back to article English Uber alles in London taxis? No way, TfL – taxi app titan

Uber is embroiled in another legal battle over Transport for London’s new rules, which will require all drivers to take a compulsory English test. The multi-billion pound taxi app company has faced bans and protests worldwide. Black cab drivers have taken part in protests bringing traffic to standstill many times, prompting …

  1. Unep Eurobats

    Do I really need my driver to speak English?

    As long as they can understand where I want to go, that should be fine, right?

    Some passengers might prefer it when they realised there was no possibility that they would be required to make small talk.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Do I really need my driver to speak English?

      The only small talk you get from Black cabs is the light racist variety i've found.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Do I really need my driver to speak English?

      You have never had the experience of trying to get somewhere in a foreign country with a driver that neither knows the country, nor the language. I have had that and have observed that first hand multiple times in different countries. Ensuring that it cannot happen is fair as far as regulatory requirements go.

      Applause to the TFL - provided that it is _NOT_ discriminatory. All must sit the test (even British passport holders).

      1. Unep Eurobats
        Thumb Down

        Re: Do I really need my driver to speak English?

        "the experience of trying to get somewhere in a foreign country with a driver that neither knows the country, nor the language"

        How about the experience of trying to explain a potentially lethal nut allergy to an uncomprehending waiter? This is clearly a cartel trying to protect its interests. If there were a powerful organisation of restaurant staff they would be attempting the same sort of thing with equally flimsy justification.

      2. bazza Silver badge

        Re: Do I really need my driver to speak English?

        Applause to the TFL - provided that it is _NOT_ discriminatory. All must sit the test (even British passport holders).

        Applause indeed, but there is precedent in the immigration rules about exemption from language tests. People from English speaking countries don't have to do the exam as part of the immigration process.

        So no need to make British born drivers prove they can speak English, that's already settled elsewhere in laws and rules.

      3. Planty Bronze badge
        FAIL

        Re: Do I really need my driver to speak English?

        Clearly you have never used Uber, THE DESTINATION IS DETERMINED AT TIME OF BOOKING BY YOU, USING THE APP. The driver doesn't need to speak to you, that's the point...

        How difficult is this for people to grasp?? Quite honestly hard for cabbies it seems.

        1. gnasher729 Silver badge

          Re: Do I really need my driver to speak English?

          That's the intended destination. Not necessarily the destination.

          1. Ben Bonsall

            Re: Do I really need my driver to speak English?

            Best cab I ever had, I got in, gabbled the address, and the GPS heard me and repeated it back, and off we went. Didn't have to speak to the driver at all...

        2. BillG Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Do I really need my driver to speak English?

          YES, my cab driver needs to speak English. Why? Because sometimes things go wrong, and when they go wrong I want a cabbie that understands what I'm saying. Make sense?

      4. stu 4

        Re: Do I really need my driver to speak English?

        agreed. If you've ever had the misfortune of having to get a cab in New York you'd agree too.

        Nothing against Uber - these requirements seem sensible to me.

      5. AndrewDu

        Re: Do I really need my driver to speak English?

        No need to involve the State in this. Just give feedback along the lines of "driver couldn't speak the language and didn't know where he was going". End of his contract shortly after. Problem solved.

    3. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Do I really need my driver to speak English?

      Call me fussy, but I'd be happier if the person driving me could read road signs.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Do I really need my driver to speak English?

      "require all drivers to take a compulsory English test"

      Out of about circa the last 50 Uber rides I took, only 1 driver was apparently British.

      This requirement can only be a good thing as it forces integration and helps exclude illegals from employment.

  2. Colin Bull 1
    Pirate

    Level playing field

    I am glad to see some common sense and the application of the same rules to everyone. I live 2 miles from Plymouth City centre, but because I am in Cornwall cannot apply for a Plymouth PH licence unless I have a base there. Note. This does not stop me operating in Plymouth.

    If Uber want to operate in all districts they should have premises in all districts AND logs in all districts that can be visually inspected by the authorities when required. If I must do it - so should they.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Level playing field

      Thats not a level playing field, thats just old bureaucracy in action. Therefore set up a national taxi board and take it out the hands of the councils. You can still test locally but then covered nationally sounds a lot better than going to local cabs for local people.

