Taxi wars on the streets of Cambridge have broken out with Hackney cab drivers claiming Uber will drive illegal drivers to cash in on the trade putting passengers in danger.
Robert Soanes, secretary of Cambridge Hackney & Private Hire Association, which represents more than 200 licensed drivers, fears the taxi app company will encourage unregulated traders to jump on the bandwagon and has called for action.
In a statement he said: “As an association, we are greatly concerned that the travelling public may be endangered by the creep of certain internet booking companies who work to very different standards than those currently enjoyed by the good people of Cambridge.
“The latest model is that due to poor driver take up in Cambridge, Uber has been sending drivers from London, who are licensed by TfL, to cover a perceived demand and those drivers do not display statutory door signs which are a requirement for locally licensed vehicles.
“Uber cars do not have taximeters fitted so they do not even look like a taxi once inside. Other companies may copy this, and we are very concerned that soon it may be the norm for the public to enter vehicles which do not have correct signage.
“This new normal could become very dangerous with people getting into vehicles, which are not licensed fully or even illegal. Although this is within central government policy and we fully understand that our local licensing authority have no option but to accept outside (non-locally licensed) vehicles using the streets of Cambridge.
“We urge the authorities to consider restricting their access to central Cambridge to ensure that these vehicles, which do not conform to local rules, cannot inadvertently or indeed deliberately pick up unsuspecting travellers for their own profit.
“This may conceivably start a trend that could lead to long-term public endangerment, which is unacceptable under any circumstance.
“Further, it would assist in the obligation to maintain established local safety standards.
“We request that the city and county councils of Cambridge act upon our concerns by restricting the use of ‘bollard zones’ to those cars which comply fully with local regulation and thus only those operating under either city or SCDC (South Cambridgeshire District Council) plates and by definition, displaying correct door signs and easily identifiable Hackney or Private Hire Vehicle license on the rear, thus, are obviously licensed taxis.
“Furthermore, we are concerned that the local taxi enforcement teams have no statutory powers to stop a TfL vehicle or ask the driver for proof of his or the vehicles license. Members of the public who have cause to complain about a journey taken in a TfL licensed vehicle, that is carrying out a journey in Cambridge can only complain to TfL as our local Councils have no jurisdiction over vehicles licensed elsewhere.”
A spokeswoman said: “All Uber trips are pre-booked through the app in accordance with private-hire regulation. After the booking, the passenger receives the driver’s name and photo as well as the car’s registration number, make, model and colour so they can easily identify the right car before getting in.”
Cambridge City Council has been approached for comment.