London Walking Tours    with Joanna Moncrieff

Why I’m supporting the London taxi trade

There is a misconception amongst many people I know that black taxis are expensive.  However if you compare their service to other trades when you want quality then you get what you pay for.

People seem happy to pay a premium rate for a particular make of phone, expensive drinks at hotels, branded clothes etc but when it comes to making a journey in Central London all their principles go out of the window and for many people cheap is best.

It is inconceivable that people seem happy to get into a private hire vehicle whose driver has little or no knowledge of London and then spends hours driving round trying to find their way with the result that the passenger is stressed and the journey is not cheap. There have been many instances recently where private hire drivers have no knowledge of famous landmarks such as the Tower of London, the Shard, Buckingham Palace etc. How can it be that they are able to have a job driving in London with so little knowledge of the locality.

To clarify:

Taxis or Hackney Carriages are the only form of cabs that are legally allowed to be hailed from the street or from a rank. They can also be booked through a taxi company by phone or through an app.

Private Hire (minicabs) can only be pre-booked and must not ply for hire. This is so that details of the journey can be booked as required by law.

The argument that the difficult Knowledge that London’s licensed taxi drivers have to pass is dated is ludicrous. For example a sat nav just does not work in the tightly packed medieval streets in the City.  It is also dangerous to drive in a busy city like London with one eye on your sat nav which is evidenced by the number of private hire vehicles having accidents going through red lights, down one-way streets the wrong way, onto the pavement etc. People have been killed and seriously injured already. This needs to stop.

uber pavement

It’s not just the Knowledge that makes taxis superior to private hire drivers but the fact that their character is assessed over the years they are studying.  How many other professions could you hand your keys to and ask them to deliver the keys without worrying that they would get a set cut on the way and then break in later?

There are people who say they haven’t had problems with the charlatan private hire firm to whom I am referring but it beggars belief that they would rather take the chance of getting lost/involved in an accident or worse just to try to save a few quid.  Just search #DeleteUber on Twitter and you will see what I mean.

In many cases a ride in a taxi especially if there is a group of you is cheaper than a private hire vehicle. It is certainly cheaper for a group to travel from Heathrow by taxi than by the Heathrow Express as the price is per cab not per person. You are also safe in the knowledge you will arrive at your destination in a timely manner and in one piece.

If you want to book your journey via an app then use Hailo, Gett or Cab App. In fact Hailo have been around since 2011 so were the first company to bring out a hailing app in London a year before Uber.

If you want to pay by credit card then 58% of the 25,000 black cabs already take cards and from October of this year it will be law for all taxis to have this facility.

TfL have a large part to play in this situation by giving Uber a licence when they didn’t fulfil all the necessary criteria including having a landline telephone to take bookings amongst other things.

TfL are also issuing 100s of new private hire licences a week. Have you noticed how clogged up London is recently?  How can TfL possibly have suitably checked all these applicants thoroughly.  It’s impossible.  Many of these drivers are immigrants who come from countries who for various reasons are not able to supply information required as to criminal records etc so TfL feel that they should licence them anyway.  This is unbelievable.

How is there enough work to go round anyway?  Even in the suburbs where I live there are Uber drivers lurking on the streets, parked in disabled bays and residents’ parking bays waiting for a fare to pop-up on their screen.  There have also been instances of them chucking bottles of their urine into front gardens and even worse defecating in the gardens. How disgusting.

From the mouths of their own representatives Uber drivers are earning less than the minimum wage averaging just over £5 an hour. Because of this many are claiming tax credits.  Why should the rest of us law abiding taxpayers have to subsidise them. It’s not fair.

It’s not that taxi drivers are against competition – there has always been room for both taxis and local minicab firms – but the fact is it isn’t a level playing field anymore due to the issues I have highlighted above.

I am one of those people who just can’t stand by from the sidelines and will always get involved.  I have no connection to the taxi trade other than having friends who are both taxi drivers and fellow guides but I want to do my bit to help in the long-term survival of the taxi trade.

Last year I joined the Save our Black Taxis Facebook group and last month a Crowdfunder action was started by Action for Cabbies in order to raise enough money so taxi drivers can start judicial review proceedings against TfL for failing to enforce the law.  I have pledged and also took part in a photo shoot outside City Hall to promote the campaign. (I’m at the back in the red hoodie with grey gloves.)

valentines taxi



Following on from this, this coming Saturday, 27th February at 11am I will be leading a 90 minute walk around the hidden alleyways and courts of Covent Garden in order to raise funds for the Crowdfunder action. All I ask is that you pledge a minimum of £10 or more if you can afford it. More details are here. The walk is now two-thirds full so if you want to come don’t delay in booking.

If you care about London, its traditions and the continuing freeflowing function of a capital city which is now grinding to a halt through the actions of the Mayor and TfL please pledge and come along on my walk. However if you can’t make it why not pledge anyway.  Any money pledged won’t be taken until 14th March. 

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is both a City of Westminster and  Clerkenwell and Islington Tour Guide. 

Details of all her group walks are listed here and upcoming public walks here