The recently-elected mayor of London is taking a new approach in the ongoing battle between Uber and the city’s iconic black cabs: giving a leg up to the cabbies without resorting to banning or regulating the ride-hailing company out of business.
Under the measures proposed by Mayor Sadiq Khan on Tuesday, the quota on black cabs will be increased from 500 to 600 by 2020, and they’ll get greater access to drive in bus lanes and more areas to queue up for passengers. The city is also set to spend up to 65 million pounds (about $86 million) to help the cabbies upgrade their vehicles to be more fuel-efficient. (The city has required that new black cabs be “zero-emission capable” starting in 2018.)
The proposed changes have Uber charging that the city is giving the cabbies an unfair advantage over their drivers.
“Many drivers who use Uber are immigrants. They work hard to look after themselves and their families. Driving has given them an opportunity to integrate into their local community. The Mayor should be supporting these drivers, not penalising them,” Uber said in a statement urging supporters to contact the mayor.
The way to deal with the challenges facing black car drivers, the statement continued, “is to level the playing field by reducing today’s burdensome black cab regulations – not to impose new costs on private hire drivers at the behest of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association and the London Cab Drivers Club.”
The number of black cabs have reportedly been dropping in London since 2012, with the growth in ride-hailing services, including Uber, Gett and Hailo. Uber has estimated 30,000 drivers in London.
Still, London has proven itself to be more accommodating of Uber than other European cities, where regulators have issued outright bans against the company, and cabbies have fiercely protested, sometimes violently, against the company.
The special incentives put forth by Khan for the black cabs — regarded as a veritable symbols of London — are the latest proposed city policy that Uber has alleged reflects a bias against the company.
Transport for London, the city agency that regulates taxis and related services, is requiring all drivers to take an English language test, with reading, writing and listening components — a move that Uber is challenging in court. And all drivers will soon have to take an “advanced driving test” in order to get licensed in the city.