Sadiq Khan this morning proposed that he would be issuing a crackdown on Uber if he became Mayor of London, explaining his decision with the no-brainer quote “these private hire vehicles [can charge] far, far less than black taxis can”.
Since his Tory rival Zac Goldsmith came out against the company months ago, that means both Labour and Conservative candidates have now decidedly told the people of London that they can get in an expensive black cab or get back onto public transport.
Let’s take a second to review the situation here - black cab prices in London are extortionate. To take a journey from Covent Garden to Bethnal Green, you’re looking at racking up a fare of around £30 if you’re lucky (I speak from my own experience). This fare price is cut by a third when travelling in an Uber.
The reason Uber is so popular with Londoners is that it is cheap, cheerful – and safe. It provides a cost-effective way of getting home of a night time, when the only other valid options are a brisk walk where you fear for your life at 3am, or the night bus (which can be an equally hellish and long affair, particularly after five or so gin and tonics).
The service offers a way of getting from A to B without having to fear for your pay packet or put yourself in danger, and this is one of the primary reasons why it is so valued in the capital. After all, this is a city where the average house price is rapidly approaching £1m but the median salary is just over £27,000.
The issue does not lie with the Uber prices, but with the black cab prices in the capital. For example, in Liverpool my fare in a black cab is similar to that of an Uber, as the tariff is lower – I have an active choice between the two providers as a consumer, knowing that they are of equal cost, and equal safety.
That is not a choice that consumers are faced with in London – we are being fleeced left, right and centre by rent, bills, travel card increases, council tax and artisan coffees that cost about £6. It is unrealistic to expect us to fork out for yet another avoidable expense merely to keep up with tradition when another attractive offer is made to us.
If black cabbies lowered their tariffs, consumers would reconsider their Saturday night Uber jaunts. So why is Mr Khan not discussing how he can actively help black cabbies to reduce their costs, for example through tax breaks or fuel cost reduction, so they can offer a lower price for their services?
We pride ourselves on our cabs and their history, and nobody genuinely wants to see them priced out of the market completely. Nothing beats a ride in a black cab, chatting to a driver who knows London inside and out from The Knowledge and can provide a great service. But if it’s the choice between that and being able to afford to eat at the end of the month, I know which option I’ll be going with.
Sadiq Khan has made a terrible decision by completely disregarding the economic position of Londoners, and no doubt these comments will keep come back to haunt him as the Mayoral race heats up. His tax return, released six days ago, showed that he earned more than £63,000 last year –and Goldsmith’s revealed that he made more than £10m in income and capital gains since becoming an MP. For people on those salaries, perhaps hailing a black cab doesn’t seem like such a big deal.
But the simple fact is that black cabs remain an unaffordable luxury for Londoners. Threatening to take away the only taxis which actually fit into our personal finances is a political move that might not go as ideally as Khan imagined it would.Reuse content