London's black cab drivers want to offer superfast WiFi to passengers travelling across the capital and have taxi ranks outside every Night Tube stop as part of new efforts to keep the taxi industry competitive.
Under increasing pressure from upstart Uber, a new group has been formed bringing together cab drivers, the company manufacturing black cabs – the London Taxi Company -, unions and on-demand black cab app companies Gett and Hailo for the first time, and a set of plans for the trade to remain "best in class" laid out.
It is also calling upon the next Mayor of London to hop on board with the 28-point plan, the first of its kind for the industry.
“What we are launching today is London’s taxi revolution, a guarantee to make the best taxi service in the world even better. Faster, smarter, greener is our offer and our ask of the next Mayor of London," said Steve McNamara of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA).
Peter Johansen, the chief executive of London Taxi Company which is owned by China's Geely, said: “London acts as a beacon for cities around the world and the next mayor has the opportunity to enact an ambitious policy agenda to ensure that our city remains a world leader in technology, service and on the environment. This means there are real choices to be made for the next mayor to keep pace with London’s ever changing transport challenges.”
A major goal of the group is to cap the number of licensed minicabs in London. Black cab drivers have previously blamed Uber drivers for the the soaring numbers of minicabs on the roads, which has risen 50 per cent in the last two years. It also wants mincabs to pay congestion charge, something they are currently exempt from, while black cabs themselves are already on track to be zero emissions capable by 2018 as part of the plan.
"The traffic in central London has to flow better and move faster, we must continue to adopt new technologies including apps, wifi and contactless to ensure we are smarter," said McNamara. "Coupled with the right investment in infrastructure, such as rapid charging points to support the introduction of the new zero emissions taxi by 2018, we can make London the world’s first zero emissions taxi city.”
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The group is also seeking greater integration of black cabs into the transport plans drawn up by the mayor and Transport for London in the same way as the Tube and buses.
Flagged as "action required" in the plan is a pilot for fast WiFi over the next two to five years, as is ensuring taxi ranks are at all Tube stations open 24-hours "to create fully integrated transport services.
The Lib Dem mayoral candidate Caroline Pidgeon and Green Party candidate Sian Berry have both already pledged support for the plan with Pidgeon promising to look at a cap on the number of minicabs in the city.