London taxi drivers and Uber battling to win support with just 20 days left for TfL consultation

London Black Cab Drivers To Protest Over Uber Taxis
The battle between Uber and the black cab lobby is entering the final straight (Source: Getty)

Taxi drivers and Uber are gearing up for the final stretch in a race for support ahead of a crunch consultation that will decide the newcomer’s fate in the capital.

Transport for London’s (TfL) consultation on whether to bring in further rules and regulations has just 20 days to run. Uber was given a boost yesterday when the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) took the unusual step of criticising TfL over proposals it says will restrict competition and innovation.

Both sides have been building support to try to sway the final decision. City A.M. understands TfL’s decision will be heavily influenced by the balance of opinion from consultation responses, with the side garnering most support winning out.

In August, Steve McNamara, general secretary of taxi drivers' union the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA), one of Uber’s staunchest critics, boasted of his influence over the consultation.

“All of the proposed regulatory changes were proposed by the [taxi] trade,” said McNamara, writing in trade magazine Taxi.

The proposed new laws are the result of an earlier consultation over the summer, which was responded to by “thousands of LTDA members,” he said.

In September TfL asked for industry and public opinion on whether it should bring in a raft of measures, including forcing Uber drivers to wait five minutes before starting a journey and introducing English language requirements for drivers.

Yesterday McNamara told City A.M.: “We’re expecting three or four items from the consultation to go through, such as... landline customer support and advance booking.”

However, in a success for pro-Uber campaigners, McNamara has conceded that “there is no public support for the five minute wait rule”.

Read more: Uber and the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association to square off before MPs

The consultation has already received upwards of 8,000 responses. A large proportion of the consultation responses are from taxi and minicab drivers, many of whom are opposed to Uber.

Uber has shown its popularity among the public through a petition that TfL will take into account in its final decision.

Jo Bertram, general manager of Uber in the UK, said: “More than 192,000 people have already signed our petition against these plans and we hope TfL will listen to people across the capital.”

Uber would like to see its support swell to over 200,000 before the 23 December deadline. Uber can also expect the support of various industry bodies before the consultation closes.

The Institute of Directors said yesterday: “The Luddite proposals are little short of protectionist, embedding inefficiency, keeping prices artificially high, and hurting London’s reputation.”

And Richard Dilks, transport director at London First, added: “There is a concern that the proposals would limit businesses coming to the city.”

After the deadline, TfL will review the responses and weigh opinion, aiming to come to a decision “as soon as possible in 2016”.

In an unlikely twist, China’s Geely Holding Group, manufacturer of London’s iconic black cabs, last night said it plans to launch its own taxi app to rival Uber in China.

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