Uber move to partner with London Black Cabs receives frosty response from LTDA

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Uber’s surprising decision to try and add London black cabs to its ride-hailing app has met with a negative response from the taxi drivers’ trade association.

Uber said it was opening the platform to taxi drivers, with the intention of starting services in early 2024. But Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, rejected the move out of hand, and said Uber would struggle to recruit cabbies.

“We don’t need a partnership with Uber,” he said, adding there was “no demand” from the LTDA’s 18,000 cab driver members for such a deal. “We have no interest in sullying the name of London’s iconic, world-renowned black-cab trade by aligning it with Uber, its poor safety record and everything else that comes with it,” McNamara said in a statement.

Uber launched in London over a decade ago, and has been seen as an aggressive competitor by the taxi trade. A decade ago, drivers blocked the streets of London outside Parliament in protest at the arrival of Uber in the capital.

But Uber said cabbies had started signing up for the world’s largest ride-hailing platform. In a statement, Uber said taxi driver Hameed Hameedi had become the first London cab driver to sign up with Uber.

Hameedi completed the Knowledge in 2015, having previously been working as a private hire driver. Hameed said: “A lot has changed since Uber first came to London, and I know lots of cabbies who first started out as Uber drivers. Nowadays more passengers than ever are using apps so Uber opening up to Black Cabs will be a huge advantage to the trade.”

He continued: “App bookings are good for me because I know where my next job will be so I don’t miss any time searching on the streets for the next job.” 

Andrew Brem, General Manager of Uber UK, said: “We’re partnering with taxi drivers across the world and the message we are hearing from them is clear – Uber and taxis are better together. Black Cabs are an iconic part of the capital, loved by Londoners and visitors alike, and we are proud to work side by side. Partnership is win-win-win: helping London cab drivers earn more, boosting travel options for passengers and making London’s transport network more efficient.”

Uber is offering substantial incentives to cab drivers in order to get  them to sign up. Drovers receive a £150 bonus when they upload their documents to the Uber app, subject to approval. A further £250 will be paid upon completion of the driver’s first Uber job. In addition, there will be a 0% service fee for the first six months of the service.

Black cab drivers do accept jobs through Uber’s rival FreeNow, which acquired black cab app Hailo some years ago. Bolt also offers black cabs via its app, though it is not known how many are signed up to Bolt.

Elsewhere in Europe and the rest of the world, Uber partners with local taxi drivers to provide its service in cities such as Paris, New York, Rome, Barcelona and others across 33 countries. In Europe and the Middle East, more than 10% of Uber trips are now completed by taxi drivers, Uber claims.