      1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

        Re: Level playing field

        set up a national taxi board and take it out the hands of the councils

        I heard recently that there is a small town near me which has more registered PH than residents. The reason for this is that their testing standards are much lower than the surrounding towns and cities. As a private hire license from any council will allow you to operate anywhere, they get their license from that town but then work the larger cities nearby.

        This is ludicrous. There are 2 possible fixes I can see: Set up a national standard for getting a PH license, or restrict cabs so that they can only pick up from the area they are licensed. I prefer the former.

        As for Uber, I believe they are covered because they aren't offering a taxi/PH service, their drivers are (individually). They just provide the infrastructure to connect them to clients. So Uber do not need a base in Plymouth, their driver does.

        The TfL rule takes this a stage further, and too far IMHO. What if a local London PH firm wanted to run their call centre from a cheaper location, say Leeds, or Manchester, or Edinburgh? Or even offshore it? Surely it is completely anti-competitive to disallow this and force them to pay London wages? Why can banks and mobile companies shift their call centres offshore, but a private hire company can't?

        1. bazza Silver badge

          Re: Level playing field

          As for Uber, I believe they are covered because they aren't offering a taxi/PH service, their drivers are (individually). They just provide the infrastructure to connect them to clients. So Uber do not need a base in Plymouth, their driver does.

          Passengers pay their fare to Uber, so the contract is with them, not the driver. Also if Uber have a set of terms and conditions on their website for either drivers or passengers then that reinforces their status as a service provider, not a service broker.

    2. AndrewDu

      Re: Level playing field

      "If I must do it - so should they."

      Wrong approach.

      You shouldn't have to do it, it's just a barrier to entry put up by the cartel that currently runs the taxi business.

      Dinosaurs, the lot of them.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shut the door on the way out

    Black Cab know their gravy train days are numbered....Night Tube and Uber showing the real cost of getting around london. For too long TFL have let Black Cabs hike the prices up and up. The 2 mile journey from Tube station to my home costs around £12-14 via black cab. They have priced themselves out of the market. Never mention an early morning cab to Heathrow, black cab £92 Uber £45 its not really a contest as a consumer I don't really want the driver to speak to me too much. I just want them to drive me south of the river (God forbid).

    1. astrax

      Re: Shut the door on the way out

      I think it's somewhat disingenuous to say Black Cabs are on the gravy train. It takes at least three years of dedicated study to become a London Black Taxi driver, which entails getting up at ridiculous times to make the runs, going for regular examinations (called "appearances") in which the examiner can ask for practically any road, cul-de-sac or point of interest in a 20 mile radius, as well as passing the additional driving tests.

      As for pricing, you clearly have not been subject to a). Ubers' surge pricing or b). the Uber drivers' SatNav fluffing mid journey. Of course there are cheaper alternatives, but if I need to be somewhere urgently I'm happy to pay a little over the odds to get there asap.

      1. Kay Burley ate my hamster

        Re: Shut the door on the way out

        As detailed in The Book of Dave. ;)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Shut the door on the way out

        "It takes at least three years of dedicated study to become a London Black Taxi driver, which entails getting up at ridiculous times to make the runs, going for regular examinations (called "appearances") in which the examiner can ask for practically any road, cul-de-sac or point of interest in a 20 mile radius, as well as passing the additional driving tests."

        Which was fine in the 1980's when everyone walk around with a London A-Z in their bags as it was the only way you knew how to get somewhere and "the knowledge" was paramount. But times and technology has moved on we don't need the reliance on the knowledge as much as we used too. Yes its good but hey look grandad I got multiple devices that can tell me where to go even my watch. TFL need to get with the 21 Century and keep London ahead of its game not die in bureaucracy.

        Uber Surge pricing is normally late night and at the weekend in the early house the price i quote is standard 8-6pm pricing for black cab. Also I can wait till surge passes unlike black cabs who tariff 3 is just eyewatering expensive late night.

      3. handle

        Black cab dinosaurs

        @astrax: "going for regular examinations (called "appearances") in which the examiner can ask for practically any road, cul-de-sac or point of interest in a 20 mile radius"

        Why? Just why, nowadays? Because "the Uber drivers' SatNav fluffing mid journey"? Car breaking down is more likely.

