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‘They wanted us out’: Electric taxi fleet owner describes why Uber are different to other apps

A prominent London electric taxi fleet owner believes there is a big difference between historical black cab apps and Uber who plan to entice cabbies onto their platform over the coming months.

Paul Byron, fleet owner of HP Taxis, expressed his views on the stark differences between booking apps like FREENOW and Uber in the London taxi market. He believes that FREENOW's investment in the Knowledge of London is a positive move for the industry and has garnered support from various taxi trade stakeholders.

However, Byron sees Uber's entry into the London market as a direct response to FREENOW's initiatives. He perceives Uber's historical intentions were to eliminate local taxi businesses, including black cabs, in London and other cities worldwide. He asserts that Uber's success in replacing local minicab operators has not extended to black cabs, and he and the taxi trade are determined to fight against Uber's encroachment into their industry early next year.

Byron said: “FREENOW have invested in the Knowledge of London and personally I think that’s great. Other apps may do the same. However, this Uber thing is completely different.

“I believe Uber has come in on this as a direct response to the initiative FREENOW have launched. FREENOW have every right to invest in the trade and have the support from a big chunk of the taxi trade, including some of the unions, fleets and drivers.

“Where as Uber have come into London and wanted us out. That was their intention not only in London, but all cities across the world. They would come in and disrupt, and try to take the local taxi business. They wiped out the local minicab operators in the suburbs and wanted to do the same with black cabs. They haven’t succeeded though.

“Because they’ve got trains, airplanes and buses, they now feel like they can just take the taxi trade. We’re going to fight that. We don’t want that to happen. Anyone that thinks I support that is absolutely deluded."

Byron also said that it’s his belief that Uber users may be pleased with the announcement that they will try to recruit black cabs onto the platform. However, he suggests that these users may mistakenly assume that black cabs will now automatically offer cheap fares through Uber. He contrasts Uber's use of algorithms and a digital meter with the traditional metered pricing and fixed prices for airport trips offered by more historical black cab apps like FREENOW.

Byron added: “I think Uber users are quite happy with this announcement, which is no shock. However, them same users who just want something cheap, probably think that black cabs are now just going to be cheap on Uber too. At least with FREENOW we know what they are about and the customers know they stick with our prices and meter. There are fixed prices to airport, but they are now based around the metered price and algorithm.

“Uber have their own algorithms and digital meter. We as a trade are not interested in that.”


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