LONDON, June 11 Traffic in central London is
expected to be severely disrupted on Wednesday as up to 12,000
taxi drivers converge on the capital to protest against the
American taxi-hire company Uber.
Streets around Trafalgar Square will be paralysed from early
afternoon by a demonstration that is also expected to attract
taxi drivers from France and the Netherlands.
San-Francisco based Uber, backed by heavyweight investors
including Goldman Sachs and Google, allows customers to book and
pay for a taxi using an app on their smartphones. It also
provides a second app for drivers to calculate the cost of a
But drivers of London's iconic black cabs say this second
app amounts to a taximeter and legally violates industry
regulations. Whilst the city's 25,000 black cabs can be flagged
down in the street and use a meter to calculate fares, the
44,000 private-hire minicabs must be pre-booked with a set fare
Transport for London (TfL), which regulates the capital's
various transport systems, has asked the High Court to rule on
the legal issue.
TfL's chief operating officer for surface transport Garrett
Emmerson said: "A number of taxi drivers are set to cause
pointless disruption for Londoners over a legal issue that is
down to the Courts to decide upon."
However, drivers groups and unions say the protest is also
directed at London Mayor Boris Johnson for what they call
"an-all out assault" on their industry.
Under the banner "Cabbies Against Boris" they are protesting
a rule aimed at reducing road pollution which bans the use of
taxis which are more than 15 years old. They say the ban has
done nothing to decrease pollution levels and forced drivers to
needlessly spend money on new taxis, which cost up to 40,000
"There will be serious disruption on Wednesday," said Mick
Cash, acting general secretary of the RMT transport union. "But
that will be nothing compared to the disruption and dangers of
allowing our licensed taxis to be driven from our streets
through a combination of ignorance and greed."
TfL recommended using the Tube or walking in central London.
(Reporting by Jack Stubbs; editing by Stephen Addison)