Boris Johnson warned: ‘Ban Uber or you will kill London’s black cab trade’

Numbers dwindling: Black cabs during a protest in London over smartphone app Uber (Picture: Getty)

Boris Johnson has been warned the death of London’s black cab trade will take place “on his watch” unless he revokes the licence of controversial car-booking app Uber.

During an angry question time at City Hall, the Mayor was heckled by taxi drivers and told by London Assembly members that he did not “have the guts” to stand up to the firm. Cabbies are calling on Transport for London to create a level playing field with Uber drivers.

Mr Johnson said he understood the “unfairness and anger” felt by the black cab drivers, adding that there was “nothing he would like to do more” than ban Uber.

But he admitted he was powerless to stop the company as it would just find a way to continue operating. “It would make no difference whatever. They’d go to a magistrate and be back on the roads tomorrow,” he said.

“Everywhere I go I see yellow lights on. I can see the business is dying and that grieves me. But it is very difficult to fight a huge change in consumer preference.

“You’ve also got to face the desire of millions of people in London to travel more cheaply.”

TfL has announced plans to cap the number of minicabs in London,  currently increasing by around 1,000 a month.

Mr Johnson has rejected claims that he has launched an “Uber witch hunt” by limiting the number of drivers on the capital’s roads. But in an extra- ordinary attack on the US firm, he said: “I don’t like their attitude, I don’t like how they went about trying to disrupt life in this city.”

Assembly members criticised the Mayor for a lack of enforcement on Uber and warned that the safety of  passengers could be put at risk.

Lib-Dem leader Caroline Pidgeon urged him to revoke the firm’s licence and said: “They are not just pushing the boundaries of legislation, they are breaking it.They must just be laughing at you, quite frankly, because you haven’t got the guts to enforce the legislation. If they take you to court, so what? TfL should stand up to them.”

Labour’s Val Shawcross added: “In the long run this is a race to the bottom that we’ve seen in too many industries. The black cab business is falling off a cliff.”

Black cab drivers, who plan to protest outside TfL’s Victoria offices on  Tuesday, stormed out of City Hall shouting at Mr Johnson: “You’re a joke, Boris” and “You’ve let us down.”

In a letter to the Mayor, Uber’s UK boss Jo Bertram said: “Capping the industry’s ability to grow would mean higher prices and less availability for the millions of people who rely on Uber and services like ours to get around.” She said new regulations should not hamper innovations which make  people’s lives easier.

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