If you were in London a few weeks back you would have had a hard time getting around Oxford Street as 100ss of taxi drivers staged a protest against TFL (Transport for London). It is certainly no secret that London taxi trade has a strenuous relationship with the TfL as they feel that the government body isn’t doing anywhere near enough to protect the industry and recently branded them as “very poor”.
However, it appears as though the taxi trade feel as though their views are not being listened to, which is why they organised their “minimum disruption, maximum visibility” protest last month. Discussing the protest, Mr. Martin, chair of the United Cabbies Group, stated: “The taxi trade is fundamentally being finished off by TfL, we are being pushed out of town and TfL is doing absolutely nothing about it.
Mr. Martin also added that the main focus of the protest was to increase visibility of the issues that affect taxi drivers in London, in particular the fact that TfL are failing miserably to stop illegal plying for hire and touting throughout the capital. However, he went on further to say that the protest wasn’t organised simply to demonstrate against the highly controversial taxi App Uber, and added: “There is nothing wrong with competition, it is a healthy way to do business … We just want an equal playing field. We want TfL to do their job and uphold the law.”
Uber has brought up a number of concerns from taxi drivers in London who claim that their drivers are illegally operating as they don’t possess the correct required licences. However, protesters have also claimed that illegal touting has contributed to a 30% drop in trade over the past few years which is causing further problems for all drivers. Harry Candler, a local black cab driver who was part of the demo, said: “TfL wants to remove the last iconic thing in London, the black cab.
“They simply want to fill it with minicabs. They would prefer to just get rid of us because they feel we cause too much trouble for them and they’re probably not making enough money from us.” Len Martin added: “TfL are clearly doing everything within their power to deflect attention, but this whole protest is about their terrible performance. Times are extremely hard for us taxi drivers, it is causing health problems for lots of us because we are having to work such long hours to make ends meet, and it’s affecting our family life. If TfL enforced the law properly, there would be plenty of work on the streets for us all.”
However, in spite of the organisers claims that the demonstration had nothing to do with Uber, Mr. Emmerson, TfL’s chief operations officer for transport, clearly stated it did the exact opposite. He declared: “We know all too well that his protest is about Uber and it has been organised by a tight-knit group of cabbies outside of the main, recognised taxi trade associations and bodies.
“Being the only regulator of private hire services and taxis, TfL will always welcome the introduction of new technology that benefits how people travel, as long as it meets our strict licensing and regulatory requirements. TfL will continue to apply the relevant regulations equally, fairly and any suggestion that Uber has received preferential treatment to any other private taxi operator is total nonsense.
“Recently, The GLA’s Transport Committee discovered that London’s taxi licensing and regulatory process is the envy of the whole world. Customer satisfaction rates are at their highest and our ongoing robust enforcement work with the police continues to put pressure on bogus cabs and touting.” Mr. Emmerson also claimed that illegal touting has fallen in the capital from 66% in 2003 to 15% today.
Mr Emmerson’s claims, however, may be thrust into doubt by the London Assembly’s Transport Committee who last month sent a scathing letter to TfL explicitly stating: “It appears to us that TfL has played a significant role in the current situation by not fully considering the implications of licensing Uber London without making a clear legal standing for this decision.”
Whether it is Uber or be it illegal touting that taxi drivers are today protesting against, it seems as though TfL yet still stand by their own sheltered opinion that the taxi industry is doing well currently and that they are providing adequate support. Unfortunately, this clearly means that it is highly likely we will see further protests across London in the near future as taxi drivers try to protect their livelihoods.