Uber Wins Judicial Review

The Judicial Review of the law on taxi metering has resulted in an initial victory for Uber. In the High Court Mr Justice Ouseley ruled that the smartphone app used in Uber vehicles cannot be consider a taxi meter. Only black cabs are legally allowed to operate taxi meters and both the drivers of such vehicles and operators of conventionally booked Private Hire Vehicles were none too pleased with the result. They may appeal although to some extent this result may be overtaken by the consultation currently being undertaken by the Major on the regulations applied to all vehicles for hire.

See https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/tph/private-hire-proposals if you wish to respond to the Mayor’s consultation.

This writer understands perfectly the feelings of taxi drivers. Their working conditions have been made a lot more difficult in recent years by numerous road closures, restrictions on parking/stopping, slowing of traffic by larger number of cyclists and buses on the roads, removal of road space and increased traffic congestion – the latter of course often caused by TfL and local borough policies and the increase in PHV numbers.

Their costs have been going up and the Mayor is requiring new zero emission vehicles to be used in the near future.

Their original monopoly on their client’s ability to hail cabs quickly and easily is being undermined by new technology and their key qualification and training – the “knowledge” – has been made redundant by SatNav systems.

The world has been changing rapidly in terms of vehicle technology but black cab drivers have resisted change and continue to do so. They surely need to embrace new technology rather than oppose it.

One key question that needs to be faced, but has not been, is whether there should be any restriction on the number of taxis or PHV vehicles in London. It is not clear to me that there should be. Not many other markets have artificial restrictions on supply, although one might argue that with limited road space the numbers should be limited (for example by rationing on price the number who are willing to pay for a license). But that is congestion charging in effect and might inconvenience the public who uses taxis.

A lot more thought and research into how other countries manage taxi operations is surely required, whereas the consultation we have at present seems focussed on minor tinkering to preserve the status quo.

Roger Lawson

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