Uber Alles

(No, nothing to do with Germany or the World Cup).

It’s been well over a week since cab drivers brought London to a standstill.  The demo was a show of strength against the way Transport for London (TfL) have gone about things, particularly in the way they granted an operator’s licence to American private hire company, Uber. 

The main reason cited by the media was their use of mobile phone apps as a meter.  The meter issue isn’t that important.  Uber take bookings for private hire vehicles through an app. The company are based abroad and have no landline (they presumably pay taxes abroad too).  They are a virtual supplier of mini cabs, not a bona fide operator.  Only taxis can ply for hire on the street.  Private hire vehicles must be pre-booked.  Uber’s cars can be booked instantly by app.  Their drivers can park up and effectively ply for hire.  Established private hire operators are highly regulated by TfL and also feel aggrieved at TfL’s lack of support.  Uber have been shown the door in other world cities. Interestingly this is the first time in history that taxi drivers and mini cab drivers have agreed on something! 

I’ve heard comments such as:  “Holding London to ransom” and Bringing London to a standstill.”  I’ve used these phrases myself when the tube drivers walk out.  It makes a change for cab drivers to bring London to a standstill as nearly every day there’s needless disruption caused by someone.  A few days after the demo the West End was brought to the standstill because of the Queen’s Trooping the Colour ceremony (OK, I’ll let her off, she is the Queen).  Regent Street was closed from 4am to midnight last Sunday for a car rally (I thought TfL wanted to keep cars out of London).  There are the familiar yellow signs going up warning of another all day closure of Regent Street this Sunday, and I believe the street will be closed every Sunday in July so people can shop without getting run over.  Regent Street is a major road, and Sunday afternoon is about the busiest time of the week (especially with cabs travelling between train stations as the tubes are so erratic at weekends).  There’s the gay march at the end of June, cycling early July, and the usual pop-up demos.  Make no mistake, TfL are holding London to ransom:  they just don’t want people driving there.

Ps. The Congestion Charge has just gone up to £11.50.

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