Black Cab Protest To Cause Gridlock In Central London


Streets around Trafalgar Square will be gridlocked from 2pm on Wednesday afternoon as black cab drivers protest against the taxi app Uber.

An increasingly bitter dispute is raging between the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (black cabs to the rest of us) and Uber over what counts as a taxi meter. Uber allows passengers to book private hire cars (minicabs) but the fare is calculated on a combination of time and distance based on GPS through the app. Transport for London doesn’t think this counts as a meter because the app isn’t plumbed in to the car, but black cabbies say that’s just splitting hairs. They’re the only group allowed to use meters — and also have much stricter regulations to abide by. They say Uber is attempting to straddle the market, using on-street pickups and metering but using the lighter regulation in place for minicabs.

TfL has asked the High Court to decide whether or not Uber does use metering, but the protest is still going ahead — here and in cities across Europe. Reports suggest up to 10,000 cabs could join the protest.

The police have issued a request for organisers to share plans of the demo (the law requires written notification of ‘marches’ at least six days in advance) to allow the emergency services room to manoeuvre around town. A letter from Commander Peter Terry, widely shared on social media, warns that without such notification the protest could be illegal and drivers may be arrested — which could lead to the loss of their licences. The LTDA says it had meetings with the police three weeks ago.

Smartphone apps are not cabbies’ friends at the moment. Hailo has been accused of treachery after deciding to expand its booking service from black cabs to include minicabs. Fights have been reported and the word ‘scabs’ was painted on the wall of Hailo’s office.

Photo by Juan Pablo from the Londonist Flickr pool

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  • Fitz Rovia

    Yet these are the idiots who go ballistic about cyclists blocking the roads at Critical Mass. Cab driving is not a specialised skill, hence the monopoly of the black cab trade is unjustified and should be broken.

    • linda

      Fitz when you have a clue about what you are talking about , then please join in, but it’s quite clear to me you have no clue,about Black Cab Drivers.

      • Fitz Rovia

        Rebut me with facts, rebut me with figures, rebut me with an informed opinion. Your response is just a lazy snipe, and a poorly punctuated one at that.

  • theatregoer

    It’s ironic that adjacent to Fitz Rovia’s comments there is a headline about a cyclist dying after a collision with a lorry.
    As far as the monopoly of the black cabs goes , let me draw an analogy :
    If you want a gas appliance fitted you have to employ a qualified fitter. This is a form of control which benefits the customer and the qualified fitter.
    Cabbies have to do the ” Knowledge ” to gain a license to work. This is so their trade is controlled to the benefit of the passengers and the cabbies. If you don’t know what the knowledge consists of I suggest you look it up. Cab driving is a specialist skil – hence the need to qualify for a license to do it. They do have to pass a special driving test as well.
    If you think they are idiots perhaps you would like to have a go at the knowledge and then give an honest assessment of them.

    • Fitz Rovia

      The Knowledge is an anachronism is the era of sat nav. I could spend 4 years learning every number in the London phonebook but that doesn’t give me any special skill, and I’d save myself a lot of time and money simply using the internet each time I needed to know something.

      The job is driving, pure and simple. Let’s not try to attach some kind of mystique to something that most of the UK does on a daily basis.

  • theatregoer

    Incidentally, I think the protest is not about ” Uber ” but about the Taransport for London people not enforcing the rules which govern the hired vehicle trade in London.

    • andybrice

      I’m not sure how I feel about that. I suppose if we start allowing minicabs to charge based on timers, negotiating a fare could get very complicated. Perhaps we should legally require them to agree prices in advance, and only allow taximeters (mechanical or otherwise) which operate at a fixed rate.

  • Quinquireme of Nineva

    Personally, i think Black Cab drivers are pretty good and, as a cyclist, find them, on the whole courteous and patient – unlike the Addison Lee type minicab drivers who are much more dangerous and impatient. My concern about Uber is that they may attract the Addison Lee type driver who, although doing well for his customer, has less regard for other road users. As theatregoer says, black cab drivers have had to train and pass a test before they’re allowed on the road.

  • andybrice

    This whole episode has just persuaded me to sign up to Uber.

    I’m failing to see any reason why Black Cabs should continue to be conferred any special privileges. I feel like anyone who passes the requisite background check should be able to pick up hailing passengers, as they can outside London. And anyone who has an approved vehicle (low emissions and accessible) should be able to use bus lanes. The Knowledge is pretty much an anachronism now that sat-nav is prevalent.

    • George

      Ok so you want to sign up to über , that’s fine , but be warned . They state on their website they are not service providers , the driver is self employed and pays them a cut , so when things go wrong who are you going to complain to ,

      • andybrice

        Well, TfL or whoever locally licensed that vehicle and driver for private hire.

        • theatregoer

          Andy – you will to complain to TfL or whoever licensed that vehicle – TfL do license the Minicabs and you don’t seem to understand that today’s demonstration was not about Uber or apps per se it was about TfL not enforcing the regulations as they stand . So , there is very little point in complaining to them is there ?

          • andybrice

            As I understood it, the protest was about private hire vehicles using sat-navs as taximeters. Which TfL let slide because they’re not physically connected to the vehicle.

            I actually think that’s an important legal distinction to make. And there’s a strong case to be made that minicabs should not be allowed to use timers of any sort to calculate fares, and the price of a journey should have to be agreed in advance.

            But I’m afraid I think the message and demands of the protest seemed to come across quite mixed up and unclear.

    • Real deal

      Wake up fella uber a billion dollards company and no customer service realy???

      • andybrice

        Well, when I go to a minicab office I’m not expecting silver service. I see apps like this as the online equivalent.

    • andybrice

      That said, it is slightly dodgy territory for minicabs to start altering their fare based on journey time rather than it being pre-agreed.

  • linda

    Having seen the Uber driver’s driving round London,I for one would not get in any of there cars.
    They drive like mad men ,