Boris Johnson has signalled his admiration of the modern technology of Uber, but today he said forcefully “the government has a “duty” to help London’s black cab drivers in the face of competition from Uber, rather than simply leave them at the mercy of the free market.” Hear, hear, I could not agree more.Business Insider reported: Speaking at the City Lab London conference today, the Mayor of London signalled that he would do his best to help black cab drivers, who have been locked in a bitter battle with Uber since it launched in London in 2012.
Johnson said: “Since the days of Oliver Cromwell the Hackney Carriage has been regulated by government. If the state is going to do that then I think it has a duty to manage that transition [the rise of Uber].”
“The fundamental distinction between a black cab and a minicab has been obliterated by technology. It’s unfair on the black cabs who have consecrated their lives to the study of routes and have special vehicles. In return for that expenditure they have been told that they alone can ply for jobs on the streets.”
Black cab drivers must pass a notoriously difficult test known as the “knowledge” that requires them to commit London’s entire road system to memory. The built-in satnav in Uber’s app effectively destroys this traditional advantage”
Boris continued: “And, most aggravating to black cab drivers, the app allows people to effectively “hail” a minicab on the street through the app, rather than book through a central office over the phone. By law, black cab drivers are meant to be the only people who can pick up jobs on the street.
Uber also undercuts traditional operators on price, in part through controversial tax arrangements.
Johnson said: “The question is, how do you strike a balance that respects what’s happened to the cab drivers and tries to help them where you can, but also reflects the fact that technology is out there? You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. I think there are more than a million people in London who now have the app.”
Boris’s treatment of this difficult situation has been even handed. He praises the technology of Uber, while deploring the lawlessness that makes them the target of legal action throughout the world.
In anyone can reconcile this dangerous situation, it is our Mayor.
Update. There are two legal actions ongoing against Uber in the UK right now. One is over alleged flawed driver checks.
And the second legal action is over workers’ rights. Both these issues are the subject of legal action abroad.