London black cabbies are staging Uber protest this afternoon

Today’s the day London cabbies’ row with private taxi app Uber hits the streets. Commuters, tourists, and anyone aiming to step outside their front door in the capital this afternoon have been warned to expect delays and general inconvenience as black cab drivers stage a large-scale protest. As many as 12,000 cab drivers are expected to cause what Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) previously described as “chaos”. Eek.

Starting at 2pm in Trafalgar Square, cabbies are planning to block some of the city’s busiest streets to express their unhappiness over Uber’s attempts to shoulder in on their business. They’re especially unhappy that Uber drivers calculate their fares using software that functions in the same way as a taximeter, which private vehicles are not allowed to have. As we reported last month, Transport for London (TfL) has referred the cab drivers’ case to the High Court for a final decision on whether this breaches the Private Hire Vehicles Act. This follows several complaints by the LTDA to TfL.

The Metropolitan Police have released guidelines that this afternoon’s protest should be limited to Whitehall SW1, north and southbound carriageways and Parliament Street SW1, north and southbound carriageways and that it should be finished by 3PM. But that’s enough time to cause a lot of people a lot of headaches.

Uber is now trying to appease licenced taxi drivers by launching UberTaxi. It’s a cashless system that allows users to pay by app which is open to black cab drivers, too. Fees will be the same as TfL fares but Uber takes a 5% cut. It could be useful for passengers but given today’s action it seems unlikely that cabbies will be embracing it anytime soon.

The company has faced protests in the US and Paris, and even been banned in Brussels. But given its popularity (there are 3000 registered users in London) and TfL’s lack of interest in stifling its services, it seem that – just like many people in London this afternoon – Uber isn’t going anywhere.

Image via London Attraction Guide’s Flickr.

Diane Shipley

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