As we count down the days until Christmas and the new year, I have no doubt that the existence of the traditional taxi will be met with cheers, along with a sigh of relief. Many cities across the U.K., none more so than London, have had to endure an onslaught of aggressive tactics/attacks from so-called "competition", leaving many drivers and their supporters wondering if they will make it through to see another year of escorting passengers around the city they trained so hard to service. Ride-hailing bullies, sorry i meant giants, Uber, have spent the majority of the past 5 years having things pretty much their own way, until this year of course. We've seen transport regulators finally find the kahunas to stand up to a firm that comes across at times as if it's untouchable. Transport for London voted against relicensing the heavily funded "tech" car service from Silicon Valley, deeming them to not be "fit & proper" to hold an operating licence in one of the worlds greatest cities. So what have all those "Uber supporters" done now that Uber has left town? ..... that's correct; nothing! Why? Because apparently although being considered "not fit & proper" Uber have been granted the freedom to completely operate as they were while they appeal TfL's decision. The decision to deny Uber a licence left many of it's users bewildered. The decision to let them continue under appeal has left many of it's critics bewildered. Rape, sexual assaults, and major data breaches have rocked the ride-hailing firm over the last year, seeing Travis Kalanick forced out by major investors, along with reports of much in-fighting at board level.
What is Transport For London waiting for? Your guess is as good as mine. TfL's decision didn't go unnoticed by other regulators, with many now considering whether or not to issue a renewal to Uber when the time comes. What is important for regulators to consider is how the future of the trade will look with or without them. It's no secret that Uber's "cheaper" fares are nothing more than a heavily subsidised illusion, dressed up with a trendy logo, cool advertising campaigns and free ice cream. Yes that's right, "free ice cream". Apparently that's all it takes for the general public to use a service that's deemed "not fit & proper". My mother always told me to not take anything from strangers, especially if it's free. Nothing is free in life and certainly not in business. While this colourful circus of obsessed high 'five star' rating generation have been sucked into a false economy, traditional taxi drivers have had to suck it up and get on with things. And that they have done! With very little help from anyone with any meaningful power, the traditional taxi has managed to keep itself it the game. Have there been times when drivers have thrown a wobbly and turned the board upside down and thought "screw this, what's the point!" Yes there has. But it seems they eventually dust themselves off and continue ploughing forward. It takes a certain kind of person to stay positive and focused even when everything seems to be going against them. That certain kind of person dedicates years of their life never giving up on a dream. That certain person wears a badge of honour around their neck. You know who you are. 2018 will be another bumpy ride in the world of "I'm in a rush driver" and "I know it's not far, driver", so over the next couple of weeks take the time to enjoy what's really important in life; family, friends, love, and of course, a festive tipple, if that's your kind of thing. In the new year we will wait to see if the real business model of wannabe "tech-taxis" rears it's evil head, or whether it will continue to misguide it's clientele with heavily subsidised fares. Well done to all who have put up a fight, whether you're a hackney carriage or a law abiding private hire. One things for sure, the original plans didn't have us here at the beginning of 2018. Be lucky, and Merry Christmas.