        1. astrax

          Re: Black cab dinosaurs

          @handle Some of us see technology as a *huge* help, not a crutch. What you're saying is the equivalent of "why do I need to learn the LAMP stack when there's a Puppet module(s) to do it for me?".

          I agree with what AC said above to a degree, although I would go as far as to say that combining appropriate tech and on the job knowledge is far more preferable than utilising just one or the other.

        2. micheal

          Re: Black cab dinosaurs

          Past few black cabs I have used in central london have spent most of the journey playing with their multiple phones and satnavs attached to the windscreen and very little else, makes me wonder if the have actually remembered the routes they learned

      4. Anonymous Coward
        FAIL

        Re: Shut the door on the way out

        Ah the "knowledge".

        Is that the bizarre thing where I can't get a cab to go from one side of a bridge to another, yet somehow I can get a taxi from Birmingham to Worcester, via to other two other towns on the way, with no problem at all?

    2. It wasnt me

      Re: Shut the door on the way out

      I agree with all of your points. And I think Uber is the right choice for you. They use Satnav, which will help them get you to Heathrow, which is of course, north of the river. :-)

    3. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Re: Shut the door on the way out

      Min-cab to Heathrow: £28. And they are full-time drivers and know how to find a good route. And they are licensed etc. We had mini-cabs licensed because previously, mini-cabs were dodgy propositions with clapped out, uninsured cars and drivers with poor English, suspect immigration status and no background checks etc. These old-style mini-cab services were considered a dangerous risk, and so legislation came in, to universal approval.

      And Uber is different how...?

  4. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Unhappy

    How about a taxi Universal Service Obligation ?

    because otherwise I can see black cabs disappearing and all there will be is Uber good luck with accessibility as drivers refuse to take wheelchairs and guide dogs ....

    Yes there are laws against discrimination, which - in the grand scheme of things - are useless.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How about a taxi Universal Service Obligation ?

      "because otherwise I can see black cabs disappearing and all there will be is Uber good luck with accessibility as drivers refuse to take wheelchairs and guide dogs ...."

      Makes a change from black cabs refusing to go East London or South of the river this time of night, I've personally had both many times a taxi won't go too east from the west end where his rich picking are, I've personally complained to the TFL about a number of drivers in the past so at least Uber does pick you up and take you there.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Price

    The other half gets into real hot water with employer if expenses claim includes black cab as the prices are just so massive, strict instructions that unless vital (e.g. need to hail cab to get to client ASAP because running late due to late train / tube etc) then cheaper form of private hire to be used e. minicab, app based services.

    Quite easy to get black cab fares on expenses that total more than the advance train fare down to Central London from the North (North of England, not North London)

    AC due to nature of the information

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    goodbye little guy

    Just sounds like more regulation to help the big companies keep small ones from being competitive.

    Wonder how long it will be untill they just charge them a million pounds to operate just like they do in New York

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: goodbye little guy

      Actually it's probably the reverse. Large companies love to host their large call centres in cheaper parts of the UK or offshore, but it wouldn't make sense for a small private ire firm with one person on the phones to do so. So this regulation stops the larger companies from making savings that the smaller companies can't, and reduces the chance of the smaller firms being undercut on costs (and hence pushed out of business).

      If you wanted to complain about this the line would be that it pushes fares up due to the higher costs of running call centres in London, though it could be argued that this is balanced by the extra competition that results from keeping small operators viable.

      Uber are parasitic scum who's business model depends on trying to flout the rules in a market that is highly regulated - in large part due to the need to guarantee public safety. I don't see any reason why Uber should not have to comply with the same regulations as other providers of minicab services, even if that means their costs rise as a result.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: goodbye little guy

        fellow A/C, have a downvote for your reasoned, well thought-through and intelligently argued point about:"parasitic scum", such as Uber, and of course I'm sure you meant to include the black cab drivers who sit at Heathrow and try to refuse local fares from local people.

        yes, there should be a level playing field, and yes, it should apply to everyone - the Uber drivers without insurance should be prosecuted, the black cab drivers blatantly ripping off the tourists should lose their status, either both types of driver should face English language tests or neither (in the polite use of the English language).. As for the ridiculous rule about call centres being in London, that's fine too - if it also applies to every cab operator, including all black cab owners being forced to take fares via a call centre in London.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: goodbye little guy

          But black cabs and uber-type taxis are two different services. Black cabs are ply-for-hire hackneys. Uber-type taxis are private hire and are banned from plying for hire, they must be booked for the journey.

