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The rise of the virtual rank

From the 5 star luxury Park Lane hotels to the back street gems, London has an extremely healthy choice of short stay residences, but how easy is it to catch a Taxi to complete the full London experience? With Taxi ranks servicing most of your high end hotels you're not going to wait much longer than it takes for the hotels doorman to raise an arm or whistle before you're sat back relaxed in one of the most iconic vehicles on the planet, but for those hotels which have no taxi rank, how do those manage to hail one of Londons finest? It used to take an umbrella and a constant swivel of the head on full alert trying to catch a glimpse of that Orange light. Well now it's different. Now we have the Apps, or what I call.... The virtual rank It seems to be more and more common now for hotels to book Taxis for their guests through one of the Taxi apps; MyTaxi, Gett or the driver led app TaxiApp. Guests can pre-book Taxis for their trips later that day or for days in advance if required. But how important is it for the 'point cab' or the cab that accepts the virtual job in this case, to honour the job that he or she has committed to? And how damaging is it when a driver cancels what they earlier agreed to at the last moment? Is it any different from a driver on an actual rank 'Brooming' a job? It almost certainly gives the impression of an unreliable service, and an unreliable service creates a lack of confidence in the product. The product in this case being the London Taxi. In the virtual world, you would think having the job quickly allocated to another driver should be an easy fix, but things are not always that simple. Sometimes there are no drivers local to accept the job request, in some cases the App doesn't re-allocate the job once cancelled. In either of these scenarios it leaves the customer in a sticky situation and it doesn't reflect good, not just on us, but on the hotel also. The 'instant hail' is not so much of a problem, as with hailing a cab the traditional way, it doesn't always guarantee an 'instant' Taxi, which the guest most likely understands, but if you pre-book a taxi in advance then you can be forgiven if you expect it to turn up on time or at least turn up at all. For the London Taxi to thrive in the world of virtual ranks, jobs must be covered and they must be honoured. It's only a matter of time before any hotel that has dealt with multiple cancellations to choose a different platform to order a Taxi through or even, as we see on many hotels already, the choice of a private vehicle, which in most cases are more expensive than a London Taxi, but if they are more convinced and even more importantly, convince the guests, that a private vehicle is more 'reliable ' then the work soon becomes non existent from that particular hotel. In a world where ordering a car has been made to fill as easy as pushing a button, hailing a Black Taxi should seem like a free-flowing task. If you're a driver who works for one or even all the current Apps, then consider the fallout if you cancel a pre-book job that you accepted 'just in case' you happened to be local to that particular location. Or the consequences of letting the 'instant hail' ping away on your phone because it's a 7/8 minute run in to the pickup location. Do we want to make sure that as many of the guests as possible take their journeys in a licensed Taxi or do we want to run the risk of becoming too unreliable to be considered the first choice. Apps to order a Taxi or private vehicle are part of the transportation industry now and are likely to remain. Which one is considered the number one choice all depends on us; the drivers. For Black Taxis to be considered plan 'A' we must avoid creating a lack of the big 'C'... Confidence.

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