Uber has struck the latest blow in its increasingly bitter battle with London’s black cabbies – by starting a petition against Transport for London (TfL)’s proposals to introduce additional regulation for its drivers.
Currently standing at 118,000 signatures, the petition calls for support for drivers, saying the rules threaten drivers’ livelihoods.
The proposals include English language tests, a five minute waiting time and restricting drivers ability to work for more than one operator.
But should TfL and Boris Johnson be doing this? James Kirkup in the Telegraph asks why the Conservatives are trying to stifle competition and protect the Licenced Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) which he described as ‘a cartel’. Why shouldn’t Londoners have the choice of the best and most cost-effective service?
Boris Johnson has, until now, supported Uber, much to the anger of the black cabbies. Since Uber’s launch in London, we’ve seen numerous protests which have brought central London to a standstill and a fracas during Mayor’s Question Time last month which turned ugly, ending with a security guard being knocked unconscious. Though Boris Johnson calling the drivers ‘luddites’ probably didn’t help.
In an unusual reversal of positions, Labour candidate Sadiq Khan has sided with the black cabbies’ desire to retain control of London’s taxi monopoly. Dave Hill in the Guardian puts it down to the potential influence of taxi drivers in the upcoming Mayoral Elections next year.
Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, disagrees with the Mayor and TfL, saying:
“TfL is right to take an interest in the way companies like Uber have disrupted the way we travel around the capital. But their proposals for further restrictions to an already heavily regulated industry are backwards and would damage London’s reputation as a city which celebrates innovation and embraces change.”
Uber has come under worldwide scrutiny over pretty much everything it does, frequently making international headline news if one of its drivers crashes with a celeb inside or leaves a passenger behind. Even rent-a-protester Russell Brand has leapt into the breach. Rio de Janeiro has become the first city to ban Uber, with Sao Paulo looking set to follow, while in Johannesburg, the company’s drivers are attacked.
But with 118,000 signatures and growing on its petition, it looks like Londoners have decided to start picking a side.