Monday, 16 April 2012

Addison Lee, dangerous driving and Tory donors

Today's non-story in London has been the determination of John Griffin, proprietor of an exploitative mini-cab firm Addison Lee (and coincidentally a donor to our beloved Conservative Party) to allow his loutish contracted drivers to use bus lanes, alongside buses, licensed taxis, cycles, and, in some cases, motorcycles.

Mr Griffin is a man with a populist mission, allegedly.  He does not tend to employ his drivers directly, to avoid the inconvenience of such minor details as pension, holidays and maintaining quality standards, and he wishes to smash the self-employed cab drivers who are currently the only people in London allowed to pick up passengers on the street.  This is clearly altruism of a high order and something that sceptics such as myself should never be allowed to question.

The clue to one of his many delusions is that the road space is allocated as a "bus lane".  Unless you are one of the extreme Tory zealots who continues to believe in the Thatcherite canard that anyone on a bus over the age of 25 is a failure, or have the Steven Norris pathological hatred of anyone who might use public transport, the bus is generally a good thing.  Particularly in London, where the fetid Underground is best avoided at most times of the day, the bus is important and moves very large numbers of people around.

As an aside, one of the reasons for this has been the lack of deregulation and the spurious competition that the Tories considered appropriate for everywhere outside London in the 1980s - which has not demonstrated consistent growth for buses and which acts as a brake on sensible measures to co-ordinate transport.

Yet Johnny-boy seems to resent the fact that taxis, which are licensed by Transport for London and whose drivers and operators need to have stringent safety standards as well as detailed knowledge of the geography and quirks of the capital, are therefore treated as a form of public transport.  His firm runs a fleet of vehicles where quite often the passenger is required to navigate, and the capriciousness of satellite navigation and imperfect understanding of directions, let alone relative topography, results in many trips turning into a mystery tour at considerable expense.

For those of us whose daily grind takes us into London, the Addison Lee sign on a vehicle acts as a warning.  The mini-cabs are the kind of 4x4 favoured, allegedly, by drug dealers, with blanked-out windows.  The driving is aggressive - frequently breaching the Highway Code - and the treatment of pedestrians, cyclists and other legitimate road users often contemptuous.  I'm sure Mr Griffin, as an upstanding donor to the Self-Interest Party, will be pleased to know that I intend to document breaches of the law by his vehicles and report them to appropriate authorities, and encourage other people to do the same.

TfL, who are generally responsible for bus lanes, except in some boroughs where they are the local council's responsibility (Brian Coleman's removal policy is a separate scandal), argue that with 25,000 black cabs and 6,000 buses, these lanes are probably full.  Griffin thinks that this is discriminatory - and the big cry-baby has been inciting his drivers to break the law.  Let us hope that Mr Griffin doesn't end up in nick with other right-wing monopolists.

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