London taxi protest: Uber invites black cab drivers to join up before today's strike

 
Guy Bentley
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UberTaxi was launched in June (Source: Getty)

London cabbies are set to wreak traffic havoc across central London as they prepare to protest against illegal minicabs.

The action means up to 4,000 black cabs will drive slowly around Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square. The London Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) which organised the protest, said:

TFL’s inability to deal with the growing threat to Londoners' safety of illegal minicab touting, unlicensed operators and electric Rickshaws are the main grievances of the cabbies, although the proposed Cycle Crossrail (Barmy Boris’s Barking Mad Bike Scheme) is now firmly in their sights.

As Londoners and tourists prepare to endure disruption to their travel plans, Uber has stepped in to remind black cabbies that they can also take advantage of the company's services.

Jo Bertram, UK & Ireland general manager at Uber, said:

We love black cabs and that’s why we launched UberTaxi, inviting London’s iconic black cabs to join the Uber platform. We are giving black cabs more opportunities to earn a living in a safe and comfortable working environment, and providing riders with even more choice.

We’ve already welcomed hundreds of cabbies to Uber; and signups are increasing rapidly by the day.

The relationship between Uber and the LTDA has been fraught, to say the least. Back in June, large parts of London were brought to a standstill as vast numbers of black cabs protested against Uber, arguing the company was not compliant with laws regarding taximeters.

In response, Uber launched UberTaxi, which is open for London's black cabs to use in a similar way to taxi booking app Hailo.

Yesterday, following comments regarding Uber's tax arrangements by shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh, the general secretary of the LTDA Steve McNamara slammed Uber as a "massive American monster that uses its financial muscle and army of lawyers to threaten, cajole and kowtow licensing authorities and regulators".

While the San Francisco-based company may be receiving a hostile reception from London's established taxi organisations, it has responded by arguing there is room for all comers in the capital's transport market.

“We think there’s plenty of room for black cabs and private hire cars to co-exist in London; and we want to be part of a healthy, vibrant and diverse market that is great for consumers and drivers alike", said Bertram.

“Londoners are voting with their fingers by downloading apps like Uber. We are opening up choice and flexibility, while also ensuring the highest of safety standards", he added.

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