Khan vows to help black cabs

Khan vows to help black cabs

London mayor Sadiq Khan has announced a number of measures to support the capital's black cab trade amid growing competition from private hire vehicle app Uber.

The plans include boosting the number of taxi ranks in the city from 500 to 600 over the next four years and opening up 20 more bus lanes for use by cabbies.

Khan wants the test that black cab drivers in London must pass to obtain a licence - known as The Knowledge - to be accredited as a formal qualification, potentially enabling applicants to apply for study loans.

Transport for London will feature taxi information in its online journey planners by summer 2017 and from next year grants worth up to £5,000 will be available to black cab drivers who scrap the oldest and most polluting taxis.

The mayor's "action plan" also demonstrates his intention to push ahead with new rules for private hire drivers.

These include requiring drivers to pass an English test, more robust insurance regulations and ensuring driver and vehicle details including a photo of the driver are given to customers before the start of each journey.

Earlier this month Uber was given the green light for a High Court challenge against  TfL over the language rule, which would mean all drivers  undergoing reading, writing and listening  tests.

Khan said: "Our new taxi and private hire action plan will help us deliver a truly world-class service for Londoners and create a vibrant taxi and private hire market where all providers can continue to flourish.

"From my first day at City Hall I have been determined to drive up standards and improve safety for every passenger in London, while protecting the future of our iconic black cabs that provide a unique and invaluable service for Londoners."

Val Shawcross, deputy mayor for transport, said: "New measures such as opening up extra bus lanes and increasing the number of taxi ranks will help ensure our black cabs continue to thrive, and our proposals also include ground-breaking incentives to create the greenest taxi fleet in the world.

"A key part of our plan is to push ahead with important new measures to enhance public safety, including quadrupling the number of on-street compliance officers and requiring that private hire drivers pass an advanced driving test before they're licensed.

"We must ensure every Londoner feels safe getting around our city, while creating a taxi and private hire market where all providers are able to thrive."

Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association general secretary Steve McNamara commented: "The taxi trade welcomes this plan and recognises its commitment to raising safety standards in the Private Hire (PH) industry.

"We particularly welcome the mayor's decision to re-visit the requirement for operator insurance for PH vehicles and his request that central Government define plying for hire in statute."

But Tom Elvidge, general manager of Uber in London, claimed the proposals discriminate against drivers who use apps.

He said: "The mayor is piling extra costs and red tape onto licensed private hire drivers.

"This plan will cost drivers who use Uber hundreds of pounds and thousands may lose their livelihoods as a result.

"Fewer drivers will mean longer waiting times for passengers."