Rogue West End pedicabs could be outlawed by Spring as 'passengers charged £200 for £20 trip'

Transport minister visits central London to see evidence that customers have been 'well and truly ripped-off'
Ross Lydall @RossLydall12 December 2023

Unlicensed pedicabs in the West End are fleecing passengers by charging £200 for a £20 journey, a transport minister has revealed.

Guy Opperman said there was plenty of evidence that customers had been “well and truly ripped-off” by the cycle rickshaws after seeing for himself how the industry operates without rules in central London.

The House of Lords on Monday began examining, line by line, a proposed new law that will allow Transport for London to regulate pedicabs and their drivers for the first time.

Mr Opperman, Minister for Roads and Local Transport, hopes Parliament will have passed the new law,which was part of last month’s King’s Speech, by next Spring.

He told the Standard that a fact-finding mission to Leicester Square on Sunday night was “enlightening” and showed why new laws were needed.

He said: “There was a very large collection of pedicabs at various locations. They were blocking the pavement. They were clearly creating obstruction.

“Clearly they’re uninsured. They’re unregulated. You can’t be sure who is driving them. There are widespread reports… of massive overcharging. This is an anomaly that needs fixing.

“We were given examples of people being quotes £20 and then being charged £200, and people being quoted £15 and then, when they get to the destination, the driver saying, ‘No, I said £50’.”

Pedicabs have escaped regulation due to a loophole in London’s taxi laws. They are the only form of public transport not regulated in the capital, meaning pedicab firms, drivers and vehicles do not need to be licensed and there is no control of fares.

Numerous attempts to introduce rules have been made for more than a decade, including from Boris Johnson in his time as mayor, former Minister for London Paul Scully and Nickie Aiken, the Tory MP for the Cities of London and Westminster.

Because the current bill has Government support and is a “narrow” bill that focuses just on pedicabs, it has the best chance to date of becoming law.

This would allow TfL to charge for licences, regulate fares, impose speed restrictions and carry out background checks on pedicab drivers. TfL would also be able to seize pedicabs that broke the law and issue penalty fines.

It is unknown how many pedicabs operate in London but research by the House of Commons Library said estimates varied between 200 and 900 vehicles.

TfL data shows there were 24 incidents reported over the last five years about driver conduct and road obstruction, and six sexual offences. In 2019 there were 13 collisions that resulted in injuries..

The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, which represents the black taxi industry, says that pedicabs should be banned.

Mr Opperman, who was joined by fellow transport minister Lord Davies and Ms Aiken on his visit to Leicester Square, said: “There is evidence of criminality that is going on here.

“If we know there are unlicensed vehicles on the road, and people who have suffered broken legs in accidents in an uninsured vehicle driven by an individual you can’t trace, then Government has got to step in.

“It was fairly clear to me that there are a very large number of pedicabs, and they congregate in particular places. I didn’t expect to see quite the number I did.

“It is also very telling that the moment the police appeared, all the drivers dispersed immediately.”