Concorde could fly you to New York and back faster than a speeding bullet – with a glass of champagne and bragging rights to boot – for 83p per mile (about £1 per mile adjusted for inflation). The common-or-garden Hackney cab may cost about five times as much (for example, Heathrow to Warren Street is 17.9 miles and can cost £84 = £4.69/mile). Indeed, a one-way trip in a black cab from Heathrow to Fitzrovia may cost more than a return flight to Vienna on a budget airline. This is the result of market-distorting preferential rules.
Hackney cab drivers inexplicably enjoy a rule stating that no one else can describe a taxi service as a “taxi” in their marketing, and the important restriction that no one else can pick up passengers on the street. These regulations have deep historical foundations, dating back to the days of Dick Turpin. In today’s world, they are anachronistic, anti-competitive and pointless.
When there are price comparison sites for insurance, airlines, hotels, holidays and office supplies, where we can buy the same product from a myriad of suppliers at different prices, how is it that there are very strict rules requiring that Hackney drivers receive a minimum wage for every mile driven yet private hire drivers do not? Why is it good for certain stripes of taxi driver to be able to oblige people in London to pay higher rates than the market would support if such a law was not in place?
Why do the same drivers, who expect to be able to choose what clothes they wear (and how much they pay for them) and which airlines and car insurance firms they use, want to deny travellers in London the basic freedom to choose another vehicle service they can hail at the airport or on the street?
If people want to pay for the superior knowledge that the Hackney drivers clearly possess, they will do so. If they do not care, they will find cheaper alternatives until the market has informed the black-cab community what customers really think and what price they are willing to pay.
Many people are disgusted with the special treatment bankers received, but through the price controls and regulations on taxis in London, transport markets are being distorted to favour one type of vehicle provider.