FREE NOW have this week launched their combined black taxi and private hire app service after its recent merger with Kapten, much to the frustration of licensed taxi drivers.
Through the launch of the new app, FREE NOW claim to have the fleet scale and the passenger base to become the number one market player with access to over 35,000 drivers using the app in London alone.
The move has however been seen as a bitter blow for thousands of black taxi drivers currently working on the app which was previously exclusively for licensed cabbies.
The ride-hailing firm say that the merger has been undertaken to provide drivers with more passengers, deliver greater consumer convenience, and develop a fleet of sufficient size to compete directly with Uber.
However, taxi drivers have taken to social media platforms to express their disappointment. The merger comes at a time when work levels are at an all time low due to the impact of coronavirus, leaving many cab drivers concerned for their futures.
In 2014 the same company, then known as Hailo, made a similar move to include both taxis and private hire vehicles on the same platform. However after a year of cabbies boycotting the platform, the firm dropped its private hire offering to revert back to black taxis once again.
As well as black cabs and private hire vehicles, the firm is advising a number of London boroughs and local councils on the implementation of rental e-scooters, and will be rolling-out its own e-scooter rental service in the capital over the coming months, as it already has in a range of European cities.
Mariusz Zabrocki, General Manager of FREE NOW UK, and leader of the new the joint business said: “The events of the past few months, and the continued return to work in London and beyond, has reinforced the importance of black cabs and private hire vehicles in getting the country moving again. As a result of COVID-19, the transport sector has changed radically and we’re seeing increased demand for personal modes of transport.
“We’re ideally placed to offer customers a convenient, safe and efficient means of travel, whether for work or to see friends and family. Our new, merged offering is also going to support drivers by offering a much broader passenger base and increasing the pool of customers they have access to, which will ultimately mean more business, after what has been a particularly tough time for drivers.”