          As hackneys ply for hire the majority of hackneys are sole operators, so ultimately they automatically are operating from an "office" in their license area.

          Londoners are disadvantaged in that they've only had private hire licensing for a decade or so, and it was a complete unlicensed free-for-all before then, and it still hasn't sunk into the public concousness that London now has licensed private hire. Whereas in civilisation, we've had licensed private hire for half a century, and people know what they are, know the difference, and know that they are licensed.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: goodbye little guy

          "of course I'm sure you meant to include the black cab drivers"

          No, I really didn't. As J.G.Harston noted, black cabs and minicabs offer different services - the key differences being in the way they get hired. Black cabs are able to ply for hire and hence not need to run an office at all, but in return they do have to agree to much heavier regulatory oversight than minicab firms do. I'm not entirely sure which aspect of the regulations you think the cabbies in Heathrow have been breaking but if they are breaking the rules they can be censured for it - take their number and make a complaint to TFL about them.

          The important consideration is that although black cabs and minicabs are regulated differently, they are both regulated. You know where you stand when you decide which service to use - flag a black cab down for "must leave now" occasions, and expect the driver to know exactly how to get you where you need to go, or book a minicab if you can wait 10 minutes for it to arrive and are happy to leave the navigation/traffic avoidance to the driver's satnav - but in both cases you can expect the car to be roadworthy, insured, and the driver to not be a known rapist.

          With Uber you have a service that in all respects behaves like a minicab (book in advance) but you really don't know what you're going to get when they turn up. The regulations are there to ensure that the cars are appropriately insured, the drivers are competent and "safe" (i.e. criminal records checks), and not operating in a way that would be anti-competitive (in the case of the rule about running a London office). Uber thinks it shouldn't be regulated at all, just because it defines itself as some other sort of service (we're not a minicab service because internet, or some such). In other words it thinks it's OK to be offering a service where there are no checks on the car, the driver or any limits on the way they provide their back end services - all so they can make a quick buck. That's why I think they are parasitic scum - they're trying to undercut existing operators (including "little guys") but refusing to play by the same rules.

          An alternative way around this would be to insist that all Uber drivers had to independently be compliant with the minicab rules in their own right. Of course, Uber would then just be an additional middleman taking extra overhead as their payment, and local minicab firms would be able to undercut them as a result. Uber could compete on that level playing field as a provider of a value added service - a better booking interface - and all would be fair again.

  7. Terje

    While, imposing regulations to keep a "monopoly" running is not fair, demanding that as in this example a cab driver is:

    a) Able to communicate with you to a reasonable degree. A just arrived immigrant from farawayistan, with a grasp of the language only slightly better then the flight ability of a goldfish is not something that will help you get where you need to be on time and with a sane mind.

    b) Having a basic grasp of locations without the use of a gps. If you want to go to say a convention center let us call it ye olde convention center but that is not the name under which the gps lists it then you are in alot of trouble unless the driver has the base knowlege to actually know what the place is. Ofcourse there should be reasonable expectations for this sort of thing.

    c) Driver having more then minimal ability as a driver, I want to get to the location in one piece, without throwing up and with my sanity still intact.

    1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

      a) With Uber, you normally input your destination before the cab even arrives. They do not need to know English to get you to your destination, they just need to follow the directions on the app. They don't even need to talk to you (which is a huge win in my book!)

      b) As with a), as the destination is already selected, they needn't know anything about the area, just follow the directions.

      c) This should be taken care of separately. Personally, I believe driving with paying passengers should require an additional driving test to be taken, and retaken regularly. This should apply to all such drivers, not just private hire, but it's not contingent on understanding English (except where needed to understand road signs).

