We will be ‘forced to take matters into our own hands’ says London taxi driver representatives if the capital’s transport regulator takes no action to stop Uber’s planned Soho ‘Pick-up Points’.
London taxi driver representatives have recently contacted Transport for London (TfL) ordering a stop to Uber’s planned ‘Pick-up Points’ which the industry argues are essentially taxi ranks.
According to the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), they now plan to begin gathering evidence to undertake private prosecutions of individual Uber drivers stopping in the new ‘pick up points’.
News of Uber’s new pick up points began to spread at the end of April when a message from the private hire operator was sent to customers detailing information around the new locations.
In the message it highlights three new pick-up points located in Soho’s busy Wardour Street, Romilly Street and Archer Street. The locations have been brought in due to several streets in the Soho area being closed during the coronavirus restriction easement process.
However, both the LTDA and United Cabbies Group (UCG) quickly contacted regulators Transport for London (TfL) claiming that what Uber call Pick-up Points, the taxi industry calls taxi ranks.
Displaying availability to the public for an immediate journey is seen to be the sole right of a taxi. Only licensed black cabs can pick-up from the street or form taxi ranks displaying their availability.
Representatives have asked for immediate enforcement to be carried out by TfL if the new ‘Pick-up Points’ go live.
Steve McNamara, LTDA General Secretary, said in the latest TAXI Newspaper: “At the end of April, we became aware of Uber’s plans to create what they are describing as, ‘pick up points’ in and around Soho due to the road closures.
“What they call ‘pick up points’ we call ‘ranks’.
“I do not have to tell anyone reading this that ranks are a fundamental part of the licensed taxi trade and our exclusive right to ply for hire. So, when Uber began sending out emails, text messages and push notifications to their customers informing them of their plans, I immediately contacted senior licensing officials at TfL making them aware, raise our concerns and asking that they took immediate enforcement action if Uber went ahead.
“Since then, TfL have failed to act decisively, claiming that it is ‘not that simple’. They say that they are ‘looking into this issue’ and "have deployed officers to monitor specific locations to ensure that no vehicles are causing an obstruction to the highway’."
McNamara added: “On a call with TfL officials and other trade reps last week, it became apparent that they have no immediate plans to condemn Uber’s actions and make it clear to the company that the use of these points will not be tolerated and will be subject to enforcement action. I decided enough was enough and took the opportunity to make our feelings crystal clear.
“I said that TfL was failing in its duty as regulator and that they had an obligation to act to uphold the law and prevent Uber from establishing, what are tantamount to illegal ranks.
“I explained in no uncertain terms that if they refused to act, we would be forced to take matters into our own hands, gathering evidence to undertake private prosecutions of individual Uber drivers, as we have done on numerous occasions in the past.
“We wait to see whether they will act and will be keeping a close eye on the situation. In the meantime, we have contacted the newly (re)installed London Assembly members asking them to hold TfL to account on this issue.”