We all know that the taxi App Uber is not particularly popular with London taxi drivers (nor taxi drivers in a number of other countries for that matter), however recently one of the biggest private hire taxi companies in London – Addison Lee – has vocalised their opinion on the controversial company.
Previously, it’s been mostly public hire taxis and its representatives such as the London Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) which have been angered over the use of Uber. This is mainly due to the fact that they claim Uber drivers are booked in advance yet still use a meter – a breach of taxi legislation. Furthermore, some public hire taxi drivers have claimed that drivers who use Uber may not have the right training, vehicles or taxi insurance in place which could place passengers in danger.
This is why they will be happy to hear that Addison Lee’s chief executive Liam Griffin has recently “slammed” Transport for London (TfL) for letting the taxi App enter the London market so easily. He said: “TfL completely and utterly bottled it. They decided that they would fold and not enforce regulations that they have done to us for a long, long time on the basis that they are worried about being sued by Uber. This has been enforced for ten years… Along come these guys, and all of a sudden it’s fine to do it. That’s just weak management.”
However, Mr Griffin did not stop there; he went on to criticise TfL’s and London Mayor Boris Johnson’s plans to introduce an Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London by 2020. He said that this scheme could force thousands of taxi drivers and companies off the road due to a lack of choice when it comes to low emission vehicles. He added: “We are sitting here hoping that a suitable vehicle is created between now [and then], but we’ve spoken to Ford, we’ve spoken to Toyota, we’ve spoken to Mercedes – three of our current suppliers – and at this moment none of them are saying we will have a suitable vehicle.
“So at this moment you’ll have to pay £12.50 to drive into the middle of town [which will go onto the bills] of the driver and then the consumer. [This isn’t] just an Addison Lee problem, this is an industry-wide problem. It’s become more of a political issue than it has a practical one, and that’s not beneficial to anyone.” However, TfL has defended the creation of a ULEZ in London, with a spokesperson saying that it will “improve the capital’s air quality and significantly reduce the number of people living in areas of poor air quality.”
This is not the first time that Addison Lee has hit the headlines, as back in 2012 chairman John Griffin told its drivers to use London’s bus lanes in defiance of rules set out by TfL. The company claimed that it was “unfair discrimination” only allowing London black cabs to use the lanes, however after a lengthy High Court legal challenge the courts sided with TfL. Speaking at the time, Mr Justice Burton said: “There is to my mind a clear distinction between the need of black cabs (and their passengers and the public) for them to be in the bus lanes, by way of visibility and availability of, and access to, black cabs for those hailing a cruising taxi.
“I consider it makes entire good sense for black cabs to be travelling in bus lanes. Minicabs just do not have the need to use the bus lane, and black cabs do.” Even now the government does not seem to be siding with taxi drivers over their anger against Uber, with London Mayor Boris Johnson recently saying: “The taxi drivers who rage against Uber, you have my sympathy but in the end there has been no more brilliant advocate of the services of Uber, no more powerful advertisers of that particular brand, than the black cab trade.”
Even though it looks as though the battle against Uber will continue in London for the foreseeable future, the company has already been banned in certain countries including Germany and Spain. It is therefore unlikely that London taxi drivers will cease to protest against this controversial App, especially if emission restrictions become tighter over the next few years.