Black cabs come­back as driv­ers hail ride-book­ing app

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Technology Intelligen­ce - By Michael Cog­ley

BLACK cabs are mak­ing a come­back in the UK with taxi driv­ers more will­ing than ever to use ride-hail­ing apps, ac­cord­ing to taxi com­pany Free Now.

Free Now com­pleted a merger with pri­vate hire app Kapten in July and said that black cab driv­ers are con­tin­u­ally join­ing de­spite reser­va­tions around be­ing on the same plat­form as pri­vate ve­hi­cles.

The com­pany claimed that it now has a pas­sen­ger base of 1.5m peo­ple with 35,000 driv­ers in the city of Lon­don alone. UK coun­try man­ager Mar­iusz Zabrocki said that there was a time when black cab driv­ers never wanted to be on the same plat­form as pri­vate ve­hi­cles but that now “times had changed”.

“The num­ber one con­cern from driv­ers was that what if cus­tomers all sud­denly de­cide the cheaper op­tion,” he said.

“But I think black cab driv­ers are ac­tu­ally very hum­ble be­cause their ser­vices are very good.

“It’s much bet­ter than any­thing else you have in the city with cars that are specif­i­cally built for it.”

Mr Zabrocki said Free Now had seen very lit­tle churn of driv­ers leav­ing the plat­form af­ter the merger and that there were up to 20 black cab driv­ers join­ing every day. He said there was a “sky­rock­et­ing de­mand” among driv­ers.

The UK chief said there had been a bump in users as Lon­don­ers sought out al­ter­na­tives to public trans­port.

The com­pany was ham­mered by the coron­avirus with vol­umes dip­ping as much as 95pc in cer­tain mar­kets. “Busi­ness to busi­ness was com­pletely dead, air­port rides were zero, there were still some rides with consumers mov­ing around but it has been very tough since April,” Mr Zabrocki ex­plained.

“It is grad­u­ally im­prov­ing but if you look at mo­bil­ity in­dexes we’re still less than 40pc of pre-covid lev­els even though we’re see­ing peo­ple switch from public trans­port.”

Mr Zabrocki said that he ex­pected vol­umes to re­turn to nor­mal by Novem­ber or De­cem­ber if there was no rise in the level of in­fec­tions but said that a se­cond wave would likely push this back to May. The com­pany has set its sights on fill­ing the void left be­hind by Uber if it loses its li­cense to op­er­ate in the UK.

Free Now re­mains some way be­hind Uber, which has about 3.5m UK pas­sen­gers.

Uber is await­ing a rul­ing from the Supreme Court over its li­cense to op­er­ate in Lon­don.

The com­pany li­cence was re­voked over a “pat­tern of fail­ures” re­lated to pas­sen­ger safety.”

At the time, Uber la­belled the de­ci­sion by Trans­port for Lon­don as “ex­tra­or­di­nary and wrong”.

Lon­don’s fa­mous taxis are said to be putting aside their reser­va­tions about pri­vate op­er­a­tors and join­ing plat­form

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