Mayor Johnson

Black cab bullies

On Thursday the black cab trade got together and blocked roads in Westminster to protest about a scheme being run by Westminster Council and the Met to get people into cabs late at night in the West End. See BBC story here. I guess the story got lost in all the snow but it sounds like the black cab drivers will be doing this again soon.

It is in no-one’s interest to have young people wondering around late at night trying to get transport home. Westminster has come up with an imaginative scheme but the black cab drivers see it as a threat.

This YouTube clip shows how much they hate minicab drivers impinging on their frankly unfair privileges. The piece ends with the sentence: “How long before it starts to get nasty and someone gets hurt badly?” Judging by the thuggish black cabbie who was berating both the minicab driver and his customer in this clip that sounds like a threat that black cab drivers will get violent if they feel like it. What a scumbag?

In London there are about 22,000 black cabs and 44,000 minicabs. I often find black cabs are superior to minicabs. But most of all, when I get into a taxi in Newbury, I usually just want to get home and too many black cab drivers want to do the airports, work during the day but still protect their privileges if they deign to go out late on a Saturday.

I hope Westminster succeed with their scheme in the short term. In the longer term we need some legislation which takes into account modern technology. It should be possible to text, phone or e-mail details such as location (GPS?), destination, desired pick up time, type of vehicle required, etc and get back in seconds two or three competing bids detailing price and time to pick up such that all you need to do is hit the reply button to strike a deal. The current minicab regime is totally ungreen because it forces drivers to travel half their time empty. This not only wastes fuel but makes minicabs twice the price they should be. Doh! By the way this is the only reason that black cabs can compete.

Rather than the current two tier system we need 66,000 or more cars that are better than minicabs in terms of driver and car quality, cheaper and more easily accessible by anyone, anywhere. Are you up for this Mayor Johnson?

Update: Why does it not surprise me to find an RMT banner at this protest? Oh yes, thuggish bullies.


13 replies on “Black cab bullies”

Interesting story this. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

RMT – thuggish bullies? They remind me somewhat of property developers.

Nearer home though I do wonder what plans you/Ealing Council might have about providing ‘legal’ waiting spaces for mini-cabs; and preventing the mini-cabs from no doubt illegally occupying Stop and Shop places in West Ealing locations like Kirchen Road, Manor Road and The Avenue?


I can understand Black cab drivers getting cross. If they transgress the law or their numerous regulations, they are at high risk of losing their livelihood. Generally they are treated very strictly.

Minicab drivers do not have to produce evidence that they are insured. In recent years I have met a few who were not insured. Some make such a poor standard of living because of the terms on which they are employed.

If a minicab driver transgresses, then that does not necessarily mean they are nearly so likely to stop being a minicab driver.

Don’t suppose in your capacity that you can introduce a bye law for Ealing? (Serious question). But if not you could say how you might influence a change. Thank you



Everyone needs insurance. It is the law. The council does regular action days with the police when we check vehicles for insurance among other things.

I know the Public Carriage Office does not ask for insurance details, I don’t know why. They do though check your licence so if you have picked up bans or points for driving without insurance they won’t give you a private hire licence.

The combination of these two measures should keep all but the stupidest minicab driver on the straight and narrow.


It has been impossible to get the Black Cab trade to all speak with one voice for years but Westminster Council and the Public Carriage Office (PCO) seem to have achieved it.

This notice from the PCO

Click to access 49-08-leicester-square-whitcomb-street.pdf

seems to deny that there is a MiniCab rank in Whitcomb Street but the Cabbies clearly disagree.
PCO Notice 49/08 does seem to split hairs a bit.
It seems to be an attempt by Westminster Council and the PCO to make it possible for people to pick up a pre-booked MiniCab from a waiting area in Whitcomb Street.

It is illegal for MiniCabs to pick up a fare from the street which has not been booked through a Licenced Operator but many of them do, particularly late at night and/or in Central London. This is known as ‘touting’. It is particularly prevalent near to certain West End Clubs and in Park Lane outside the Grosvenor House Hotel. An air of respectability is often given to this practice by a man in a high viz jacket with a clip board who ‘catches’ people coming out of the venue and directs them to a MiniCab waiting nearby. A person getting in to this MiniCab will be uninsured and potentially at risk because if anything untoward happens, like a robbery or a rape, there is no record through a Licenced Operator and it is very hard to trace the vehicle or the driver. The vehicle itself may or may not be a Licenced MiniCab displaying the PCO’s yellow badge and the driver may or may not be a Licenced MiniCab driver, it makes no difference if the vehicle has not been booked through a Licenced Operator.

