London doesn’t deserve PR gimmicks, but a thriving taxi and private hire market that caters for all

Andrew Pinnington
London Faces Gridlock As Black Taxi's Protest Against Uber App
The black cab has a critical role to play in serving the city (Source: Getty)

London doesn’t deserve PR gimmicks but a thriving taxi and private hire market that caters for all.

Uber’s decision to offer zero per cent commission to black cab drivers has been self-described as an "olive branch". This is slightly disingenuous.

In the same press release Uber has questioned the need for the Knowledge, graduates of which are proven to move around the city faster than a sat-nav; implied drivers of private hire vehicles and black cabs are one of a kind (“they have the same background checks”) when the training required is nothing like the same; queried the need for a service which is 100 per cent accessible by suggesting vehicle types should be changed without proposing an alternative; and suggested the black cab market would benefit from using technology such as Uber when app-based, cashless technology was adopted by black cabs before Uber had even entered the London market with apps such as Hailo and Gett.

Read more: Why taxis are protesting TfL's private hire review today

Taxis and Private Hire vehicles should indeed "thrive" in London, to quote Uber’s latest statement. However, both need clearly defined rules that ensure all sectors of society are catered for, and have the choice to select services that they can trust, not just those providing the cheapest price. Ultimately, the proposal to simply “reduce the cost” base of the black cab disparages the standards and level of trust that Londoners expect from a world-class transport system.

At Hailo, our 15,500 drivers believe providing a safe, reliable, knowledgeable and accessible service is vital in providing the best possible service.

They also accept there are other services which can’t offer these benefits and for which consumers are willing to pay less. While rules and regulations need to adapt to the advances in technology, questioning their very existence is merely posturing to the crowd with rhetoric, not actually giving a full picture.

Read more: Now you can book London's black cabs through Uber

Whether it is for speed around a congested city, for reasons of guaranteed safety and security, for the benefits of accessibility or the reduction of congestion and emissions, the black cab has a critical role to play in serving the city.

By allowing the race to the bottom advocated by Uber, we risk losing this vital globally renowned service that adds so much to London.

To starve London with a transport system driven only by low prices can lead to standards falling by the wayside.

The city’s transport system is a vital part of our lives and needs to be considered sensibly, respectfully and intelligently from all angles. It deserves better than PR spin thinly veiled as a peace offering which obfuscates the real issues.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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