Downing Street says public should enjoy new minicab technology as black cab drivers bring grid-lock to London

London black cab drivers take part in a protest against Transport for London (TfL) on May 26, 2015 in London, England

London black cab drivers take part in a protest against TFL Photo: Getty Images
David Cameron has endorsed minicab apps such as Uber, saying he is “pro-punter”, as black cab drivers jammed up the streets of London in protest at the spread of unlicensed rivals.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said the public should be able to enjoy the “choices” offered by new technology as well as the “high quality” service offered by traditional black cabs.

Cab drivers brought central London to a stand-still this lunchtime with a go-slow to highlight the apparent failure of Transport for London to halt the spread of minicabs operated through apps such as Uber.

Uber, a San Francisco-based firm, has triggered protests from established cab drivers around the world as it disrupts heavily-regulated markets.

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The app matches passengers seeking cheap fares with licensed minicab drivers working on a freelance basis.

Black cab drivers, who are heavily regulated and sit the Knowledge exam of London streets, say the spread of services such as Uber is undercutting their earnings and putting passengers at risk at night.

They accuse TfL of failing to enforce their own rules on unlicensed minicabs.

Mr Cameron’s spokesman said it was “not a question of choosing between one or the other”.

“It is a pro-punter position: we want people to enjoy the long-standing tradition of a high-quality black cab service in London and elsewhere, and alongside that, with the emergence of new technologies, be able to make use of the choices that that brings as well.

“He does not see it as either one or the other; it’s about, within a properly regulated system, consumers being able to make the choices that best suit them.”

A London black cab driver wears a Mr Bean mask as he takes part in a protest

A London black cab driver wears a Mr Bean mask as he takes part in a protest

Mr Cameron has previously called on public transport workers to call off strikes.

“The PM is always one who wants to see disruption to families and commuters avoided wherever possible,” the spokesman added, noting that the cabbies’ informal action was different to a balloted union strike.

Among the vehicles caught up in the traffic jam outside the Houses of Parliament was a ministerial Jaguar limousine, escorted by a police four-wheel drive.

Ian Austin, a Labour MP, said he had been stuck for two and a half hours in his car due to the demonstration. “How do I sign up for Uber so I never have to use one again?” he wrote on Twitter.

Source: The Telegraph