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's about time there was even more of a shake up of commercial driving legislation, not just protectionist measures like this one. Without much more than opinion behind me, so I am happy to hear contrary views, why not require all commercial drivers (cabs, vans, buses etc.) to sit refresh exams on a regular basis to ensure that those who spend so much more time on the road in a large, heavy weapon with an engine are up-to-date with both regulations and fitness? Why not also impose even stricter requirements to adhere to the laws of the road, such as larger fines and easier banning or training / re-test requirements for the same?

    I know of a number of people in my more distant social circle who have acquired a UK driving license through well known gaming of EU license-swap deals with their counties of origin. Can't remember exactly which way, but most EU countries have residency-plus-swap arrangements with many of their former colonies and allies - the UK does too - which means no local testing for the important differences in road laws and, even more for the UK, driving on the other side of the road...

    1. astrax

      You know what would be great? The UK Sentencing Council defining guidelines that actually reflect the gravity of dangerous driving crimes.

      For every single frickin' motorist, commercial or otherwise.

  9. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Stop

    anyway, all this is moot

    Driverless/autonomous cars will - eventually - make most private motoring obsolete, and travelling by car a JohnnyCab experience.

    Hence HS2 and any other big travel infrastructure plans being a little bit moot too.

    Given how we seem to have slipped back in some respects (look at what the late Victorians had, compared to us) I predict that in 100 years time, the concept of private car ownership will seem as quaint as we find horse and carriage today - and as restricted to the elite as owning a horse and carriage was too.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well done sir ! (Or Ma'am) !

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-37117831

      The ride-sharing firm Uber will, for the first time, allow users to hail self-driving cars later this month, it has been reported.

  10. StewPidassil

    No More Lies - Expose Uber

    Translation? This would severely hamper their recruitment efforts and cost them money. Lots and lots of money.

    (RIDESHARE DRIVING EXPOSED)

    https://youtu.be/ANDvhphrF4c

  11. Andy 97

    While I have every sympathy for the black cab drivers

    who spent many hour (and substantial sums) to get their badge and car, it's not hard to see that this disruptive technology will be the winner.

    Also, Talk Sport and LBC will be closed due to a lack of callers to their mid-morning and insomnia-shift programmes, so it's not all bad news.

  12. wolfetone Silver badge

    I've only ever used a Black Cab in London once, but when I did he got lost.

    However, I'd rather the Black Cab than Uber. I have used Uber in Birmingham and it's pot luck really as to what car you get. I've had a lovely trip, once, in a Mercedes and then every other time it's been in a delapidated Toyota Carina E or a Vauxhall Zafira - both cars actually fail to meet Ubers own guidelines. And I wont mention the one Vauxhall Zafira a friend got in to that had on one side the Uber sign and right next to it the sign for a local cab company. Again, against Ubers rules.

    To top it all off, after a night out, you can haggle with the taxi driver about the cost. With Uber you either pay the "surge charge" (I think that's what it's called) which will be over inflated to hell, or you pay whatever rate they think it'll cost going by the miles. I would rather haggle with the guy:

    "How much to go to X?"

    "It's on the meter"

    "But how much is it"

    "It'll be about..... £20"

    "It's just one stop over there, I'll give you £10"

    "No no £20, £20"

    "£15 then?"

    "OK"

    Try doing that with Uber.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "And I wont mention the one Vauxhall Zafira a friend got in to that had on one side the Uber sign and right next to it the sign for a local cab company. Again, against Ubers rules."

      Many of the Cab company cars are also Uber drivers. I often see both markings on the cars.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've used Uber a handful of times.

    Once, trying to get an Uber from Edgware Road late at night, the driver "cancelled" my journey costing me money even though he didn't even turn up. I didn't realise till a few weeks later.

    Another time, the charge for the fare was far more than Uber told me it would be as it only gives you an approximate fare

    Once, I got an Uber from Belsize Park to south of the river, it was probably the best taxi I have been in for a long time, a Seat Alhambra with a glass roof etc, spacious, friendly driver etc. It also saved me the hassle of looking for a local minicab office.

    I usually use the local minicab office as I have the number saved in my phone and I know the fare will be consistent, every time I have been in an Uber the driver has complained that they aren't making much money with Uber.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019