Opinion

Why Uber Is The Best Thing For Black Cabs

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 32 months ago
Why Uber Is The Best Thing For Black Cabs
Photo by Matt Brown from the Londonist Flickr pool.

Chris Lockie's impassioned plea to use black cabs, drew equally impassioned responses from both sides of the argument. Here, Tabish Khan argues that Uber is improving the cab trade.

With the war of words between Uber and cabbies, plus TfL weighing into the mix, it's easy to forget what all this competition is about. You and I — the humble consumer. Competition is at its most effective when it delivers a better deal for consumers overall. And that's exactly what's happened.

Cast your mind back to a time pre-Uber and you will recall that credit cards were accepted in most places commission free, or maybe with a £5 minimum spend. But that was never the case with taxis, there was always a commission even if you forked out a £100 on a ride from the airport.

Cabbies could refuse to accept a fare if it wasn't in the direction they wanted to go or not profitable enough. Essentially they had all the power and us consumers pretty much had to accept it or take public transport.

What's changed?

Now we've got apps that can hail black cabs and handle payment via your registered debit or credit card. Plus all black cabs will need to accept card and contactless payments in the future. And cabbies are making an effort to prove they are better for the capital.

Competition has threatened their business and they are fighting back by innovating. It's exactly what competition in a market is supposed to deliver. And the overall winner is us — the people who use both. Rejoice.

We hope there's still more to come. Wouldn't it be great if we could rate black cab drivers like we do with Uber? Then those racist, sexist dinosaurs who give all the other decent black cab drivers a bad name would be forced to evolve or go extinct. I would have loved to have given a negative review to the cabbie who suggested we could solve all the world's problems if we 'drop a bomb on Islam'.

That's not to say all Uber drivers are saints, it's just there are bad apples in every car(t). It would be great to weed them out irrespective of who they drive for.

Private hire versus black cabs

Let's face it, they are both here to stay. Black cabs will never die out because they are loved by tourists and the wealthy. Just pop to Mayfair and see how many black cabs are on the streets.

And Uber isn't just taking business off cabbies. People who used to return home from a night out on the last tube or via night bus, are now opting for a private hire cab. It's cheap enough to meet the affordability test where a black cab may not have been. Plus you can summon them to areas in zones 2 and 3 where it would be impossible to hail a cab in the street.

The idea that Uber will monopolise the market and then raise their prices is ludicrous. If they did, someone else will come along with cheaper prices and we'll switch to them like the mercenaries we are.

The most important thing is to level the playing field in terms of taxation and background checks. Unfortunately the ideas that have come forth so far are a mix of the sensible and some which result in worse customer service. Making someone wait five minutes even though the taxi is around the corner is lunacy. Any changes should meet the two tests of ensuring all taxi operators are on an equal footing and that customers benefit.

Competition is great. We're the ultimate winners.

Last Updated 12 February 2016

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