Thinking allowed — 26 August 2016

. . . London cabs Quentin Letts considers the point and the future of the black cab while acknowledging they are as much a part of London’s heritage as Big Ben, Beefeaters and double-decker buses.

The black cab can trace its lineage back to Oliver Cromwell. But the black cab industry is under threat, and London cabbies go through gruelling oral and written exams on the topography of London, past and present.

The process can take up to five years in order to get their licences, while the number of private hire vehicles in London has doubled in the last ten years. Sat-nav, Uber and now driverless private hire vehicles are just round the corner. Can black cabs keep up with the technology or will they go the way of the red telephone box?

Clearly a fan of the London cab he talks to detractor journalist Harry Mount who now refuses to use London cabs as a cab once took him on the wrong route through Camden to his home and curiously tells us that London cabbies should aspire to the standards of service that Uber provide.

Boris bikes have been and gone what what of Sadiq Khan cabs? Apparently driverless cabs are just around the corner: get in, inset your credit card; and tell the vehicle where to go. Nothing was mentioned about unannounced road closures or drunks with a propensity to dive in front of cabs on a Friday night.

In the light of these developments, Quentin Letts considers the future of the black cab and in his quest to answers these questions talks to cabbies, among others, Alf Townsend who has contributed to CabbieBlog.

What’s the point of London cabs was broadcast on Wednesday 24th September 2016 and is available on BBC iPlayer

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