It’s no secret that there is no love lost between London’s taxi drivers and Transport for London (TfL), with many claiming that the government body is not doing enough to help those in the industry. Furthermore, over the past few years taxi drivers have held numerous protests against the taxi app Uber where they have called upon TfL to crack down on this controversial company.
During the constant debates between taxi drivers and TfL the government body has released numerous statements, however now the Chief of Transport for London himself – Sir Peter Hendy – has spoken out about the state of London’s transport. Earlier this year the London Assembly claimed that TfL’s role was “woefully inadequate” and that “communication [between TfL and the trades] appears to have hit rock-bottom in the last year”.
Responding to these accusations, Sir Hendy said: “The London Assembly needs to remember that TfL’s function is regulatory, to fairly apply some very arcane laws not of our own making.” One of these laws in question is that only public hire taxis are able to use London’s bus lanes – a law that Addison Lee recently fought against, and lost, at the European Court of Justice. Discussing the court case, Sir Hendy said: “I think it’s a real shame that we’ve spent the thick end of £400,000 proving something that most people believed to be the case in the first place.
“If they [Addison Lee] ever decide to instruct their drivers to break the law again, we will seriously consider, them having done it once, whether they are fit and proper people to hold a licence, and we might decide that they’re not.” Evidently, when it comes to taxi drivers breaking the law Sir Hendy has staunch views, however some have claimed that this cannot be said of Uber taxi drivers. London’s black cab drivers have claimed that the company has been breaking the law for years as the App allows drivers to run on a meter even though they only have private hire licences.
Earlier this year the London Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) protested against the Uber App and claimed that it broke the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 which states: “No vehicle to which a London Private Hire Vehicle licence relates shall be equipped with a taximeter.” The issue is that some believe that the App is not a meter, a claim that the general secretary of the LTDA, Steve McNamara, thinks is ridiculous. In a statement he said: “Of course it’s a bloody meter — it calculates fares.”
However, Sir Hendy has defended TfL’s decision, and said: “None of the laws were written for the modern mobile phone and app era.” Asked about his unpopular decision to support Uber Sir Hendy added: “I’m not surprised we’re unpopular because modern technology is disruptive. But I’ve yet to meet a black-cab driver who’s actually able to say to me that Uber has damaged their business. I think what Uber is doing is making headway in the late-night and recreational market, where we know there aren’t enough licensed taxis.”
Asked if he had ever used Uber himself Sir Hendy replied: “Yeah, I’ve used Uber, Hailo, GetTaxi, Addison Lee, and I hail taxis in the street. People say to me, ‘Your job is to protect the taxi trade.’ No it isn’t: our job is to look after the customers.” This opinion of Hendy’s is extremely controversial, especially to taxi drivers who feel that both they and their customers are losing out because of taxi Apps such as Uber.
Sir Hendy seems rather unapologetic over the decisions TfL has made over the past few years, which means it’s unlikely that they will change their minds any time soon. The relationship between TfL and London’s taxi drivers therefore looks set to remain acrimonious in the near future, especially if Apps such as Uber are continued to be allowed to operate in the city.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons