Taxi drivers in London will hold a demonstration on 11 June which promises to throw the city into chaos. It follows action in May, when a number of drivers blocked a street in Southwark in protest at the Shard building preventing them from stopping at its entrance. It only took this one protest to secure changes in favour of cabs, as opposed to the private hire vehicles favoured by the Shard. But the June action is a harder battle. Its aim is to force Transport for London to enforce the law regulating taxis and prevent American corporations ruining the London cab service.
Goldman Sachs and Google are attempting to introduce an app-based system called Uber and run a car-for-hire system. This will allow someone with a smartphone to contact a nearby car. The fare will be deducted from a pre-registered credit card and be based on a metered calculation via a smartphone. Even Boris Johnson has admitted this is metering.
The law allows only licensed taxis to perform metered journeys, to be hailed in the street and to use bus lanes, and so on. But Transport for London is not prepared to do its job and bar Uber, which has faced bans, court cases or protests in Paris, Brussels, Berlin and numerous US cities. American capital barging around the world riding roughshod over local rules and regulations, and paying no tax in the process, is OK by those who run things in Britain.
This is not about technology as black cabs already have a similar app. It is about the destruction of a regulated and skilled service provision for people in London. Taxi drivers have a rigorous training and are vetted in every way. The licence they hold is hard won and passengers can be confident that they will do nothing to lose it.
All in London should oppose cowboys being allowed to make a fast buck by our cowardly regulators. Anything that helps the chaos on 11 June is to be welcomed. ■