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London taxi strike looms

Taxi on Tower Bridge
Taxi on Tower Bridge
Photo: Lars Ploughman (CC 2.0 license)

By David Stewart White

Drivers of London's iconic black taxis plan to stage a disruptive strike on June 11. The dispute pits traditional cabbies against less-regulated operators using Uber and similar ride hailing computer apps.

The protest is spearheaded by the city's Licensed Taxi Drivers Association. The LTDA believes that computer apps are actually taximeters and are subject to the rules governing traditional cabs.

London's taxis are regulated by Transport for London (TFL), which ruled that the smartphone apps are not meters. In a statement issued on May 29, Leon Davis, TFL's director of surface transportation, said that "apps can offer passengers the potential of better and more convenient services." However, TFL is seeking a definitive ruling on the issue from Britain's top court.

Davis said that Transport for London welcomes "developments that make life easier for passengers...but must ensure that the highest standards of safety are being met."

The June 11 strike could cause travel chaos in parts of London. Taxi tempers have already flared on May 24 after a group of cab drivers vandalized offices of Hailo, a taxi hailing service computer app. Hailo was originally limited to use by licensed taxis, but the company is reportedly considering allowing non-taxis to join the service.