The London taxi is as quint-essentially British as a cup of tea or fish and chips. It’s woven into the very fabric of the city itself. Taxis have faithfully served both Londoners and visitors alike for over 350 years. The amber glow of a “taxi” sign has become a symbol that represents familiarity and safety in equal measure.
Unfortunately, in recent years we have faced a new interloper, a heavily financed one, whose political influence and technological capability has decimated incumbent trades around the globe. When I first heard about this particular “disruptive”ride-sharemodel, it was causing problems in Paris, but I didn’t think too much of it. “London is different,” I thought. I wasn’t aware of how heavily financed it was, or how much political sway it garnered The rest, you could say is history. The path was cleared for Uber to sweep through this great city of ours recruiting up to 1,200 drivers per week. It literally felt like an alien invasion, one for which the cab trade was unprepared. All was not lost though, London’s cab trade hasn’t survived 350 years by rolling over at the first sign of a threat, and this time was no exception.
The trade was already using innovative technology and it had became a useful tool. But something didn’t seem right, and as time went on, it felt like we were increasingly beholden to these corporate led apps. The whole set up imploded when out of the blue, Hailo, the taxi hailing app, driven by greed, applied for a private hire operator’s licence. It felt like we were vulnerable and were being carved open by financiers, hellbent on taking control of our market. So, in true black cab style, drivers set about launching the trade’s first app and in June 2016, Taxiapp UK was born. We wanted to maximise the availability of taxis to our customers and the easier they can be accessed, the better. But crucially, we were also about promoting the trade itself. However, this is just one of the ways Taxiapp differs significantly from the other hailing apps. Firstly, it is a non-profit organisation run by a cooperative of drivers and members committed to helping secure the future of London’s black cab trade. The app has been set up so that it cannot be sold to outside investors seeking a return. The drivers are firmly the bottom line with Taxiapp. It’s all about protecting our working practices. Drivers are entitled to 100% of the meter, who are we to say otherwise? It’s okay to offer promo codes, but the cost deficit should be absorbed by the app. All too often we are seeing drivers suffer financially because the corporate led apps are only answerable to investors. We are taking a stand against drivers being sidelined in the race for global domination; Taxiapp is here to redress the balance. We offer a pre-payment system of £20 per month – which works out to just 67p per day. For that, the driver is automatically registered as a cooperative member, is ring-fenced from any potential losses that could occur, and most importantly drivers pay no commission on jobs offered through the app.
In fact, the driver is easily able to recoup the £20 pre-payment by savings made using a 1.5% credit card deal via PayPal, available exclusively to Taxiapp members. The deal can be used to pay for all jobs, not just those taken on the app. And of course, until it’s made illegal, there’s the facility to pay by good old-fashioned cash.
Taxiapp offers remarkably good value, and whichever way you look at it, this is a remarkable achievement by cab drivers, who were unfairly labelled luddites by the previous mayor, Boris Johnson. Evidently, this is not the case, and the ability to respond to a very real threat in such a short space of time is greatly overlooked. Taxis offer the travelling public the safest transport option in London. And it’s great to think there’s a place where drivers can feel truly empowered, safe in the knowledge that all those years of blood, sweat and tears studying the KOL will not be in vein. Taxiapp is about defining and delivering a bright future for London’s black cab trade. Drivers on the app firmly believe that Londonerers and visitors alike will increasingly recognise the appeal of an organisation that is not aimed at maximising profit for outside investors but focuses more on sharing the new technology benefits between cab drivers and their customers. What’s more, we are the only service to guarantee passengers a driver fully versed in the topographical Knowledge of London and committed to getting customers to their destination using the most cost-effective route.
We wouldn’t expect anything less from London’s most iconic institution. Why would some politicians want to see us crushed? Because we are managing to hold on to its share of the market and the vested interests don’t like it. Truth be told, these people may work London, but black cabs are part of the city’s DNA, and that’s the difference. Long may it continue.