London’s black cabs have promised to bring “chaos, congestion and confusion” to London as a protest against the growing presence of smartphone taxi service Uber.
The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) has said that the apps that Uber’s drivers use to find passengers and calculate their fares count as taximeters – devices that are illegal to be installed in private vehicles.
The LTDA has complained to Transport for London (TfL), but the government body has said that Uber’s vehicles are not “equipped” with taximeters since there was no “connection between the device and the vehicle”.
LTDA have rejected this evaluation and are threatening to seek a judicial review with Steve McNamara, the association’s general secretary, describing the situation as “dangerous for Londoners”.
Mr McNamara told the BBC that London’s black cab drivers were planning to gridlock in the city some time in early June.
"I anticipate that the demonstration against TfL's handling of Uber will attract many many thousands of cabs and cause severe chaos, congestion and confusion across the metropolis,” he said.
The dispute is only the latest internationally between Uber and taxi services worldwide. The Silicon Valley startup has been banned in Brussels; is currently facing a court battle in Berlin, and has been the subject of numerous protests in cities across the US and in Paris.
The San Francisco-based company describes itself only as a “pick-up” service that connects passengers with background-checked private drivers. Launched five years ago, the company now operates in more than 100 cities across 30 countries, launching in London in 2012 and in Manchester this week.
The company’s smartphone app allows users to order taxis, see who their driver will be, and track the arrival of their car - features that have been replicated by the likes of Hailo and Kabbee, who offer smartphone apps to connect passengers to black cabs and minicabs respectively
The LTDA have described Uber as “an American monster that has no qualms about breaching any and all laws in the pursuit of profit, most of which will never see a penny of tax paid in the UK.”
The smartphone app has received backing from the likes of Goldman Sachs and Google. The latter recently updated their Google Maps app (included as default in 80 per cent of smartphones worldwide) to offer Uber’s services where available.
Uber’s general manager in London, Jo Bertram, told the BBC that the company rejected the LTDA’s characterisation and that competition was “always good for the customers because it makes all of us up our game in terms of quality and service.”