Who really has the passenger’s best interests at heart?

I’ve found the recent changes demanded by Transport for London (TfL) to be an interesting barometer of attitudes within the industry.

Most of the changes seem pretty reasonable. I accept there is some bias towards bigger companies – with deeper pockets – to make process changes. However, most of the cost of meeting the new legislation will be picked up by software companies supplying the industry.

Many suppliers have had to drop whatever development work they were doing, in order to make sure their customers are compliant with the new rules about driver photos and other details sent to passengers on booking. Even though there is no financial return for companies making these changes and the time they have spent upgrading systems to deal with this functionality, it should be accepted that, on balance, this is for the good of the industry we’re part of, and passengers being safer is a good thing. (By the way, some systems – such as Echo – already offered as standard most of the functionality required by the new regulations)

Of course there are other regulation changes which, by and large, are focused on improving passenger safety. Foremost is the tightening of English language testing. I don’t think anyone who has had the frustration of trying to communicate with a cab driver who has such a limited understanding of English that even working the SatNav is a challenge, would not welcome this change. No one feels safe when you can’t converse with the driver on the most basic level.

But hold on … enter stage left … a company that has built its model on forcing prices ever downward, and to do this relies on an unlimited source of cheap labour to continually stoke ever more arguably exploitative ride options … yes, you guessed it, our old friends at Uber.

So, while everyone else in the industry is complying with better standards for drivers, Uber is taking TfL to court simply because it risks being unable to retain its grip on a never-ending supply of cheap labour prepared to work for ever reducing pay. Of course, what is doubly amusing is that many of these drivers flooding into Uber’s Promised Land are really turkeys voting for Christmas, as they could very soon be replaced by a car that drives itself.

Once again we will have expensive lawyers and lobbyists bending the world of private hire to the design of one company, whether that’s best for London or not. To reinforce this, they are trying to mobilise their customers to support the move by e-mailing them and asking them to vocally support their initiative.

For now, reputable suppliers and operators will strive to ensure they and their customers are all compliant with the new regulations by the beginning of October, and thereafter continue to adhere to the both the principle and letter of the law.

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