Although I have worked in London for three decades I can count the number of times I have taken a black cab on the fingers of one hand.
This is not because I live ‘south of the river’ where apparently no black cab drivers dare go because they are hugely expensive, even compared to the exorbitant London Underground fares, and have a tendency to sit in traffic jams while the meter ticks merrily away.
From where I live a minicab fare to Heathrow Airport is £16. A friend of mine recently paid £60 in a black cab for the same journey. So, much as I appreciate the drivers’ knowledge and their need to earn a living, I am not one of their greatest fans. More importantly I am not one of their users either.
So the fact that, according to latest statistics from the Department for Transport, the number of licensed taxis and minicabs is up by 9% on last year driven by apps such as Uber shouldn’t actually bother the London black cab driver even though they have been getting very shirty about all this competition.
Black cab drivers are for the cash rich business traveller and wealthy tourists who don’t want to brave the Underground and who want to remain within Zones 1 and 2. They also provide an important means of transportation for those with mobility issues.
Most of us Londoners, especially young ones, don’t take black cabs. The advent of apps like Uber, launched in 2012, is a boon to us because now we can enjoy cheap taxi travel at a moment’s notice.
In London the number of private hire vehicles, which includes Uber, has risen by 26% in the past two years compared with a 1.5% rise in black cabs. Like any business, black cabs need to know their core market and it is not young Uber-using party-goers, many of whom want to return home to the suburbs which black cabs won’t touch after 8pm.
Rest easy, black cab driver, your exclusive market is still safe – for the moment.