London braced for anti-Uber protests


The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones reports on how the app works

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Transport for London (TfL) has warned of significant traffic disruption in the capital as taxi drivers gear up to protest at rival cab service Uber.

The protest is the latest in a series across Europe as traditional cab services express anger over what they regard as a lack of regulation of Uber.

The protest will start in Trafalgar Square at 14:00 BST.

Cabbies are unhappy that Uber is using a mobile app to work out the cost of rides.

They argue this is tantamount to a taxi meter, which only black cabs are legally entitled to use in London.

The Metropolitan Police says conditions have been imposed on protesters after they failed to meet officers to discuss their plans.

Garrett Emmerson, Transport for London's chief operating officer for surface transport, said: "A number of taxi drivers are set to cause pointless disruption for Londoners over a legal issue that is down to the courts to decide upon.

"TfL will work with the Metropolitan Police to do all we can to keep central London moving. However, given the scale of the likely disruption, we would advise drivers to avoid the area if at all possible."

Get in the cab with an Uber driver and a black-cab driver to hear their views

'Failed Londoners'

Cabbies claim that Uber is breaking the law by using an app as a taxi meter to determine the price of rides and is seeking a High Court ruling on the issue, which is expected to take several months.

"We have nothing against competition but we feel that Transport for London has failed Londoners by allowing Uber to operate outside the law," said Steve McNamara, of the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association.

Up to 12,000 drivers are expected to take part in the protest.

Ch Supt Pippa Mills, of the Metropolitan Police, said organisers had failed to discuss the protest in advance, so the following conditions have been imposed on the demonstration:

  • The protesters may assemble in Whitehall SW1, north and southbound carriageways and Parliament Street SW1, north and southbound carriageways
  • The demonstration must not start before 14:00
  • The demonstration must not end later than 15:00
  • No-one will be allowed to join the demonstration when the area is deemed to be congested by the tactical commander of the event

Uber now serves more than 100 cities in 37 countries and has high-profile backers, including Google and Goldman Sachs.

It has 3,000 registered drivers in London.

Taxi cabs and the Uber app Taxi drivers say Uber is being allowed to operate outside the law
'Creative destruction'

The Institute of Directors has likened the protest to the machine-breakers of the 19th Century who tried and failed to stop the spread of the power loom.

"Black cabs have been a symbol of London for many decades, known across the world. But symbols, no matter how iconic, cannot be allowed to stand in the way of innovation," said director general Simon Walker.

"Uber and its rival apps are an example of the positive disruption new technology brings, offering consumers new choices about how to travel.

"The battle over taxi apps gets to the heart of what creative destruction means. As a nation, we have to decide whether we want to open ourselves up to more choice and competition, or protect existing industries at the expense of consumers," he added.

Uber was taking the protest in its stride and not missing the opportunity to advertise its services.

"Our technology allows us to identify areas where demand is high and we'll be helping Londoners to get around town quickly and efficiently," said Jo Bertram, UK and Ireland general manager.

It also announced that it would be opening up its car booking app to London's black cabs.

"There's room for black cabs and private hire cars to co-exist in London and we want to be part of a healthy, vibrant and diverse market," said Ms Bertram.

As well as London, traffic problems are expected in key European cities as traditional cabbies in Rome, Paris, Berlin and Milan join the protests.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Its mini cabs all the way for me now. I won't be using a black cab again after this stunt unless there is no alternative. You'd have thought with all that knowledge they'd have a bit more wisdom. Nobody can defend a cartel. Already opened my account with Addison Lee :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    farting against thunder

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    This is a clear signal that new tecnology may change something, even in locked sectors. What I make me worry is that everytime it's a price matter rather than a service matter, we can't start a war only over prices, people need fair wages in any fields. I live in Italy and also here taxi are on strike, even here they are expensive but I thought in Britain drivers were honester than here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Adapt or die. Hardly a new concept. Well done Uber.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Ban all cabs from bus lanes.
    Because your employer (often) is paying the fare, it leads to wasteful choices because you just choose the quickest regardless of cost.

    The employer puts the taxi fare against profits and pays less tax so the ordinary taxpayer effectively subsidises most taxi fares, which promotes wasteful travel and holds up buses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    46.Paula Boddington

    Do you know of any test that determines if someone is a rapist? In fact taxi driving is one of the few occupations someone with a criminal record can do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    What about the rest of the country ?

    Or is that being ignored as usual.

    No doubt we will see the blonde haired buffoon soon on tv stating why London should have this and that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    having had a family member who run a fleet of 30 black taxies (or mobile money box as they call it) and listened to their stories for donkeys years, it's about time they had competition. And further more their meters need changing so they cant keep pressing the little extra's button that nobody understands yet add loads to the cost of the journey

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    So if you hadn't heard of Uber before, now you have - this is great advertising for them, they must be laughing all the way to the bank.

    I agree with 20.KelitcConneKtion - why are only black cabs allowed a meter? How is that fair competition?

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    looks like the criminal office aka home office got those water cannons just in time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Is this why London Mayor Boris Johnson has just purchased a number of water canons for the Metropolitan Police?

    BBC, why aren't you reporting this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Many years ago my industry was being broken up to provide better choice and competition. What did happen was a large group of fat cats became super obese and customers of all providers still complain. Using black cabs on business frequently at he time, not one had sympathy for any of my fellow workers, stating that competition was needed. I guess because they felt the were permanently protected

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Oh well thats a day they wont be making money while Uber does.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    What? A cabbie moaning and complaining? Don't they realise this is all great PR for Uber. I never heard of Uber before this all started in London and now I have, I'm sold. Get me from a to B for the lowest price with the best driver, I don't care about the politics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Sounds like the app should be used by the customer, so they don't get ripped off by taxi driver taking the scenic route.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Just one thing, the BBC reported that someone could take a short induction course and then start as an Uber driver the next day. How safe is it going to be for women to get into one of these cars?

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    "..Uber is breaking the law by using an app as a taxi meter to determine the price of rides.." - are they upset that people have a tool to fight back against on the spot profiteering?.. and "We have nothing against competition but we feel that TFL has failed Londoners by allowing Uber to operate outside the law.." There's a law which condones profiteering? The world changes by the internet..

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    London cabbies the best in the world...only if you're going in the right direction. Last time I hailed a cab he refused to take me as he was heading the other way. That said, if Uber is to become commonplace then it must be assessed and regulated as per any other service.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Dont go to London much. Last time made the mistake of getting a black cab at heathrow. 60 pounds to go 7 miles. On the return journey booked a mini cab. 22 pounds.

    Presumably all minicab firms use some kind of chart to determine the distance and therefore cost of a fare. Using an app is just a bit more advanced, how do cabbies expect other taxi firms to determine their prices?

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Uber is a great way for the US to get even more personal data on ordinary people across the world - booking from your phone means you are absolutely identifiable.

    It's a whole new level of mass surveillance...


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