Let’s play word association: What do you associate with London? Let me guess, the ‘black cab’ is one of your top answers. But that could all change as they are at risk of becoming extinct.
As the wife of a London black cabbie, my life has changed dramatically over the past four years. In 2012, a level playing field existed where Hackney Carriages (black taxis) were able to pick up passengers on the street or via apps and licensed private hire companies able to operate under a pre-booked system, as set in law by the government and enforced by local authorities.
However, this two-tier system was ambushed by a third when Transport for London awarded a licence to Uber and its drivers. TfL operated outside their remit by giving licences and creating operators who operate outside the legal framework and, in turn, it became a law maker rather than law enforcer and has since failed to enforce the law.
The result of TfL’s decision affects us all on a day-to-day basis. Congestion levels have soared with around 29,000 vehicles coming onto the capital’s roads each year, while it has also been awarded the unwanted crown of becoming the most polluted City in Europe. This makes for sorry reading especially as the number of people undertaking the Knowledge is at its lowest in two decades.
I just couldn’t sit by and watch the slow and painful death of the iconic black cab industry; I had to take action. After all, this is an industry that not only supports me and my family but also the families of 25,000 black cabbies in London, and related businesses such as garages and vehicle manufacturers.
Make no mistake – we are not frightened about competition and nor do we reject technology. This is all about public safety – touting is going on, there aren’t adequate insurance checks or legal background checks with a lot of these PHV (Private Hire vehicle) licenses and limited disabled access. It’s paramount to public safety that TfL regulates and they’re not doing that.
London’s black taxis are voted the best in the world and there is a good reason. The fares are regulated – no surging when it is raining or looks a bit busy; all the drivers invest their own money to train for three to four years before earning their badge so they know where they are going and the fastest way to get there; every driver is properly insured; and black cabs are the only cabs with 100% disabled access.
So in 2015, I took the decision to create a social media group, Save Taxi, to act as a voice for the industry. It is entirely run by the wives and girlfriends of black cabbies and today we have 20,000 followers.
We then worked with AskPOB, a not for profit and impartial taxi consultancy, who conducted a survey to establish whether black cabbies would support an initiative to tackle the injustice that has occurred – and, as suspected, the response was an overwhelming yes.
At the beginning of this month we created a company called Action for Cabbies and launched our fundraising for justice. Along with 14 other women connected to the industry, we are showing that the black cabbie industry can be innovative and are harnessing the passion for survival by crowdfunding to raise £600,000 to seek a Judicial Review of Transport for London’s decision to award a licence to Uber and its drivers.
If Uber becomes the dominant force, the travelling public could suffer from dramatic fare increases and compromised regulation surrounding safety.
We didn’t need to have a consultation to tell us what already needs to be done.
Unfortunately, because TfL is so inept they’ve let it go on for such a long time and now we need to backtrack to actually put in place what should have been done in the first place.