Yesterday, Italian Taxi drivers marched against smart phone ride-app Uber, a company backed by the same people behind Google, giving them access to billions of dollars. Uber, a Silicon Valley prodigy, has drawn furious opposition as it seeks to become a global force.
The international minicab service provider has already faced severe opposition in many places like Paris and Chicago, and it has been blocked by law from operating in several US cities.
Demonstrators are demanding authorities crack down on ride service apps that taxi drivers say are illegal. Banners held by protesters and draped over cabs make it clear the main target was the increasingly prolific Uber.
With all this protest going on world wide, you would think that here in London TfL would have investigated the legality of the way this operation works, before issuing any form of operators license.
But you would be wrong.
Peter a Hendy, the man who refuses to issue temporary licences to Taxi drivers waiting for Licence renewals (therefore forcing many off the road and out of work for months on end), has OK'ed and issued Uber with an operators licence.
Under the private hire act, bookings must be made through an operating centre and then dispatched to the driver. With Uber the booking is made ASAP between the customer and the driver. This would mean that by using the app, the driver is virtually plying for hire.
Not only that, Uber uses the smart phones GPS technology to charge the passenger for both time and distance, which (in our opinion) is a virtual Taxi meter. Only licensed Taxis can use a Taxi meter.
As we've seen in the past TfL only invoke the rules and regs when they fit with their own personal agendas. Obviously it now suits them to license this illegal service.
As far as Taxi drivers are concerned, in the eyes of TfL, we are guilty first, until proven innocent. But Private hire are granted licences first and then investigated afterwards ...pure bias on the part of TfL.
But even more worrying, we have been told by the Chairman of Radio Taxis, in the form of a tweet, that he heard the Mayor said Government are leaning on TfL to give Uber an easy ride.
Now add to this:
* Garrett Emerson refusal to accept that Uber using smart phones to make charges to customers for distance and time, amounts to a virtual meter. (In the presence of the Mayor and members of the LCDC)
* The Law commissions refusal to define plying for hire in law
* No visible enforcement from our licensing authority, or the Police. TfLs reluctance to prosecute wholesale the illegal plying for hire.
* Peter Hendy's snub and refusal to engage with the whole trade. The scrapping of the Cabbies Cabinet, with no other mechanism for engagement in place.
Nothing could be clearer.
Unless the trade is willing to unite (and that includes the seemingly benign LTDA), stand together and fight back....our days as a viable transport industry are numbered.