Uber taxi app is no threat to London's black cab says TfL commissioner

Guy Bentley
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There may still be a future for black cabs (Source: Getty)

Uber does not pose an imminent danger to London's iconic black cab. So says Transport for London (TfL) commissioner Sir Peter Hendy.

Speaking at the Guardian's transport debate held during the Conservative party conference, Hendy argued the fury directed toward the San Francisco-based company had been largely "misplaced".

In fact, Hendy was optimistic that there would be a future for traditional cabs alongside the ride-sharing app. He told the audience:

I don’t come out of my office and think I’m going to get onto my phone to look for a car. I look down Victoria Street, and I find a vacant taxi. I know the driver knows where he’s going, and I know he’s licenced because, apart from anything else, I licence him.

Uber has been a prime target for the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA), which organised thousands of cabbies to stage a protest against the taxi app company in June. They were joined by cab drivers from all over Europe who were unsatisfied with Uber's regulatory status.

Even Boris Johnson has waded in, recently criticising Uber for its "excessively bumptious" attitude. However, in a word of friendly advice to cabbies, he said:

You have my sympathy but in the end there has been no more brilliant advocate of the services of Uber, no more powerful advertisers of that particular brand, than the black cab trade.

The LTDA argues Uber is not compliant with laws regarding taximeters, which can only be held by black cabs. TfL has held the position that Uber's app does not constitute a taximeter.

Hendy added:

There’s a dispute that we have with the taxi trade about whether or not an iPhone is a taximeter or not. It’s pretty obscure because the legislation was written before mobile phones were invented.

After cabbies' most recent protest against illegal minicabs, Uber politely reminded them that its services were open to use by black cab drivers.

Jo Bertram, Uber's UK & Ireland general manager, 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.

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