Smart Transport

Black cabs under threat from shared booking platforms

London taxi fleet Sherbet has warned that shared booking platforms threaten the future business model for the black cab industry.

Mobility apps Freenow and Gett are now promoting the use of both private hire vehicles and black cabs on their apps in London.

Asher Moses, Sherbet London chief executive, said there could be long-term damage caused by both black cabs and PHVs sharing the same booking apps.

Moses: “With a number of apps now promoting both black cabs and PHVs, customers are presented with a choice about how to make their journey.

“However, in the vast majority of cases a private hire vehicle is presented as the cheaper option.

“I am concerned that customers will only consider the cost of their journey and not the benefits of using a black cab and this will result in journeys being diverted from black cabs to PHVs.”

One of the benefits of choosing a black cab driver is the fact they are professional drivers and would have studied for three to four years to pass The Knowledge test - the assessment where cabbies must memorise over 320 routes and 25,000 streets in order to get their licence.

Moses said that during Covid-19 there has been a significant drop in business for all of London taxi trade with some cabbies reporting that they are seeing earnings drop by up to 80%. 

With the ending of Government support for self-employed workers and businesses in London being slow to return to full time office-working, Moses said black cab drivers are facing difficult business conditions.

He said: “A further loss of business with customers being diverted from black cabs to PHVs will only exacerbate the problem and the consolidation in the market for booking cabs threatens this.

 “In the long term this may well see a reduction in business for black cabs and a challenge to the viability of the business model for Black Cab owners.

“It is vital that we continue to support the iconic black cab industry in London, particularly.

“That is why at Sherbet we only allow the booking of black cabs via our app.”

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