London’s iconic black cabs are regarded as the best in the world, with drivers needing an encyclopaedic knowledge of the capital’s streets in order to earn their badge.
The city’s cabbies are a tight-knit community which, as well as having The Knowledge, sets them apart from private hire drivers and there is a long running and rivalry between London’s taxis and private-hire trade, which has been fierce at times.
So the last thing many people expected was to see Hackney carriage drivers sign up to the ride-hailing app Uber. While the move has been welcomed in some quarters, it hasn’t gone down well in others.
Ever since the ride-hailing service was launched in the capital in 2012, there has been opposition from Hackney carriage drivers, including demonstrations and campaigns against the app service.
But this month sees the launch of the unlikely partnership, with “several hundred” black cab drivers reportedly having signed up to Uber.
Unlike their PHV counterparts, who have private hire insurance and can only be booked in advance, the cabbies will still be able to pick up normal metered fares in the street or at taxi ranks, as well as being able to accept bookings via the app.
As reported by the BBC, the ride-hailing service has proudly put forward Hameed Hameedi, as the first to have signed up after nine years running a black cab.
He said: “Uber opening up to black cabs will be a huge advantage to the trade. App bookings are good for me because I know where my next job will be. More passengers booking trips means more cash for cabbies.”
But other London cabbies are unimpressed by the move, which includes six months free commissions for bookings on the app.
Taxi driver Howard Taylor told the BBC that “London black cabs are the gold standard” and he would “never consider joining Uber”.
He said: “That’s how they lure people in and that’s how they did it when they started in London, by offering cheap fares to passengers, and once they’d got them on to the platform, the fares got hiked again.
“We go the extra mile to help our passengers and are committed to providing a safe, accessible and efficient service. From everything I’ve seen, I don’t believe Uber shares these commitments.”
Defending the move, Uber said it has always acted lawfully in London, and said the partnership would benefit everyone.
Uber UK general manager Andrew Brem told the BBC: “Uber and taxis are better together.
“Black cabs are an iconic part of the capital, loved by Londoners and visitors alike, and we are proud to work side by side.
“Partnership is win, win, win: helping London cab drivers earn more, boosting travel options for passengers and making London’s transport network more efficient.”
The Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association was unimpressed by the move and said its more than 10,000 members were not consulted ahead of Uber’s announcement.
LTDA general secretary Steve McNamara said there was “no demand for this partnership” and went further to tell the BBC that joining Uber would be “sullying” the trade.
Growth for cabbies
He added that London’s cabbies had seen “significant growth since the pandemic, with record demand for cabs, more work through taxi apps and huge levels of investment being made in new electric taxis”.
“We don’t believe our members will even consider joining the app, given its well-documented poor record on everything from passenger safety to workers’ rights in London,” he said.