Safer Travel at Night campaign gears up for Christmas

05 December 2008

Any minicab journey that hasn't been booked through a licensed operator is illegal, uninsured and unsafe

The Mayor is warning Londoners against the temptation of travelling in illegal cabs with the Christmas party season beginning and increasing numbers of revellers travelling home late at night.

Transport for London (TfL) and the Metropolitan Police Service are intensifying their efforts to crack down on the menace of taxi touting.

As well as increasing anti-tout operations, a hard-hitting advertising campaign will warn women of the dangers of getting into illegal cabs, which pose a serious threat to late night travellers, with 104 cab-related sexual attacks reported last year.

Have a Cabwise Christmas

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: 'At this time of year thousands of Londoners including myself and those dear to me will share seasonal salutations in hostelries around the Capital.

'I am resolute in my determination that this time of celebration and joy will not be marred by the despicable activities of the taxi touts who stain our city.

'I understand the temptation the touts provide to innocent people looking for a way home late at night.

'But the vehicles belonging to these unscrupulous individuals are not insured and pose a real danger to anyone that may use them.

'There is always a safer way home and I urge anyone heading out over the Christmas period to make a note of the Cabwise text number before they do so.

'For the price of the text message, party goers will be sent the numbers for licensed and 24-hour taxi and minicab companies in their area.

Please be safe, not sorry.'

Safer Travel at Night campaign

The Safer Travel at Night campaign over the Christmas period contains a number of elements:

  • The Cab Enforcement Unit, part of the TfL-funded Metropolitan Police's Transport Operational Command Unit, will increase night-time operations in touting hotspots, targeting illegal cab drivers on the streets. The unit has made over 4,000 arrests for touting and cab-related offences since 2003. The City of London Police will also be stepping up enforcement activity against illegal cabs in the City
  • Representatives from TfL and the police will hit the streets to hand out 'safer travel at night' information in areas known to be illegal cab hotspots
  • A hard-hitting TV, radio and online advertising campaign will warn women of the dangers of illegal cabs. The ads will also promote Cabwise, TfL's text service which allows anyone in London to request the numbers of licensed cab companies in their area. To use the service, simply text 'home' to 60835. Texts cost 35p**.
  • TfL will also continue to work with the boroughs to provide late-night marshalled taxi ranks in areas that are particularly busy late at night. These include Bromley, Beckenham, Kingston and Romford in outer London, and Cranbourn Street (near Leicester Square) and Liverpool Street in central London

The award-winning Safer Travel at Night campaign has been very successful to date, with cab-related sexual offences down 44 per cent since 2002*.

However, research shows that around half (48 per cent) of late night travellers incorrectly believe that minicabs can pick up passengers that approach them in the street***.

Illegal cabs: The truth

Steve Burton, TfL's Director of Community, Safety and Policy (CSEP) explains the truth about illegal cabs: 'A simple rule to remember is that only licensed taxis (black cabs) can be hailed in the street or picked up at a rank without booking.

'Any minicab journey that hasn't been booked through a licensed operator is illegal, uninsured and unsafe.

'The reason booking is so important is that it guarantees your trip will be carried out by a licensed driver in a licensed vehicle.

'A record will be kept of your journey and, in the event of any problems, the driver can be traced.

'If you get into any minicab without booking, your driver is breaking the law and you'll have none of these assurances.'

Getting tough on touts

Chief Superintendent Joe Royle, Transport Operational Command Unit (TOCU) said: 'Unlicensed touts pose a real danger to late night travellers and the Metropolitan Police Service is committed to clamping down on illegal cabs.

'Our Cab Enforcement Unit's dedicated anti-tout initiatives will help to reduce crime in the run up to Christmas as well as improving the safety of all passengers who use cabs.'

The Mayor has taken a tough line on touting, and any licensed driver convicted of touting will now lose their Public Carriage Office (PCO) driver's licence.

He also announced earlier this year that the number of dedicated cab enforcement officers in the Capital would be doubled to 68.


* Metropolitan Police Service statistics
** Customers on the 3 network (and overseas customers) can access the service by texting their location (street name and partial post code, e.g. Victoria Street SW1) to 07797 800 000
*** Research conducted for TfL by Synovate. 703 interviews conducted in January 2008

Notes to editors:

  • Safer Travel at Night is a partnership between the Mayor of London, TfL and the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), who are working together with organisations across the Capital to help make London safer at night by offering, and raising awareness of, more safe travel options - key to this has been the licensing of the private hire and minicab industry
  • The Safer Travel at Night project was awarded the 14th annual Goldstein Award for Problem Orientated Policing for 2006. The award, which receives entries from a number of countries around the world, is given to a project that best reflects excellence in problem-orientated policing. TfL's entry was based on the Safer Travel at Night project partnership. The project's successes include the 'Know what you're getting into' public awareness campaign, more night buses than ever before, the licensing of all minicab vehicles and operators, making taxi touting a recordable offence, marshalled taxi ranks and, by the end of 2005, all buses in the Capital were fitted with CCTV

Late night travel options and information in London:

  • London Underground: the last Tubes leave central London at around 00:30 from Monday to Saturday
  • London Buses: there are more than 100 night bus routes across London.  Since 2005 every London bus has had CCTV installed and there are now around 60,000 cameras on the fleet of 8,000 vehicles
  • Taxis and licensed private hire vehicles (including minicabs): there are nearly 25,000 licensed taxi drivers and over 50,000 licensed private hire drivers in London
  • Marshalled taxi ranks and private hire schemes: late night marshalled taxi ranks or private hire schemes have been established in areas of London which are particularly busy late at night. Marshalled taxi ranks are situated in Bromley, Beckenham, Cranbourn Street, Kingston, Liverpool Street and Romford and there are late night marshalled private hire schemes operating in Kingston
  • Cabwise: a text service which can provide the numbers of two local licensed minicab operators and a taxi operator wherever you are in London. Find out more about Cabwise
  • Texting HOME to 60835 costs 35p plus standard network charges
  • Customers on the 3 network can access the service by texting their location (street name and partial post code, e.g. Victoria Street SW1) to 07797 800 000
  • Findaride: passengers can use TfL's online findaride service to search for licensed minicab operators in any part of London and book a licensed minicab for later on in the evening
  • TfL's Travel Information Centre: TfL's 24-hour travel information call centre can be phoned 24 hours a day on 020 7222 1234 and can provide information and phone numbers for taxi and private hire services in London
  • Visit our traveltools page for more information on Findaride, Cabwise, Journey Planner and travel information in London