Driven off the streets: End of the road for black cab drivers?

Israr Khan in his black cab

Israr Khan in his black cab - Credit: Archant

Hundreds of black cab drivers parked their taxis and marched to parliament this week to demand TfL clamps down on unfair competition.

Protest in London

Protest in London - Credit: Archant

Traditional black cab drivers have been campaigning for change since Transport for London (TfL) allowed American company Uber to operate in the capital.

MP for Ilford North Wes Streeting said conditions for black cab drivers were a concern for him.

“Uninsured drivers, unfair competition and poor quality are driving black cab drivers off the road,” he said.

“Ilford North is home to one of the largest numbers of black cab drivers in London and we need to make sure that there are fair conditions and everyone is on a equal footing.”

Lobbying parliament

Lobbying parliament - Credit: Archant

While black cab drivers are required to have full insurance, wheelchair access and adhere to TfL fare tariffs, other private hire companies and minicabs do not have the same stipulations and this has caused some cabbies to feel penalised.

Tony Klein, 48, from Barkingside, said he had no choice but to buy a £45,000 car and study for the Knowledge – an extensive training course London cabbies must pass.

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He said others had an unfair advantage.

“It’s a disaster out there, the West End is becoming unworkable on a Friday night as you can’t move,” he said.

Black cab driver, Evan Walters of Sackville Gardens, Ilford driving Ilford North MP Wes streeting

Black cab driver, Evan Walters of Sackville Gardens, Ilford driving Ilford North MP Wes streeting - Credit: Archant

“We can’t surcharge for road conditions, we have more expenses.

“If TfL wants us to compete by lowering our fares they need to communicate that to the 25,000 black cab drivers across London – it comes down to regulations and they are not fair.”

Black cab driver Danny Fresco, 41, from Katherine Gardens, Hainault, said the trade is a London tradition and part of the city’s culture.

He said: “I look at London as my office, I work in it every day.

“There is a massive misconception that it is all about Uber, but we have had competition before.

“I pay for my licence and meter but they can do what they like, it is unfair.”

A spokesman for TfL said although it sets the maximum fare, black cabs can charge under it.

He said legislation was applied “fairly and equally” to London’s taxi and private hire trades.

The 1934 Cab Order Act states taxi fares are regulated while private hire fares are not.

Uber’s London manager Tom Elvidge said: “We believe black cabs and Uber can co-exist.

“There are huge numbers of people in and around London who need to get from A to B.

“Black cabs also have unique advantages such as being able to use ranks and bus lanes, as well as picking up passengers who hail a cab on the street.