We are at a critical juncture of London’s transport future.
Debate has raged over TfL’s recent consultation to consider a set of rules to improve the private hire industry. This debate will continue in the coming weeks and months.
It is important though that a debate has many voices and, currently, we are only hearing one very loud voice. As a black cab app, we want to ensure that the other side of the debate is heard.
Many pundits have focused their thoughts on the black cab’s inability to match private hire services on price, even though this is not necessarily always the case.
While competition and low price is good and forces all of us to sharpen our performance, the question has to be asked – will this actually deliver all Londoners the service they deserve and want? And will it create the transport service befitting a world-class city?
Within the transport requirements of a city, there is a need to deliver all customers value for money – and price cannot be the only measurement of value.
A world class transportation system not only caters to the people who want to get from A to B in the cheapest way possible, it also caters for those with accessibility challenges.
It enables the blind to travel with their guide dogs and provides a little extra space for those with disabilities. It helps Mums and Dads travelling with kids and prams. Businesses rely on it to get from A to B in the speediest way possible when roads are overloaded and intimate knowledge of the streetscape is required.
It also provides a level of trust and security for those who may be vulnerable. Many place value in the trust that your driver knows the roads, that you will be taken the most direct route possible and that you will be taken there safely. It also gives passengers peace of mind that they are safe if travelling alone, that they can send their child to school safely or, if it’s your first time in this magnificent city, your driver knows how to take you the right way rather than relying on GPS.
A world-class transportation system provides reliable, accessible and safe alternatives when other elements of the transport infrastructure fail or are over capacity. And finally it also creates a legitimate and desirable occupation that pays a fair and honest wage, while giving workplace flexibility.
If, as a society, we want to continue to ensure that these services remain available, we have to ensure that the market provides for them.
If we allow price and market forces to be the only criteria, it will only create a race to the bottom on who can deliver the cheapest service rather than acting in the best interests of the public.