Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you ever so much for inviting me. My presentation will address issues specific to licensing of taxis, which in my definition will include hackney carriages, private hire cars and other operators of vehicle types that offer a comparable service, which have in some places been titled transportation network companies—examples include Uber, uberX, Lyft and others that provide services in a taxi-like way. If I mention trade names and company names in my commentary, that is intended to give you an example of a service type; it is not intended to single out any company.
I commend the Parliament and the Government for their desire and effort to develop taxi and private hire car legislation. It is appropriate and commendable to provide a legislative framework that facilitates and protects in the public interest.
I believe that legislation needs to be aware of the current market, current change in the market and future activities that might impact on its effectiveness and implementation. I contend that the bill fails to address the needs of the transformed market that is likely to emerge in the very near future.
I highlight the view that, in framing legislation, it is easy to suffer from a belief that the legislative framework itself is sufficient to ensure appropriate supply. Evidence from locations where the market has been transformed does not uphold that view. Many of the new entrants sit between legislative instruments. It is important that that point is made clear. The market in its transformed state will be very different from the market that we see now.
I suppose that the most important question is: what is a transformed market? I highlight that it is the opposite of the legacy market—the one that we know and which has operated successfully for a significant time, with legislation dating back to 1847 and even prior to that still being in force in some places in the United Kingdom.
The transformed market will include new technology operators—predominantly those associated with smartphone applications, otherwise known as apps. Those exist in a number of generations and have been present in the taxi and taxi-like industries for about five years.
We have had six generations of apps, which suggests a rapid evolution in the market of one revolution per eight months or thereabouts, as opposed to one revolution in legislation for taxis every 80 years or so. That difference is significant.
The transformed market will include quasi-taxis—vehicles that operate in the taxi market and provide a taxi-like service, which are often indistinguishable from taxis to those who wish to use them. Those operator types have in the United States of America been named transportation network companies, which are often abbreviated to TNCs. New services will spread across licensing categories to offer services from a variety of traditional licensing distinctions and many services that sit outwith current legislation.
The transformed market will facilitate service provision by private individuals offering trips in their private cars under what is in effect a private contract. That does not fit readily into the distinction of ride sharing, which is a term that has been applied in some locations. In my definition, ride sharing is a positive public contribution that offers a ride for part of a trip that would exist in any case, whereas TNCs or quasi-taxis provide ride sharing on a commercial basis for profit.
It is worth noting that the transformed market and specifically the apps that facilitate transportation will often obscure from the user the category of vehicle that is being engaged and thus its legality or otherwise.
It is appropriate to frame legislation currently, but it needs to be sustainable. The Government and the Parliament need to be aware of the transformed market in developing legislation and must legislate to an extent that supports policy in the new market dynamic.
I will touch on taxi and private hire car distinctions. Hackney carriage and private hire car services are distinct only in the legacy market. They are consistent only in their legislative differences.
Apps in effect provide an electronic hail to quasi-taxis, which removes one of the few distinctions of the hackney carriage. Number constraint, which is a part of some hackney carriage markets, might become ineffective under the current testing of it if the regulation that allows for it is unenforceable. Number constraint might also become irrelevant if its market impact is lost.
The measurements that are applied to number constraint, commonly known as measures of significant unmet demand or SUD, will become impossible to use in their current form in a transformed market. That does not exclude the possibility of testing and measurement, but that requires change. That will have an impact on all other areas of regulatory control, to wit, quality control and economic constraint—fares and leases. The three elements of quantity, quality and economic controls are completely interlinked and cannot be divorced from one another.
If I may, I will touch briefly on taxi numbers and quantity constraints.