Here's one simple statistic to show that this is an issue to be taken seriously; just 8 new taxi companies were registered with Companies House between January - April 2016. compared to 290 over the same period last year and 300 the year before. Why is this frightening decline happening? Uber.
You’ll have seen it on social media, in the news and in the App Store. Uber is taking over the world one city at a time, offering consumers and drivers an alternative to the heavily regulated and over-inflated Black Cabs that us British all know and love. If you’re unfamiliar with Uber, it is basically an app that the general public can use to hail a mini-cab, the difference being that the cab can be driven by anyone and they’re likely to be driving their own personal vehicle. In the capital alone there are more than 15,000 Uber ‘Partner-Drivers’ and chief executive Travis Kalanick has said he expects that to rise to 42,000 in 2016.
Resistance has been proposed from the Transport for London (TfL) who mean to propose new rules which will restrict the benefits of Uber. This comes after Strike action was taken by the Cab drivers in April, May, June and August of this year. Proposed restrictions include a mandatory 5-minute minimum wait and action against carpooling under the service ‘uberPOOL’ whereby different users can share an Uber driver if they’re heading in the same direction. These threats from TfL come as the iconic London Black Cab industry has been crippled in the last 2 years since Uber was introduced.
Today we’re weighing up the Pros & Cons of both services with complaints and compliments voiced by the general public. At the end of this article, there is a poll where we want you to vote where you think the future lies for private hire and Taxi services. Be sure to leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section, we want to know if there is a future where Uber and Black Cabs can co-exist in relative rush-hour harmony.
To be fair to @UberUKsupport this was a quick response and a quick refund ! pic.twitter.com/g6KVQypsRo— Chris Ashton Green (@ChrisCarsGreen) October 8, 2015
Ease & Security of Payment - The cashless Payment is another one of the fantastic perks of the Uber app. Customers take comfort in the fact that they are not required to hand over physical money to someone who is essentially a stranger. The user can also leave reviews of their driver if they feel so obliged, meaning the driver is incentivised to act professionally and pleasantly.
Value for Money - It works out that getting an Uber around London can work out up to 34% cheaper than getting a black cab. This is of course because there are less stringent rules on 'private hire' cabs than there are on Taxis. The 'Surge Charge', which increases the rates drivers charge during busy periods, can negate this as the rates can soar to near Black-Cab levels.
The real winners of the #TubeStrike today will be @Uber drivers. I just paid £30 for a 2.2 mile journey.— Charles Churchill (@churchillcd) July 9, 2015
Just directing my Uber driver round London, he's never been here before it seems— Dan Archer (@archer_dan) October 6, 2015
Alright if ur gonna be an uber driver, speak English and know what airport means... ?— Josh Marzano (@JDM64CSGO) October 6, 2015
@Uber I had a great ride in China this morning! Except, weird, I wasn't in China this morning. #UberAccountHackedpic.twitter.com/f25IOYFxr9— Kirby Bittner (@kirbybitt) September 21, 2015
'Can be summoned at the roadside.' There are currently 22,500 Black Cabs roaming the streets of London as we speak. If you find yourself by a fairly busy road, chances are you won’t be waiting long until a Hackney Carriage comes along with an illuminated orange ‘TAXI’ sign on the roof and, being a registered Taxi, you can summon the vehicle at the roadside without having to book through an operator beforehand.
Accountable Drivers & Standards to live up to - It is thought that the new competition from Uber drivers has improved the Black Cab service. Now that there is some heated competition between the two parties
Vast Road Knowledge - every taxi driver pushing themselves around in a Black cab through the streets of London has been vigorously tested on their road knowledge. To become a black cab driver, you must first pass ‘The Knowledge’ test which usually takes 3 to 5 years of studying. The test itself involves detailed verbal conversation whereby the driver must announce the best route from A to B to C and back again, from any random locations across the 250,000 roads in the capital.
Credibility - Black Cab drivers are obliged to take a further driving test to prove they are worthy of carrying people through hectic busy streets. Known as the DSA Taxi Driving Test, this includes the teaching of proper techniques for picking up and dropping off passengers safely as well as much more rigorous procedures that Taxi Drivers are expected to do on a daily basis. Furthermore, Taxi Drivers must complete, and pass, an enhanced CRB check (criminal records bureau) to ensure they are to be trusted with transporting individuals. This check has simply been ignored by Uber until very recently, which may be the reason behind a number of reported assaults from drivers on passengers.
There are drawbacks to the Black Cabs of course. First and foremost are the expensive rates charged by the drivers. Transport for London highlight their fares and rates here, and they work out noticeably more expensive than getting an Uber, but there is a good reason for this. Hackney carriages pay for certain privileges on the road, such as being able to use Bus Lanes and the permission to be summoned at the road-side instead of via an operator.
Requires the user to carry cash around. Now, this may not seem to be such a huge con, but to this date not all Hackney Carriages accept card payments, which means users often have to ask the driver to stop a cash point, increasing their fare. Better still, we’ve now moved into a world of contact-less payment and a large number of Black Cabs haven’t caught up and seriously need to do some catching up.
Our Sales and Media Director, who lives in London and has been using Uber since its inception, said: "I'd estimate that I've now had over 150 lifts from Uber in my time, and only very recently I have had to change how I use the service. I'm rarely taken aback by the value anymore, not nearly as much as I was when I first started using it. There have been noticeable declines in cleanliness, road knowledge and availability - particularly in rush hour. In fact, the 'Surge' charge is the reason I leave it to the professionals and use a Black Cab in rush hour. They're a similar price at that time and know all the best routes and shortcuts."
Are you a serial Uber-er or do you prefer the traditional Black Cabs? It is fair to say that currently both services have areas for improvement but can they co-exist? Consumers are always likely to go where the price is most affordable, giving Uber the upper-hand, but even the most committed Uber-users have confessed to switching to Black Cabs to avoid the 'Surge Charge.' Which do you swear by?