Uber is seeking to settle a decade-long row with London taxi drivers by allowing cabbies to find fares through the company’s app.
The US minicab app said it would start offering black cab rides in the capital from next year. It will offer the service by signing up individual taxi drivers to its service.
Uber said it had signed up its first few drivers ahead of the service launching in the New Year.
It marks the first time travellers will be able to hail black cabs through the app in six years. Uber allowed taxi drivers to offer rides in London from 2014 until 2017 but shut down the feature because too few drivers were using it.
Uber struggled with sign-ups amid a long-running battle between the app and black cab drivers, who argued the ride hailing service was undercutting them.
London’s biggest taxi union rejected Uber’s latest announcement and said its members were unlikely to sign up.
The Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), which represents more than half of the capital’s 17,706 registered drivers, said it had been blindsided by Uber’s move.
LTDA general secretary Steve McNamara said: “We are not aware of any drivers having been recruited and don’t believe our members will even consider joining the app, given its well-documented, poor record on everything from passenger safety to workers’ rights in London.”
Andrew Brem, Uber’s UK boss, claimed it was a “win-win-win” that would boost options for taxi drivers and make London’s transport network more efficient.
Uber’s attempt to mend ties with black cabs marks its latest effort to become an all-encompassing transport app that has seen it add trains and flights to the service.
It said it would charge a service fee and take a referral fee from drivers, whose fares are regulated, after six months.
Uber fought a series of legal and political battles with taxi drivers across Europe as it swept across cities, offering passengers cheap rides through a smartphone app in a way that critics said skirted key regulations. Drivers repeatedly staged protests against Uber, blocking London’s streets.
Uber has since struck a series of deals with taxi companies in 33 countries including France, Belgium, Italy and the US.
Mr McNamara said taxi drivers were winning more customers from Uber, which has raised prices in London in recent years as a result of overwhelming demand.
He said: “Our business is thriving – in part because many of the ride-hailing app’s former customers have realised that black cabs offer a far superior service, at a fair and reasonable price.”
Mr Brem said: “We’re partnering with taxi drivers across the world and the message we are hearing from them is clear – Uber and taxis are better together.”