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Addressing the 'Black Cabs are so expensive' remark blog #Taxis4u

In a world of huge competition, where the competitors have very deep pockets, they have marketing budgets, they buy advertorial space in newspapers, they wine and dine those in power, those with a lot less money to splash around cannot counter the bad press, this blog post is hopefully going to address some of the issues the London Black Cabs / Taxis face.

We don't drive standard mass produced production cars, we drive purpose built vehicles, the closest we get to a mass produced vehicle is the Mercedes we have in the fleet, but after the initial production, ramps, rear wheel steering and a number of other changes are made to the vehicle before it's ready to be a London Taxi. This adds significant costs to the vehicle (approx £10,000 extra). The latest LEVC is around £65,000 to buy, these vehicles only have a maximum of 15 years (some 12 years older diesels) to be on the road and licenced as a London Taxi. But it's worth noting every change to those vehicles above the specification of a mass produced car is something to improve the safety / service for the customer, ramps allow for wheelchairs (every London Taxi must be able to take a standard size wheelchair with the passenger seated in it), rear wheel steering it to allow for a tighter turning circle to allow for u-turns reducing the driving distance thus lowering the cost to the passenger for the journey. One feature that really has come into it's own recently with the current Covid-19 issues is the central partition that separates the driver from the passenger, this feature has enabled the Black Cab drivers to provide services to the NHS isolating the drivers from the passengers that could be ill with the virus.

A blog post on our response to Covid 19 here.

So when you get in a London Black Cab you are getting in a purpose built vehicle that is driven by a driver that has passed the world famous Knowledge of London, I could write a whole blog on just the Knowledge (might do in the future) but all most people need to know is we have passed a test which includes a number of topographical tests, where our ability to name places of interest and routes across London is tested in one to one interviews. This ability which is often compared to a satnav is much more than just what a sat-nav can provide, can a sat-nav tell you a good restaurant on a specific time of day and week?, can a sat-nav predict traffic patterns in advance?, but the key thing that is often overlooked is concentration, the driver via passing the knowledge has very little reliance on sat-nav's to do their job, this means much more of their focus is on the road and actual driving. The politicians in City Hall have refused to break down accident statistics for Black Cabs and minicabs like Uber, we have asked several times and these requests fall on deaf ears.

Black Cabs have either 5 or 6 seats, the Mercedes Vito is a 6 seat taxi with a lot of room for luggage, this is comparable in size to an MPV vehicle, remember this when looking at pricing. Another thing that is often not talked about is the space in the back, there is a lot of room, a lot of headroom as well, it's not the same as sitting in the back of a normal saloon car.

One thing that I see often is our prices significantly misrepresented, if it's the hotel doorman in a Central London hotel then it is likely that he/she will making some money on the side getting their own driver to take you, if a doorman in a Central London hotel is saying a Black Cab is £100+ to Heathrow then this doorman is exaggerating our price, that is normally around £70, always ask cab drivers on a rank what the approximate price is, don't instantly believe hotel staff who may be making some 'commission' from your journey. Our default way of charging is by a strictly regulated taximeter, the calculation that the meter uses is carefully worked out in conjunction with Transport for London on an annual basis. Our meter currently is calculated on what is termed the cost index, which is the actual cost of the journey, where the vehicle, fuel, maintenance and a living wage for the driver is all taken into consideration. Longer journeys can be negotiated in terms of fixing a price that both you the customer and the driver is happy with, it's always worth having that discussion with a driver at the front of a rank. If you don't get a favorable deal with the first Taxi, ask the one behind, it is a customer's choice which Taxi they take.

Another thing that winds me up is the Heathrow Express marketing and advertising, there was a advert for the Heathrow Express recently where the headline was a Taxi from Heathrow to Paddington was £93, this is totally misleading as this journey is normally £65-£75 depending on traffic, I made an official complaint about this to the advertising watchdog in the UK and their reply was technically because the ads were in the baggage hall in arrivals the adverts were not technically on UK soil so did not come under their jurisdiction, nonsense, on further digging into this £93 claim the route that they used to do the calculation was to leave the airport, drive on the M4 westbound (leaving London), go north on the M25, then use the M40/A40 to complete the journey, this is not a route a Taxi driver would use unless the M4 was closed, in fact any Taxi Driver using that route without good reason should expect to be reported to TfL. As I stated before this is £65-£75 journey. Because the Taxi Trade does not advertise it's prices for specific journeys it is often misrepresented in terms of pricing.

On our website we are happy to quote a fixed price for journeys, these will be below the metered fare but not by much as we don't believe in undermining our meter, the fixed cost is more about piece of mind for you the customer than super discounts that long term damage our business model.

If your overriding priority is price then I am sure there are many websites and apps that will get you a reasonable discount, if on the other hand good value is important then please consider using London Taxis as there is a lot of good reasons for using us over our competition, namely safety, knowledge, vehicle and driver training in terms of a specific Taxi driving test called 'The drive' which is like a driving test but focuses on Taxi driving and loading of wheelchairs, which has been scrapped in recent years but at least 90% of current taxi drivers have undergone this test.

Being a Taxi Driver is a vocation in the UK, it takes years in London to become a Taxi Driver so most that enter the trade remain in the trade for many many years, I have met a good few Taxi Drivers with 50 years Taxi Driving experience, I love my job, I worked hard to get my badge, I do feel under presure to lower my standards but I am resiting that presure as I pride myself on doing a good job that I trained for.

With the advent of competition I come under some presure to match other peoples prices, whilst sometimes depending on the journey I am happy to negotiate a fixed fare I will not drop down to unsustainable prices just because I have a competitor that uses prices propped up by ignoring regulations, passing on the capital risks to drivers who clearly don't know what they are doing when they sign up to be a minicab driver, how many of these last a year in their job?, it's not many, I want a sustainable career.

Transport for London (TfL) published Taxi tariff information Taxi Tariffs.

In this world you get what you pay for, cheap is cheap for a reason!.

Written May 2020.