Just as Uber Technologies is seeking to join the $ 10 billion-plus club, raising new financing from private investors and tripling its value from $ 3,5 billion last year, London cabbies are hoping to block its path into the British capital. The influential London Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) is planning a mega-demonstration in London, blocking the entire city centre with black cabs. That follows similar
protests by taxi drivers in other cities, most notably Paris, Barcelona, Brussels and Berlin, where various Uber services were banned in the last months. In most cities the protests were aimed at Uber’s car-sharing service UberPOP (UberX in the US), using private drivers and private vehicles to do ‘taxi trips’. Most regulators considered these services ‘illegal.’ In Berlin the private hire service Uber Black was also banned, with private hire cars failing to return to base before taking on another job – a legal requirement in Germany.
LTDA’s General Secretary Steve McNamara is planning a 10.000 cab protest for June 11, crippling London’s traffic. That would mean almost half the taxi fleet in London (22.500 in total) is out demonstrating. And it’s not the first time LTDA has taken to the streets. Only a few weeks hundreds of taxis protested at one of London’s newest highrises, The Shard, against a lack of taxi ranks in the area.
LTDA’s protest is not aimed at Uber directly but at the London regulator Transport for London (TfL), who refuses to take action against the ‘illegal’ activities of the IT startup. McNamara accuses the regulator to have “given in to the Americans” and created “a Hailo for minicabs.”
LTDA’s main beef with its regulator is that, although Uber aims its activities at private hire operators (minicabs) and claims to operate as a minicab operation, the drivers are not affiliated to an operator or an office and that in its app it is using a type of (uncalibrated) taximeter to calculate the fare. TfL counters “that the taximeter is not connected to the vehicle”, so there is no breach in regulation. LTDA prepares a Judicial Review against the regulator and private actions against Uber-drivers.
• Will London be gridlocked by black cabs on June 11? This was a dry-run for the 11th: at the Shard to protest about a lack of taxi ranks. Photo LTDA.