Unfair much? A drivers responds to the cliched calls of “closed shop” and “no competition”

Many believe the taxi trade to be a closed shop full of Spanish practices that is a monopoly. All of which is pretty much nonsense. One driver (@erb66 on Twitter) had heard these tired arguments once too often during a Twitter exchange yesterday and responded with passion and eloquence. We are publishing his full reply below as it was written with no editing. We think it’s quite splendid.

Over to Alan……..

@paulturner67 Unfair. OK here’s a few facts for you about us cabbies who exert such unfair conditions on poor Londoners. Sorry it’s long but please bear with it.

1 Our meter prices are set by TFL not ourselves (FYI this year there was no fare increase, something the taxi trade actually pushed for in the interest of positive PR and competition, but that wouldn’t have been reported as the media are only interested in negative press where we are concerned). The tariff is based on different factors such as cost of running cab, cost of diesel, the current RPI etc. However in reality it never increases in line with the increases of our costs subsequently I haven’t had a pay rise in my 10 years in the job. Therefore our hands are completely tied when it comes to competing on price and setting fares. Furthermore, for the benefit of the public, the meter tariff is the same whatever taxi you get in, it isn’t like minicabs who differ from one to the next and we certainly can’t “surge” our prices when we deem it fit (like those American shit bags did by 300% when the tubes were on strike. That was nice of them eh? And that’s a point worth remembering because that’s the reality of the kind of unregulated exploitation of the public you’d face if the taxi trade disappeared tomorrow and the likes of uber were the dominant force in London) Unfair much?

2 The vehicle we drive is purpose built and dictated to us by TFL based on their ‘Conditions of Fitness’ (ie it has to have 20ft turning circle, has to be wheelchair accessible, has to have a hearing loop for the hard of hearing, has high viz aids for the visually impaired etc etc and rightly so for those individuals to be fair). We can’t just choose any economical cheap to run vehicle like private hire can, what’s more, these features attract a big price premium. Additionally these purpose built vehicles are obviously sold to a limited market. As such the 2 vehicles available to us, the TX and the Vito, are circa £40k to buy. Plus they’re not the most reliable vehicles AND they’re gas guzzlers so are very expensive to run. Oh and they’re ridiculously expensive to insure, nearly forgot that. But WE ARE FORCED TO USE ONLY THESE VEHICLES. Unfair much?

3 To operate a licensed taxi in London we have to undertake the toughest topographical test ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD. You may know it as The Knowledge and we are proud of it. Regardless of whether you think it’s necessary (and you probably don’t given your propensity for a cheap alternative) as well as making us uniquely qualified to do the job, the ongoing examination process also acts as a prolonged vetting period which in turn acts in the interest of public safety (a concept that simply doesn’t exist in ubers universe). It’s not about limiting numbers it’s simply the process required to ensure you are properly qualified and of sufficient character to provide a safe and professional service to the public. After all no-one complains that doctors or dentists or lawyers are having their numbers limited by the length of their qualification process? Minicabs don’t need to undertake this investment in time, dedication and effort to get their licence. Unfair much?

4 Before a taxi driver takes to the street we have to retake an advanced driving test which also includes a test in wheelchair assistance. At cost to us of course. Minicabs don’t do this. Unfair much?

5 London Taxi drivers are self employed individuals, with no subsidies from TFL. We don’t work for a company,, we are on our own basically. As such we don’t have an organisation behind us with gazillion dollar marketing/PR budgets who will cover the media, billboards, Internet, apps with advertising and giving away free and discounted rides to all and sundry. We can’t compete with this kind of coordinated marketing strategy at all. Our licensing authority, TFL could market us but they don’t. They’re only interested in tube and bus because they make money from the fares. The only money they make from us is our driver and vehicle licensing fees which we have to pay them anyway. They make nothing from our fares so it’s not in their financial interest to push us to the public despite us being part of their public transport infrastructure umbrella. Unfair much?

To address your bus lane point. We have access to this as we are metered and so quicker progress is in the interest of the customer. Minicabs are not metered and so delays do not affect the price of travel in the same way. Plus as we are wheelchair accessible we need access to bus lanes to pick up wheelchair users. If you want minicabs to have access to bus lanes you may as well do away with them altogether as this will negate their benefit, including to buses! And TFL would NEVER allow that I’m afraid. For every taxi there are now 4 minicabs in London (and rising at the ridiculous rate of 700 newly issued by TFL licenses, yes that’s SEVEN HUNDRED a week) so you can see what would happen if they could use these lanes. It would be quicker to use the other lanes!

I could go on but that’s probably enough now I just need you to understand its not quite as one sided as you think, there’s more to this than you read in the uber biased media.

London taxis are and have been year after year voted the best in the world. It is acknowledged each time that we aren’t the cheapest but we are the BEST. The reason for this is the hoops we have to jump through and the regulations we have to meet. Foreign visitors love our service and envy it. In fact the only people who seem not to are Londoners who, I think, take our services for granted now and just want cheap cheap cheap. Careful what you wish for is all I’ll say.

One last thing and I know it’s not relevant to your issues but worth mentioning I think because it’ll never get coverage in the media. Every year a variety of London Taxi charities (nothing to do with TFL I might add) take war vets to Normandy and other similar venues, underprivileged kids to the seaside and terminally ill kids to Disneyland Paris. There are more but these are a few highlights. Furthermore every year you will see hundreds of cabs lined up at various locations all over London on remembrance Sunday waiting to take war vets to the cenotaph and other locations around town. Free of charge of course. This was a service implemented entirely by the taxi trade, nothing to do with TFL. They participate in these charitable enterprises voluntarily, for free, in their own time and what’s more they do it with joy in their hearts because they like to give back wherever they can. How many other self employed trades can you name that do the same? I don’t see uber or Addison Lee lining up to do such things. As I say it’s not relevant to our discussion but it’s a point worth noting with regard to understanding the nature of our trade and what you have here in London. It’s special. It’s not just about saving a fiver on a cab ride here and there. Not in my view anyway.

Anyway that’s my lot. I apologise for the war and peace like nature of my response but I just can’t do this justice in 140 characters. Because of the aforementioned lack of PR and public education for our trade, the public are sadly misinformed on the subject and they believe what they read in the media. It’s because I’m passionate about my trade as are my colleagues. We care. Which is why I took the time to write all this to you.

Peace my friend.

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