When TfL announced a timely and entirely appropriate review of the regulations governing London's Private Hire Vehicles (minicabs to you and me) both the headline writers and spin doctors went into overdrive.
Uber faces massive crackdown in London and Uber under threat in London we read. Uber's lavishly resourced communications team swung into action, ludicrously describing the proposals as a threat to its entire existence in the capital.
Let's get a few things straight. First of all, this consultation is what it says on the tin - a consultation. TfL are asking for views; Uber's will surely be welcome. Secondly, nothing whatsoever in this proposal will stop Uber operating in London and being fierce competition to the taxi app I run, Gett. And thirdly, the proposals are simply aiming to ensure London's 3,000 minicabs operators are all held to a reasonable and consistent minimum standard. The world has changed, and it's important the regulations are kept up to date.
What serious minicab operator could object to the vast majority of proposals contained in TfL's document? A fixed fare confirmed in advance, ensuring that no operator uses an unregulated meter. And a telephone number so that you can get immediate help when you need it. Are these really such crazy ideas? Is it too onerous for a billion dollar company to answer the phone and help its customers? Gett's phone lines are open 24/7 and we offer fixed fares on all our rides.
Another of the proposals aims to ensure that it's the individuals with the Private Hire Vehicle licence and the appropriate insurance who are actually driving on our busy streets. So if you get in Steve's minicab it will be Steve driving it and not his unlicensed, uninsured uncle John making a few quid on the side. If Uber is opposed to this eminently sensible and logical measure than I suspect many people will question their aspiration to be a serious player in the transport space.
TfL also wants all drivers to know their way around the city. If you want to be a professional driver in London but can't find the way from Euston to Paddington then I think you're in the wrong job. I had thought Uber supported this simple proposal; how anyone could oppose it is beyond me.
Every time someone gets in a Gett cab they know they are being driven by a highly trained driver who knows London's streets inside out. The vehicle will meet minimum standards and be safety checked every six months. The driver will also have had a criminal record check. This is what makes London's black cabs the best in the world. Shouldn't we also have some basic standards for minicabs, to keep all Londoners safe and secure?
Anyone opposing a discussion of these proposals risks looking like a fly-by-night operator who doesn't want to meet basic and obvious minimum standards for customer safety and security. I'm sure that isn't Uber, so perhaps everyone should just take a deep breath and calm down.