and of course from later in 2019 by the despicable Priti Patel) held a mock trial of the the Home Office.

The Home Office were represented by a figure in Tory blue

The Home Office runs a violent, racist, colonial, and broken asylum, detention and deportation regime which treats refugees and asylum seekers as criminals, judged guilty without trial and often faced with impossible hurdles as they attempt to prove their innocence and claim their rights. It puts pressure on police and the CPS to launch false prosecutions – such as that of the Stanstead 15 who peacefully resisted an asylum flight and were charged and convicted under quite clearly ludicrous and inapplicable terrorism laws – and whose conviction was recently quashed on appeal.

Two years ago I wrote:

There were testimonies from individuals, groups and campaigns about suffering under the vicious system of rigged justice, indefinite detention, ill-treatment and arbitrary arrest and deportation. Two judges watched from their bench and those attending were members of the jury; I left before the verdict, but it was never in doubt.

People’s Trial of the Home Office

I left early to cover a protest at India House in Aldwych by the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front calling for freedom, there on this day as it was the 35th anniversary of the hanging by India of Maqbool Bhat Shaheed in 1984. The population of Jammu and Kashmir is around 12.5 million, and India has over 800,000 troops in Kashmir, who shoot to kill, torture, rape and burn homes with impunity, killing over 100,000 Kashmiris since 1988. More recently India has even tightened its control over Kashmir, getting rid of the constitutional limited autonomy of the area, politically integrating it with India although this seems unlikely to lessen the continuing fight of the Kashmiri people for independence.

Later I photographed a protest by a second group of Kashmiris, the Jammu Kashmir National Awami Party UK, calling for the remains of Maqbool Bhat Shaheed to be released and for independence for Kashmir.

In late afternoon, private hire drivers came to London Bridge in their cars to protest against the decision by Transport for London (TfL) to make them pay the London congestion charge. London’s traditional Licenced Taxis – ‘black cabs’ – will remain exempt in what clearly seems unfair discrimination.

Minicab drivers have been organised by the International Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) into the United Private Hire Drivers (UPHD) which includes the British Bangladesh Minicab Drivers Association, the Minicab Drivers Association and the Somali All Private Hire Drivers, SAPHD. Most private hire drivers are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups while black cab drivers are almost entirely white and the UPHD claim that TfL’s decision is a case of race discrimination.

London’s Licensed Taxi system dates back to the era of horse-drawn vehicles (Hackney Carriages) and seems largely inappropriate now in the age of smart phones and sat navs. ‘Plying for hire’ creates both congestion and pollution on our overcrowded city streets, and is now unnecessary when cars can be summoned by phone, and good route-planning software with real-time traffic information out-performs the archaic ‘knowledge’ routes.

The drivers parked on London Bridge and blocked both carriageways, then locked their vehicles to march along the bridge and hold a rally, then marched to hold a noisy protest outside City Hall. From there some went to Tower Bridge to block that, but were persuaded by the UPHD stewards to leave and return to their vehicles.

UPHD drivers protest unfair congestion charge
Kashmir Awami Party call for Freedom
Kashmiris call for freedom
People’s Trial of the Home Office


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


UPHD protest discrimination

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

I’m not a fan of Uber and very seldom a user of taxis or private car hire services, regarding them as a necessary evil for those rare occasions when public transport is not practicable. And taxis in particular are evil, causing large amounts of unnecessary pollution – both oxides of nitrogen and particulates – on the city streets both directly and also indirectly from other vehicles caught up in the congestion they cause by ‘plying for hire’ – an archaic system now made redundant by the smartphone.

Also rendered archaic by modern technology is the ‘knowledge’, made unnecessary at least in principle by sat-navs and sat-nav apps, though there is still room for further development on these. But at least in theory they can determine best routes making use of real-time traffic information. An car magazine recently conducted a very unscientific test of black cab, Uber and the writer’s car with an up to the minute sat-nav on a London journey, and the journalist’s satnav – evidently a better one than that in the Uber – won. And despite the ‘knowledge’ many taxi drivers seem to have and use a sat-nav, or at least the “Cabbies Mate” App .

Learning the ‘knowledge’ is certainly a good way to learn your way around London, but largely retained as a method of entry control to the trade. It’s part of the reason why London’s cabs are still largely driven by white British drivers while most private hire drivers come from various BAME communities. The United Private Hire Drivers union (UPHD) would appear to have a good case in claiming that TfL’s decision to apply the congestion charge to minicabs but not to taxis is discriminatory, though it remains to be seen what the court will make of it.

The UPHD also claim that private hire drivers are four times as likely to be stopped by TfL’s enforcement officers “than taxi drivers despite consistently better compliance performance on a licensed driver & vehicle basis. ”

THe UPHD is a part of the IWGB (Independent Workers Great Britain) one of several grass roots unions which are leading the fight for precarious workers in various sectors , including cleaners, cycle couriers and foster carers. As well as this campaign against TfL and the congestion charge, they are also fighting Uber for proper employment rights for the drivers, who are clearly workers for the company rather than self-employed.

Since 2016, successive judgements from the UK’s Employment Tribunal, Employment Appeal Tribunal and Court of Appeal have all said Uber drivers are being unlawfully denied basic worker rights, such as the minimum wage and holiday pay. 

(IWGB web sute)

The union says drivers currently only earn around £5 per hour and are demanding an increase in fares to £2 per mile, a reduction in Uber’s commission from 25% to 15% and an end to unfair dismissals.

We need to reduce traffic and congestion in London, though the congestion charge is a blunt instrument and unfairly discriminates against less wealthy car drivers. For all private hire vehicles – taxis and minicabs – a per fare surchage paid by the customer would be a better solution. We need to give far more encouragement to cycling and walking, by providing safe routes and also by changes to some traffic laws and road design to give cyclists and pedestrians priority; more bus-only routes (or rather bus and cycle routes), and greater subsidies for buses, trams and local underground and overground trains; to set dates before very long when non-electirc powered vehicles are banned for our cities .

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My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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