London’s black cab is one of our city’s most recognisable icons – known the world over. Its reputation is only matched by its pedigree, made evident by the fact that aAataxis have been plying their trade on London’s streets for almost four centuries. Not many people know this, but the profession predates the French and American revolutions, and is older even than Britain’s modern democracy. Because of this very pedigree and the taxi trade’s ongoing service, Londoners continue to cherish their black cabs, and what is cherished must always be protected by those in positions of leadership.
That is why it is all the more tragic to see London’s taxi trade suffer so at the hands of an uncaring regulator. Sadiq Khan talks a good talk, but on his watch Transport for London has gone from absent-minded to downright hostile with their regulation of the taxi profession.
First there is the push from City Hall to reduce taxi age limits. While I agree with the shift to cleaner, greener electric taxis, this must be done in partnership with the profession. TfL plans to reduce the maximum age of black cabs from 15 to 12 years.
This will have devastating effects on the resale market for taxis, making it much harder for drivers to upgrade to the new electric taxi, with all the negative effects this will have on air quality.
Indeed, the best way to drive down emissions is to shift people away from personal car ownership. Penalising taxis will clearly not help with that transition. Instead, it would be far better to utilise TfL’s very large capital budget to rollout far more rapid charging points. Sadiq Khan currently has a target of 300 rapid charging points, but this is nowhere near ambitious enough.
We will need at least four times that very soon if we are to have 5,000 TXe taxis on the roads by this time next year. As Mayor, I will reallocate some of TfL’s vast capital budget towards the taxi profession, so that when cabbies go looking for a rapid charging point, they actually find one. I was also very shocked to hear that TfL are planning to continue the trend of limiting the access of taxis to London’s major roads and junctions.
While I support initiatives to clean up London’s air and promote healthy streets initiatives, the taxi profession should not be made to bear the brunt of these restrictions. Many disabled Londoners rely on black cabs to get around, so limiting the ability for them to go direct to their destinations will have a disproportionate affect on disabled Londoners. I will reverse this worrying trend from day one in office.
But it is also the role of the Mayor of London to demonstrate leadership, and what those in the taxi trade are telling me is that they would like City Hall to show leadership with the regulation of PHVs. I am a strong believer that London should be given powers to cap the number of PHV licences operating in London.
There is no doubt in my mind that PHV licences have ballooned unsustainably over the last decade and urgent action is needed to get those numbers down. As the Conservative candidate, I would lobby the Conservative Government for amendments to the TfL act that would enable City Hall to set a cap on the number of PHVs operating in the capital.
For too long the PHV industry has been operating largely unregulated, especially in central London, where congestion and air quality has become worse due to thid failure in regulation.
London’s black cab is as iconic globally as Big Ben and tube trains, but the taxi trade is about much more than just an icon. It is about the over 20,000 cabbies who strive every single day to keep London moving. The cab driver is, in that sense, the perfect exemplar of the principles of hard work and decency that sit at the heart of all of London’s communities.
If I am elected next year as your Mayor of London, I will make it my goal to make sure that the taxi trade is put back on its rightful pedestal as the premium form of personal transport, and at the heart of public transport in the capital. Londoners demand no less.
Image: Shaun Bailey (Twitter)