09:40 GMT01 December 2020
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    Cab Wars – The Traditional and The New Fight It Out on the Streets of London

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    London's black cabs are like red buses and Big Ben; we expect to see them in London. But beyond the surface of cheery cab drivers, there is a war going on, a war between entrenched black taxi companies and the sharp-elbowed ride-hailing companies like Uber who get their business from apps in the internet.

    London based writer and journalist Eliot Wilson joins the program.

    The seriousness of the situation, this is a major revolution taking place, and ‘Uber’ drivers now have more drivers on the road than the traditional black cabs. The qualifications of traditional black cab drivers are specific – there is a qualification called ‘the knowledge’ which takes drivers a few years to attain, and demands that drivers know the location of tens of thousands of streets, and how to get between them, in one of largest metropolises in the world, whereas Uber drivers do not need anything other than a smartphone and GPS. This only increases the angst of traditional cabbies who may invest £45,000 in a new black cab.

    The black cab drivers still do have some advantages though – one expects a guaranteed level of professionalism, service, and comfort. Single ladies may feel safer to be driven home in a black cab late at night. Professional cabbies know London better (without a smartphone) and can probably plot the best route in very complex and rapidly changing driving conditions. But they are at least 30% more expensive than App-based taxi companies.

    The issue of racial prejudice, in that Uber drivers are often not white is discussed. Many white cab drivers feel angry with people who they feel are undermining their jobs, and to top it all (from the white drivers’ point of view) these people are from outside of the UK. The anti-migrant fever that swept the UK at the time of the Brexit vote (and since) could have quite possibly been very tangibly felt amongst cabbies. Issues about job security, pensions, and rights are discussed, with the sad reality coming through that people simply don’t have long term career prospects these days, they have ‘boutique careers.’ All of this, Eliot says is basically a reflection of the times we live in.

    “People with vote with their feet”, concludes Eliot Wilson. It seems like they already are. However, there still seems to be room for both kinds of taxi services.

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    black cab, Taxi, United Kingdom, London
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