Getting around London as a tourist or local is incredibly easy. With the vast network of underground stations, overground trains, buses, and taxis for when you’re in a pinch, you’ll never struggle to get where you want to go.
For many, taxis represent a lifeline if you get lost since they’ll nearly always know exactly how to get to your destination. Some just prefer taxis due to this assurance and the ability to relax during their journey because of it – provided they’re in a position to pay the premium required for frequent taxi use.
But, with the steady rise in popularity of Uber ever since its launch in 2010, traditional London cab drivers have seen this as a mounting assault on their profession. This feud has been going on a while now, so here’s the current state of affairs between the two.
London taxi drivers vs. Uber drivers
As a general rule, taxis in London are either Hackney carriages or private hire vehicles. Hackney carriages are only allowed to pick people from the roadside, either being flagged down or from a taxi rank. Private hire taxis, such as Uber taxis, can only legally collect passengers who have pre-booked in some capacity.
The two are in direct competition, operating within the same sphere but under two different rulesets. Uber’s popularity has grown due to the streamlined nature of the app, giving you an assurance that you can secure a taxi and understand the fare in advance.
Legal challenges between London cabbies and Uber
The first official instance of the battle between Hackney carriage taxi drivers and Uber drivers was filed back in 2019.
This initial challenge thrown down by the United Cabbies Group Ltd (UCG) in 2019 claimed that Uber’s temporary operating license in London was issued due to bias towards Uber after Transport for London (TfL) refused to grant a five-year license. Senior judges threw these claims of bias out and this challenge didn’t end up going anywhere.
However, a new challenge has now been issued as of January 2021. A large group of London’s black cabbies have come together as part of planned group legal action. This lawsuit claims that Uber driver in London didn’t operate correctly under private hire rules between 2012 and 2018.
If this is proven to be accurate, then Uber in London would have strayed directly in Hackney carriage operating territory and could see millions of pounds awarded in damages.
What makes London Hackney carriage drivers unique?
One of the reasons that Hackney carriage drivers are protective over their profession within London is because of the incredibly high bar set in order to become a licensed London cabby.
In order to become one, aspiring London cabbies must pass ‘The Knowledge’. This is a famously difficult test which involves memorising the labyrinth of London’s road network and be able to navigate purely from memory. However, for those looking to become a black cab driver in London, this can be an immensely rewarding experience and make you a better driver overall.
As Uber drivers use GPS in order to navigate rather than this innate understanding of London’s streets, cabbies believe that they provide a better experience when getting passengers from A to B as they aren’t relying on external knowledge.
However, as a counterargument to this, Uber’s stance is that GPS can provide up-to-the-minute details about the roads and offers cheaper, more transparent fares to passengers looking to get around London.
This dispute isn’t likely to get resolved any time soon, so until then these two taxi entities in London will need to co-exist the best they can until any legal challenges can be ruled on.