As an integral part of modern life, the quality of our transport infrastructure should reflect the aspirations that we hold for the kinds of lives that we wish to lead. My 40 years’ experience in local government and my own career in the technology sector tells me that Londoners want, most of all, an transport system that embraces new technology and offers a wide range of competitive, affordable transport choices. If elected as the next Mayor of London, I will deliver a clear and comprehensive plan that will do exactly this, offering Londoners the reliable, affordable and high-quality transport system that they deserve, and which our city can be truly proud of.
And I want to make one thing abundantly clear; the expansion and growth of new technology is something that we should all embrace. Nobody now would reject the mobile phone because it threatened the livelihoods of telephone operators. But, undoubtedly, with every new invention there are inevitably ‘grey areas’ and that is why new transport solutions are often piloted before they are rolled out for widespread public use. However, a general fear of new technology should not hold London and its transport system back in the twentieth century.
This is especially so in areas where there are already clear, tangible benefits that can be gained for Londoners, their families and London’s millions of commuters. In my view, what London needs – and has needed for a while now – is a modern, innovative, and fully integrated transport system that keeps costs low while making passenger safety the number one priority across all transport services. This is what Londoners are going to get if I become Mayor in 2020.
Each of us have our own particular transport preferences and this is especially relevant in an increasingly populated, commuter-dominated area such as central London and its neighbouring boroughs. Innovative, agile transport systems such as Uber and other digital taxi apps offer Londoners an unprecedented choice when it comes to travel options, and the enhanced level of freedom that comes with this should be cherished by all as a fundamental element of a modern transport system. This is why I strongly believe that Londoners should not be denied the benefits that come with these modern and highly sophisticated new options.
But there is another side to this. Transport for London (TfL) needs to properly enforce its regulations on all vehicles and drivers that they are responsible for, now and in the future. This includes performing regular driver checks and doing better when it comes to dealing with feedback and formal complaints alike. This is because I want a fully integrated, transport system that is equally fair to black cab drivers and private hire vehicle drivers alike.
Over the years, the London Black Cab has become an iconic symbol of London and is a treasured, reliable mode of transport for many Londoners. Irrespective of the Black Cab’s esteemed place in London’s transport hierarchy, our transport system should be governed by an underlying principle of fairness, so it creates a healthy, thriving economy and a competitive transport network which is therefore affordable for the everyday Londoner. So I will say this again: Londoners should not be denied the benefits that come with new technology, especially in those areas where they are already delivering a positive impact, such as in those parts of London’s suburbs, poorly served by Black Cabs. To support Black Cab drivers, I will offer an interest-free loan scheme to help them purchase modern zero-emission cabs. I will also invest in a rapid expansion of the EV charging network to support this broader modernisation of our transport system. These two initiatives will help deliver a modern, affordable transport system that creates more choices for Londoners about how they travel in and around London and keeps travel costs at a competitively low price. At the same time it will play a part in cutting pollution and improving air quality in London.
Nevertheless, more must be done to enforce the current regulations covering Private Hire Vehicles so that Black Cab drivers get a fair deal and can make a decent living from their trade and we can restore public confidence in a licensing system that is designed to keep passengers safe.
In order to ensure that adequate and fair regulations on all providers in the ride-hailing industry are enforced I will split the licensing function off from TfL into its own organisation, answerable to me, with a remit for never compromising on public safety and I will invite the London Assembly scrutinise its operation and give a voice to interested parties.
My plans for London on transport, as much as in other policy area are ambitious, but not unachievable. I want to improve reliability of the tube by embracing driverless technology; I want to speed up buses and make them more reliable, but the debate over Black Cabs and Uber rather defines the direction our City will decide it wants to go. Sadiq Khan’s protectionism will gum up the system not improve services for everybody irrespective of whether they want to take a cab or book an uber.