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What are Uber offering to entice London’s black cab drivers and why now?

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

In a surprise announcement, Uber revealed its plans to introduce black cabs on their platform in London, a move that has left the industry wondering… why now?

Offering a chance to e-hail a black cab through the Uber app, the new service called ‘Black Cabs’ is set to be rolled out in early 2024.

Bringing black cab drivers onto the Uber platform is not without its challenges, and Uber is well aware of this. To entice taxi drivers and encourage their participation, the ride-hail giant has introduced a range of incentives.

Their main marketing ploy focuses on the opportunity for black cab drivers to utilise the Uber platform with a 0% service fee for the first six months following the launch of the service in London. This means that taxi drivers can retain a larger portion of their earnings during the initial phase of the partnership.

With millions of passengers currently using Uber in London each week, gaining access to this massive customer base is being highlighted as a potential avenue for drivers to generate increased earnings. Uber assures that riders will be charged based on the metered price, mirroring the typical fare structures already in place for black cab journeys. Payments will be processed through the Uber Driver app on a weekly basis.

According to Uber’s website, in addition to the service fee waiver, black cab drivers signing up with Uber will also receive a bonus package. A £150 bonus will be awarded to drivers upon successful document upload and approval. Furthermore, an additional £250 bonus will be granted to drivers after completing their inaugural trip on the Uber platform.

Why now?

It has been no secret that Uber have been looking to recruit traditional taxis onto their platform for some time. TaxiPoint has reported on the subject after Uber announced in their quarterly financial statements their global aims to add all taxis throughout the world onto its platform.

The operator has moved fast in some other global markets, including New York, Paris and Brussels, but London was always going to be the big test.

The black cab industry has recovered in terms of demand and drivers have long memories when is comes to the history between the two parties over the last decade. There are also established apps that centre around the black cab offering which also negates a need to join another platform.

That said, new recruits entering the taxi industry since the pandemic will not hold the same long-term feelings against Uber as more experienced cabbies in the capital. Uber will have buoyed by the lack of fierce backlash in cities such as New York and Paris, which once held very staunch opinionated drivers taxi drivers totally against the idea of ever joining forces with Uber.

According to Uber’s UK Head of Driver Operations, Neil McGonigle, the attempt to recruit taxi drivers derives from user demand. Market research conducted by the ridehail operators suggests their customers want to see black cabs listed as an option on their platform.

Uber have also researched the market when it comes to drivers and have no doubt looked at competitors like Bolt and Addison Lee who despite their long association with private hire, now offer taxi coverage in London too.

Other mobility platforms such as FREENOW and Gett, which centre around London’s black cabs, but also offer minicab options, would have also pushed Uber to make the move sooner rather than later.

Will enough London taxi drivers join to provide decent coverage? It’s unlikely. But Uber are likely to push the boat out with incentives in an attempt to recruit as many iconic black cabs as possible onto the platform.


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