The public are familiar with London's Taxis and yet almost nobody outside our industry knows much about us.
Everybody knows we undertake the Knowledge, but who really knows what this means? It is a test of topographical competence and character assessment which takes between three to five years to learn. Within the process, a love affair with London grows in the hearts of Knowledge students.
Since 2012, TfL has been issuing private hire vehicle (PHV) licenses like sweets. This week we learned there are now a staggering 87,600 PHVs in London. Couple that with a total lack of enforcement by our regulator and what you have is 87,600 PHVs able to tout without fear of reprisal - I profusely apologise to the genuine hard-working PHVs who do not do this.
Three years ago a certain app-based operator came to town, but such is the laissez-faire attitude towards licensing at TfL that no one bothered to check their operating model.
Uber does not fit with the PHV operators legislation on many counts - you cannot pre-book, but rather order drivers “on-demand”. This is just an electronic form of hailing. I have pressed TfL to implement an e-hailing policy, but so far they have refused.
A perfect example of an app-based PHV that does abide by the legislation is Addison Lee. If they are able to why can’t the others?
We are accused of being Luddites by the Mayor. The reality? We have had in-cab radios since the 1950s and were the first taxi service to use a data booking terminal in the cab in the 1980s, long before smartphones or apps were invented.
We are not anti-technology, we are against technology being used to circumvent the law and go undetected. TfL management are making every excuse for not enforcing the law.
We stand accused of being expensive, yet our costs are set by the regulator as they prescribe our vehicle and our fares likewise. If your costs and prices are set by someone else, how can you compete in a free market? The answer is, you can't - and it’s anything but a free market.
On one side you have a light-touch regulation - arguably so light that it can’t be felt - and on the other a prescription right down to the brand and model of tyre we can use. This is market asymmetry.
This is why it is so important for TfL to get its act together and why the United Cabbies Group are having to resort to demonstrating today.
If TfL continues to abdicate the responsibility for lack of enforcement, the future of one of Britain’s national treasures, the Black Cab, will become extinct.