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London taxi driver explains why cabbies see Uber differently to other black cab booking apps

Updated: Apr 3



A London cabbie explains why London taxi drivers see other more established black cab app platforms differently to ridehail giants Uber.


Steve Kenton, a seasoned London taxi driver and columnist for TAXI Magazine, shed light on Uber's latest recruitment strategy and how many cabbies are reacting to the offer of joining the platform.

Representatives from the global ride-hailing giant have been spotted at major taxi ranks across London, advertising on radio station for drivers and actively courting licensed drivers to join their platform. According to the driver, this initiative marks a significant shift from Uber's previous recruitment methods, now characterised by a more personable approach.


Kenton views this development as a strategic move by Uber to enhance its service by incorporating London's top taxi talent. He contrasts the current recruitment efforts with those of 2012, noting a change in tone from coercion to camaraderie.


Despite this, Kenton questions the necessity for drivers to transition to Uber, given the abundance of existing app providers such as Gett, FreeNow, and Comcab, among others, serving the capital's 15,500 licensed drivers.


The discussion extends beyond mere recruitment tactics, touching on the philosophical differences between Uber and other app providers. Kenton highlights the controversy surrounding Uber's market entry and its aggressive strategies, which many believe aimed to undermine London's traditional taxi industry. He suggests that Uber's past actions, perceived as attempts to monopolise the market, still resonate with the city's taxi drivers.


Kenton advised caution, urging the taxi community to remember the challenges faced during Uber's ascent. He argues that understanding the industry's history is crucial for safeguarding its future, especially for newer drivers who may not be fully aware of the previous turmoil.

Kenton said in TAXI Magazine: “We are now seeing Uber's representatives trawling some of the major ranks across London, trying to entice members of the licensed London trade to sign up. From Uber's perspective, this is a logical business move. After all, who wouldn't want the best taxi service on Earth, operating on their platform - there is a huge amount of kudos attached to it.


“The difference between 2012's recruitment drive is that it is now being done with a smile rather than a grimace. But is there a need for drivers to sign up?


“Obviously that question is rhetorical and it's not for me or anybody else to question another driver's business model. Yet given that the industry already has six apps, including Gett, FreeNow, Comcab, TaxiApp, Taxi Now and Unify, not to mention other work providers, including Sherbet and Arro, that's an awful lot for a fleet of 15,500 drivers.


“Some workers have asked what the difference is between some of these app providers and Uber - and the answer is quite simple. All of the above came into the market and played by the rules, they didn't circumvent regulation and didn't try to kill off the taxi industry. Conversely, the team behind Uber tried to do just that: crush the London taxi industry, assimilate the drivers onto one platform and create a single-tier form of door-to-door surface transport.


“To protect your future, sometimes you have to understand your history. There are a substantial number of drivers who have held their cab licence for less than a decade. As a result, they don't necessarily appreciate the level of pain that was inflicted on London's industry. However, if you talk to any driver that lived through that dark period, they will explain the difficulties that the industry had to endure.”

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