This practice of ‘touting’ is particularly what the Black Cab trade is so angry about and they obviously see this waiting area in Whitcomb Street as either an attempt to legitimise it, or the thin end of the wedge to providing proper Ranks for MiniCabs in an area which they regard a their territory.

‘Touting’ is certainly a huge problem, hence the Safer Travel at Night adverts you may have seen on TV and TfL’s service where you text ‘HOME’ to 60835 to get the numbers of a Black Cab and two local MiniCab Operators so you can book a cab via your mobile phone.

The PCO have now Licenced the Operators, the Vehicles and the Drivers but haven’t yet managed to ensure that all three are involved every time someone gets in to a MiniCab.



Forget the status quo. I don’t think that the public has much time for all the complexity. I think they want lots of inexpensive, reliable cabs. You get that in New York and other major cities. Why not London?

We have 22,000 black cabs and 44,000 minicabs. We want to be able to get hold of them easily when we want them and we want the financial incentives to reflect our needs not the drivers’. It is inefficient to make minicab drivers work through a fixed base which require then to have premises, compete with shoppers for road space and drive half the time empty. We should be able to come up with a mix of regulations and technology that allow us to track drivers to keep people safe and make the drivers dance to the market’s tune. If people want the specialised cab and expert driver then black cabs will thrive in this market. A properly functioning market will drive up the standard of minicabs. Technology should allow us to specify the standard of cab we want and for it to be priced properly.


I don’t disagree with your sentiments, Phil, but it ain’t going to happen any time soon. Not unless there is a radical shakeup at the PCO and some completely new thinking brought to bear.

Right now we have two groups who detest each other, Black Cabs and MiniCabs, two sets of regulations which have to be upheld, and the Police have the difficult task of driving down cab related crime.

Robberies and rapes in cabs have been cut by half over the last five years but there are still too many. Hence the attempts to inform people about what they should be doing – always book a MiniCab through a Licenced Operator before getting in to it.


As you know getting phv licence is not that difficult but to get a job while workig as on going driver in registercd office is tricky now as number of drivers on increase due to job loses and number of jobs on decrease due to recession is the major problem .And favourtism among cab operators to their family or relatives etc driver being offered better or money making jobs leads to other hard workin driver being left with very minimal income . which leads to tauting on weekends but that is about genuine driver not the criminals mind drivers . they are criminals and will stay same allwayz. there are system now a dayz which can track driver and they are jobs . which is cost effecting too . The point i am making is that drivers dont know the their rights exactly or less knowledge of their rights . lack of company policies or operator`s clear instructin to controllers and the drivers . i mean not fair terms that they would have in place .many cab offices doesnt have code of conducts . the authorties have start from bottom and then the top .


‘We should be able to come up with a mix of regulations and technology that allow us to track drivers to keep people safe and make the drivers dance to the market’s tune’. I find your comments reflect your hostility towards the Licensed Taxi trade in favour of minicabs. We already have a system in place it is called the ‘knowledge’ and is open to anyone who wishes to complete it.We as drivers already ‘dance to the market’s tune’ everyday of our working lives, it is called supply and demand. But then you would’nt know anything about that while you are safely entrenched within the public sector with your snouts in the trough of public money, dispensing your patronising pearls of wisdom to those who face the realities of trying to make a living. You cite New York cabs as a standard we should aspire to; speak to Americans and they will tell you New York cab drivers are among the worst in the world, I could go on but your remarks illustrate a breathtaking lack of understanding of the taxi trade and it dismays me when I think that a person of your ignorance actually holds public office.



I am not hostile to the “Licensed Taxi trade”. I just find your constant attempts to exclude competition unappealing. I agree with you that there are many problems with the NY taxi trade but my epxerience of them is that they are plentiful and cheap. Black cabs on the other hand are too few in number and way too expensive. There is a happy medium but the Licensed Taxi trade is against it I fear.


Really as far as I can see it all comes down to price with you. Black cabs do not have a monopoly, anyone can be a cab driver if they pass the tests that enable them to ‘ply for hire’.
Surely you want a quality safe service at a rate commensurate with the obligations and to encourage peole to have a stake in the service (just like councillors allowances)
If you want to talk about New York ask why the subway can run 24/7 yet still be maintained?

Calling the RMT bully boys is unfair they are defending their livelihood just like the BMA, Law Society and the Bar Council do for their people. (or is that just the province of the elite?),
We could talk about the board of RBS attempting to bully the UK taxpayer.

London enjoys (despite some issues) the best cab service in the world, running at third world rates will lead to its demise.


Great article.

And that’s why you’ll never be in Government.


Who is leading you to defeat next year? We forget.


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