A petition against the proposed crackdown on the operation of Uber franchised taxis is quickly approaching 100,000, as supporters of the service fight back against the potential restriction of the service through tightened regularity.
Whilst Transport for London (TfL) undertake consultations which they claim are intended to “raise standards across the industry”, many critics have described it as a crude attempt to limit online based 'ride sharing' companies, with a restriction of trade in the country's capital.
Uber has openly claimed that it feels their service is being deliberately targeted by the talks, and that the consultation could “spell an end to the way the taxi-hailing app operates”.
At the moment the plans are looking to introduce a minimum of a five minute waiting time for bookings, as well as English language tests and restrictions on drivers being registered with more than one firm.
Simon Walker, director general at the Institute of Directors has called the measures “backwards and heavy handed”, and will potentially damage London's reputation for innovation. Also commenting that the Mayor of London Boris Johnson should be reducing the regulation in the capital, rather than by stiffening regulations to protect cab drivers.
Judging by the amount of support for the petition so far, it seems that a large amount of the public might agree with that opinion. The main question raised by the punters themselves is - why should they continue to prop up an outdated and heavily subsidised black cab culture, just to promote some sort of ideal about London?
Steve McNamara of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, denies that the proposals currently being set out are there to protect their trade. “The Mayor is no friend of ours... TfL have done the black cab trade no favours at all. This regulation is aimed at public safety. This whole thing that Uber are going to go out of business, that they will be driven out of town – it is hogwash. All TfL are trying to do is ensure that drivers speak English, know roughly where they are going, and that they are insured”
With scuffles breaking out at city hall two weeks back, after Boris Johnson accused those opposing new technology of being Luddites, it's not yet clear how this conflict will ultimately pan out. But the one sure thing is that by making it harder for new companies to provide what the customers in London want, they'll be once again putting themselves on the wrong side of public opinion.