I’m calling this one. It’s like seeing a car crash about to happen and not be able to do anything to prevent it. But I will say this, if I was a cabbie I’d have to be a member of UCG. They seem to be the only ones with campaigning horse sense and rightfully remain distrustful of TfL.
So what’s going on? The Telegraph leaked TfL draft proposals for private hire regulations that were to be announced in the coming days in advance of yet another consultation on the matter. And it just happened to be leaked to the Torygraph. One day before a UCG taxi demo. But I guess UCG is the only taxi representative body that gets the joke.
Meanhwhile the LTDA is running around like a headless chicken getting ready to mount up for a PR war it can never win.
The truth is Cabbies have walked into a bear trap set for them. They have not asked for a cap on private hire licenses. Instead they have asked for regulatory shackles to be placed on Uber. If I was an Uber executive I’d be popping the champagne cork now because it now allows Uber to make a cogent argument about how technology innovation and consumer choice is being held back artificially by ‘luddite’ regulators. The waters are well and truly muddied now.
And expect no sympathy from the Mayor or incumbent of any colour next year because Uber has shown itself well adept at mobilizing its customer base against regulations it feels threatens its user base. Have a look at what happened and is happening in Brussels, Taiwan, New York and elsewhere. Here in London, Boris at every turn has signaled consumer primacy so guess what happens next?
At the heart of this folly is a proposed requirement to build in a 5 minute latency into Uber reservations. I’ve expanded at length on this before. Just wait until Uber explains that the 5 minute lost time is due to a need to preserve cabbie regulatory advantage. It doesn’t matter what the merits of the case are or the historical legacy for ply for hire, customers will be furious. They forever more will be unforgiving and unsympathetic to the cabbie trade. Just wait until all the economists start adding up the productivity loss of 5 minutes per ride to the London economy? It’s truly a disastrous own goal.
But from my perspective, most of all it’s a disaster for us private hire drivers not even making minimum wage now faced with the prospect of a 10 minute per hour productivity loss depending on how this is implemented. It’s sad that the cabbie trade and some of it’s more toady followers can’t see the injustice and suffering brought to so many private hire drivers from this. What is more, the measure will be ineffective even if customers accept it. The five minutes will be sucked up and cabbies will lose more share not gain it.
In my post earlier about the IPCC complaint I made the case that TfL was creating more problems than it was solving with Operation Neon. Well, guess what? We will only have more of the same. Because, nobody – and I mean nobody – is openly lobbying for a cap on the number of private hire licenses issued in the city. That I’m afraid is the only answer to cabbies lost income and private hire impoverishment.
I hope I’m wrong about all this. I really do.