Uber is the future, but if you care about human beings then you won't support its campaign against restrictions

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The Independent Online

A public consultation on London’s taxi industry is taking place at the moment. So far, it's been dominated by the well-organised, Uber-loathing black cab lobby. It has made a series of recommendations that will, if enacted, sabotage what everyone loves about the app .

A mandatory five-minute waiting time is one such recommendation. This will effectively restore black cabs' exclusive right to pick up passengers off the street at ruinous cost.

Another recommendation is the crass, Ukippy nonsense of an “English language test” for drivers. (Because what a tragedy it is, when riding an Uber instead of a licensed Hackney Carriage, that you don’t get to hear your driver’s views on the issues of the day.)

Uber is compelling its customers to do something about these possible restrictions by signing a petition on their site. So far more than 125,000 people have signed it.

But the place to make your voice heard is not through signing this petition; it's via the public consultation that is currently open. If you actually care about the cab industry, then there's no point participating in Uber’s financially motivated outrage. What you should do is force them to direct their GPS towards something resembling a moral conscience.

The public consultation shouldn't be about the opportunistic black cab industry crippling their rival. As a service, Uber is better, cheaper and obviously the future. What it should be about is the public telling Uber to pay its tax, and to treat its drivers like human beings.

And here is how you can do that. The public consultation is still wide open. It’s right here. Or you can just send an email to consultations@tfl.gov.uk and tell them exactly what you think.

Here are few suggestions that you're welcome to copy and paste into your message to TfL:

  • All private hire car companies, including Uber, must be registered in the UK for tax purposes, and pay all the tax on their journeys in the UK. Not in, say, Holland, as Uber are. If they don’t like it then they can leave.
  • All private hire car companies can only take a maximum of 10 per cent of their driver’s fares as commission, not say, 20 per cent, as Uber does.
  • Stop the arbitrary sacking of drivers over capricious customer feedback. (If an Uber driver’s rating dips below 4.2, they are fired on the spot. Never mind if a passenger has been sick in the car. Or if they turn up to a job and are suddenly required to help someone move house.)

Will this push up fares? Possibly a little bit, but not to black cab levels. It would also open up opportunities for less greedy companies to compete, happy to exist on a lower margin.

The arrival of Uber has transformed the quality of life for millions of Londoners on normal salaries, for whom the simple and convenient pleasure of getting a taxi home was once an unaffordable extravagance. We can't allow the hijacking of a genuine public consultation to threaten this. The writing has long been on the wall for the black cab industry.

In a few years, all cabs will probably be driven by robots. There is no point fighting it. And it will be be a good thing too – road traffic deaths all but eliminated, for a start. But in the meantime, you can’t stand by and allow the human being driving your taxi to be treated like it's already an automated machine.

The so-called Uberisation of the economy has its benefits. But it has also heralded the instantaneous wiping out a 150 years' worth of impossibly hard won rights for workers. It doesn’t have to be this way. If you want a cheap, convenient, but guilt-free ride, the TfL website, not Uber’s, it the place to make your voice heard.

To take part in the public consulation via email: consultations@tfl.gov.uk. Alternatively, you can take part in a survey via TfL's site: http://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/tph/private-hire-proposals/consult_view

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