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LIAM GRIFFIN Q&A: Addison Lee, ComCab taxis and future demand

Image credit: Addison Lee

For a generation Addison Lee and the black taxi trade went toe-to-toe when it came to competing for passengers in the capital. The advent of ride-hail and the unforeseen impact of the coronavirus pandemic changed that landscape significantly.

We caught up with Addison Lee’s CEO, Liam Griffin, to talk trade and learn more about the operator’s motives towards the black cab industry.

The Addison Lee buyout of ComCab came as a big surprise to everyone. What attracted you to ComCab?

We’ve always held ComCab (and Black Taxis) in very high regard. As one of the most professional companies in the sector, with some of the best drivers in the industry, ComCab’s reputation made them extremely complementary to our own business.

The acquisition meant we consolidated our position as the market leader for quality ground transport by becoming London’s largest private hire and taxi company. When you look at our customer base, particularly B2B clients, they want everything in one place. The one thing missing for us was black taxis.

Now, by creating a full service offering of private hire vehicles, black taxis, and couriers on one platform, we can deliver quality and excellence for our customers.

The acquisition came during the coronavirus lockdowns when there was huge uncertainty over future demand in the taxi and PHV industry. Post-pandemic how happy with the acquisition are you and what is the future for ComCab?

The pandemic was a challenging time for everyone in the industry, but we knew that once lockdowns ended and travel picked up again, there would be a strong surge in demand for safe and reliable transport options. With ComCab on board we were able to meet this demand, with a huge pool of quality, professional drivers added to our network, and over 7,500 vehicles.

We’re extremely happy with the partnership to date. Having black taxis on our platform means we have been able to offer the ideal vehicle to suit the needs of every customer:

- EV PHVs offering a more sustainable ride to those important business meetings and airport journeys

- Black Taxis with the ability to bustle through the city’s bus lanes when you’re in a hurry and offering a larger fleet of wheelchair accessible vehicles

- Vans and Bikes to ensure your parcel or documents make it safely and securely to their destination.

The black taxi services are now available to both corporate and leisure customers on our app, and we’re already seeing strong demand, with some of our big corporate clients adding black taxi service to their contract.

Moving forward, we expect this demand to grow as Londoners choose Addison Lee for their quality ground transport.

Historically Addison Lee and the black cab trade have gone head-to-head on some key issues whether it be bus lane access or livery signage. Does this tie-up herald a closer partnership between taxis and PHVs?

While historically we may have competed, the industry we operate in has changed and today we believe there are strong synergies between Addison Lee and black taxis.

We’ve been working in London for a very long time and know the trade better than most disruptors out there. At our core, we’re about providing quality, reliable service through the excellent drivers while having a strong affinity to the capital – exemplified by our decision to invest £160m in electric vehicles to support the Mayor’s drive to a net Zero city by 2030.

There’s a real and significant role for black taxi to play within our service offer, and with it now being available on the Addison Lee app, we believe it’s set to grow and grow, and we’re keen to welcome more Black Taxi drivers onto our fleet.

Addison Lee are one of the capital’s leading players in transforming its fleet to zero emissions vehicles. Is the ambition and commitment shown by Addison Lee mirrored by the Mayor of London? What more can be done?

We are committed to playing a leading role in helping to meet London’s 2030 net zero target. In November 2021 we made an industry-leading pledge to fully electrify our standard fleet, and over a year later, we have taken great strides towards this- with 1,000 EVs and 400 ZEC vehicles on the fleet.

This journey has not been without its challenges – not least supporting our drivers with sufficient charging points - but we have worked hard to overcome them. For example, over the last year, we have formed strategic partnerships – with bp pulse, ChargePoint and Bonnet – to ensure drivers have access to reliable charging infrastructure in the capital. We have also recently opened our new Fleet Hub in West London – complete with four ultra-rapid charge points and eight fast chargers.

However, achieving this target will require closer collaboration between the public and private sector. From our own experience, this means ensuring the right policies and financial incentives are in place to support more fleets like ours with the transition to fully electric, and the development of a London-wide charging network that can support the necessary growth in electric vehicles.

The economy is still incredibly volatile post-pandemic, but what is your current outlook when it comes to industry demand for 2024?

There is huge opportunity for growth in our sector – and we’re seeing continuing and growing demand for professional, quality services like ours.

In the last three years, we have established ourselves back at the forefront of the industry - raising the bar for quality, sustainability, choice, and service. In fact, we are the only larger operator in London with a full 5-year licence to operate.

With the London ground transport market thriving, we’re pleased to say the business is perfectly set up for continued growth, fully focused on building on our recent successes and realising the value that Black Taxis bring to the Addison Lee offer.


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