London cab strike over Uber app stalls city

12 June 2014

Upto 12,000 taxicab drivers struck work Wednesday and brought London to a standstill, that left capital thoroughfares around St James, Leicester Square and Piccadilly in gridlocked, The Telegraph reports.

Organised by the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA), the protest claimed mobile app Uber was operating illegally.

The app could be used for booking rides in both licensed taxis and minicabs and measured the journey distance to calculate a fare which was paid direct to the driver.

According to the LTDA the app acted like  a taxi meter, which private cars were barred from using. The LTDA threatened a protest which promised ''severe chaos, congestion and confusion across the metropolis'' (See: Black cab protest to bring London to standstill).

On Wednesday the cabbies seemed to have made good their threat.

London's public transport services operator, Transport for London, which manages the city's buses, the Tube network, Docklands Light Railway, Overground and Tramlink, had reached a preliminary ruling that permitted Uber to operate, however it referred the case to the High Court for clarification. According to the LTDA, Uber needed to be banned or regulated differently.

However, according to Uber, sign-ups to the app shot 850 per cent, even as it announced it had added black cabs to its service for the first time.

According to Jo Bertram, Uber's UK and Ireland general manager, it had seen its biggest day of sign ups since its launch in London two years ago.

She said, Uber had seen an 850 per cent increase in sign-ups compared to last Wednesday. The results were clear; Londoners wanted Uber in a big way, but the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association (LTDA), which was stuck in the dark ages, was intent on holding London to ransom and causing significant economic impact to commuters, estimated to be 125 million.

Meanwhile, Seamus Balfe, a London cabbie, wrote in The Independent that he loved being a London cabbie and was incredibly proud to be part of an industry, regarded as the best taxi service in the world.

However, he accused "companies like Uber were trying to appear to be taxis by the back door, and TFL was allowing this to happen".

"Uber is a dispatch system for private hire drivers, delivered through an app on a mobile device. This type of system has always been in place, except the dispatching of the pick-up location used to be done by a voice on the end of a two-way radio. So really, nothing has changed in that regard," Balfe said.

He  said that London cabbies objected to private drivers' charges being governed by a metering system designed to calculate the fare by distance using GPS, as private hire cars were not allowed to have meters. Meters were only allowed in licensed London taxis.

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