Speaking to me this afternoon, Jo Bertram, Uber’s UK general manager, claimed that Uber has seen “an 850% increase in sign-ups compared to last Wednesday”. Although she refused to reveal the exact figures because of “market sensitive reasons”.
She also went on to accuse the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, which organised the protest, of holding London to ransom. She said: “Unsurprisingly, the LTDA (Licensed Taxi Drivers Association), which is stuck in the dark ages, is intent on holding London to ransom and causing significant economic impact to Londoners today, estimated to be £125m”.
Today’s protests began this morning and roughly 12,000 drivers participated, with support from organisations such as Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), and the London Cab Drivers Club (LCDC). The LTDA had previously promised to bring “chaos, congestion and confusion” in today’s scheduled protest.
he LTDA argues that Uber operates in a “grey area” and circumvents current legislation that governs private-hire taxis. Steve McNamara, the LTDA’s general secretary, argues that Uber’s drivers use a “specific device that’s programmed to be a meter” which is therefore illegal under the Private Hire Vehicle Act.
The LTDA is also adamant that the protest is not about increased competition, but about the safety of passengers because to become a licensed driver, years of training must be undertaken. Derrick Hoare of the LTDA told the press association that today’s protesters wanted to highlight the length of training – between four and seven years – that taxi drivers had to undergo before being licensed.
He also complained that new services aren’t subject to the same regulations as the LTDA: “We have to jump through hoops to be regulated and we don’t feel people involved in these new apps are being subjected to the same regulations.”
Uber counters this by saying that it is fully compliant with current legislation and that it “passed TfL’s most stringent and comprehensive audit of a Private Hire Vehicle operator to date, passing with flying colours.”