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How many London taxi drivers do Uber need to make ’Black Cab’ service work?

The number of black taxi drivers recruited onto the Uber app has been revealed to be as many as 'several hundred', but how many drivers do Uber need?

Uber plans to methodically expand its new ‘Black Cab’ feature, which went live last week, by initially offering it to a smaller sized and select customer group. This approach aims to ensure adequate service availability to meet demand, with a broader rollout anticipated if or as more drivers join.

How many cabbies work the hailing and booking apps?

Just because a taxi driver joins an app, it doesn’t mean they are going to devote time or loyalty to that app. London’s black cab drivers have a host of choice when it comes to picking up fares, compared with PHV drivers who must only accept work via a licensed operator.

Cabbies can accept street work from busy taxi ranks and be hailed down by the public. This provides the driver with a fare that requires paying no commission compared with paying anywhere between 10-20% depending on the taxi app.

Most taxi drivers are signed up with one of the taxi app operators whether that be FREENOW, Gett, TaxiApp or Unity.

During busy periods, app companies sometimes reward drivers for staying loyal and continuing to service the app rather than the streets. They are all customers requiring the service of a black taxi, but competition can become fierce between streets and apps.

With that in mind, it has been reported that the 80-20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, passes over to the taxi industry when it comes to which drivers are completing fares on the taxi app platforms.

The saying asserts that 80% of outputs arrive from 20% of all inputs for any given event. What this means is that 80% of the journeys completed arrive from 20% of the taxi drivers available on the platform.

If Uber are to succeed they must find a productive core 20% of their registered drivers to deliver on the majority of their work. If their pool of drivers are only several hundred, is that enough to deliver on the demand?

How many taxis are working in central London compared to private hire vehicles?

In data released by Transport for London (TfL), in February 2024 the weekday average for taxi movements in the central Congestion Charge area sat at 7,212. The number of different PHVs recorded entering the same area was reported as 11,982. Weekend movements were lower, as to be expected with 4,506 different taxis entering the same zone, compared to 11,982 minicabs.

When you compare the percentage of taxis and PHVs licensed by TfL against the proportion working in central London, the difference is stark. There are currently 14,781 black cabs and 92,450 PHVs licensed in the capital. Looking at February’s average weekday movements, around 48% of licensed taxis were out working in the Congestion Zone area on any given day. Just 13% of PHVs licensed entered the same area on an average weekday.

To maintain a good coverage of the area operators like Uber must maintain a good coverage to reduce passenger wait times and improve availability.

With all these stats let’s now do the maths and reverse engineer the figures. If we say we need just 300 committed drivers delivering on the 80% of work at any given time that still requires a registered pool of drivers totalling 3,000.

Can Uber attract 3,000 London taxi drivers onto their platform over time?


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