Uber is directing its customers to designated “pick up points” located in London which taxi drivers claim are tantamount to taxi ranks.
It has been reported that Uber directed customers to designated “pick up points” located on Wardour Street, Archer Street and Romilly Street in London. This is because much of Soho is inaccessible due to outdoor dining that has sprung up as lockdown restrictions lifted and restaurants opened for outdoor dining.
Wired News reported the story of the “world’s first taxi rank” when in 1634, in the shadow of the 100-foot maypole outside the church of St Mary-Le-Strand in London, four men dressed in uniform waited with horse-drawn carriages lined up in a row. They worked for Captain John Bailey, a wealthy veteran of Sir Walter Raleigh’s expeditions, and had been given instructions to charge people fixed tariffs to transport them to different areas of London.
The exclusive right of taxi (hackney carriage) drivers to park and ply for hire on London’s taxi ranks is enshrined in law. The London Hackney Carriages Act 1850, section 4 empowers TfL to appoint taxi ranks and make regulations as to the limits of the ranks, the number of taxis to be allowed to ply for hire there, the time during which they may ply for hire and also for enforcing order at the ranks, and removing any person unnecessarily loitering there
According to Uber, these “pick-up points” are not taxi ranks. An Uber spokesperson has been reported to have said that “the pedestrianisation of some areas of Soho has left riders unsure of the best place to meet their driver, and it set up these spots to make life easier for drivers and passengers alike.
“Drivers should not wait for a trip in these areas or pick up any passengers they are not matched with on the app,” the spokesperson says. Uber is reportedly in talks with TfL and Westminster City Council to find a solution to this issue and says the pick-up spots will not be permanent.
On the other hand, Black Cab drivers say these “pick-up” points are tantamount to taxi ranks and sets a dangerous precedent.
The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association is reported to have said “Uber has always got away with everything.
“I don’t think there’s any malicious intent, I don’t think there is an intent to do anything illegal, there’s just the ‘I do what I want attitude’.” – Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association
TfL says it is “looking into this issue” and has deployed officers to monitor specific locations to ensure that no vehicles are causing an obstruction to the highway.
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