Uber, the worldwide taxi company, currently has around 25,000 vehicles working in London; in comparison, there are approximately 21,000 black cabs licensed by the Public Carriage Office. It’s not surprising that black cabbies are getting a little ‘hot under the collar’ in respect of Uber taxi drivers.
Black cabbies have been putting pressure on authorities, citing ‘unfair competition’, to slow down the rise of Uber but recently, TfL, London’s transport authority, has rejected a series of proposals that were suggested in order to restricted not just Uber, but also alternative app-focused taxi services. Measures included:
• A 5-minute delay, or more, between a confirmation message being sent and the taxi collecting the passenger.
• Allowing private hire companies to take pre-bookings from customers as much as 7 days in advance.
• Drivers are limited to single-operator registration at any one time.
Uber are claiming victory, of course, but it may be a little too soon to celebrate. New proposals put forward by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, may well yet cull the wings of Uber and app-based taxi services as he puts forward new proposals to not only cut the number of Uber cars on the streets of London, but also to improve air quality, which is not great in the capital. The Mayor has asked TfL to investigate the possibility of lifting the congestion charge exemption for private taxi hire vehicles, meaning that they will have to pay £11.50 to pass through the central zone in London during the week.
Johnson was unable to convince the Government to cap the number of mini cabs in the capital – there has been a rise of approximately 50% in private hire vehicles and taxis. Other measures he has suggested to TfL in order to create a level playing field and protect passengers include:
• All drivers are to pass a basic English test, in concurrence with the current ‘Knowledge-lite’ geography test, before they are allowed to drive a taxi in London.
• Fare estimates given to customers are guaranteed prior to the journey.
• Drivers will be required to give personal details to customers, including a photograph, before the journey commences.
• Taxi companies, like Uber, will be required to provide a telephone number for customers.
• Higher licence fees implemented to reflect the costs of enforcing the licence, helping to reduce the number of vehicles on the road.
• Tighter measures on insurance for drivers.
London’s Taxi Driver Association (LDTA) is in agreement with the measures and wishes TfL would do more to deliver a fairer system for private hire vehicles and black cabs in the capital. But I doubt this is the last we will hear of this ongoing battle.
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