Not content with shilling for driver and rider matching service Uber to the exclusion of all other London taxi and private hire operators - including those whose services can be accessed via an app - the Tories have now gone the whole hog and started to recycle the firm’s propaganda as well. This has not occurred to the gullible hacks at the Evening Standard, where Uber has never been known to do wrong.
So it was that the paper’s City Hall editor Pippa Crerar told readers yesterday “'Londoners could end up paying £90m per year on black taxis if Uber appeal fails,' warn Tories”. Do go on. “Londoners could end up paying an extra £90 million a year in black cab fares if Uber’s appeal is unsuccessful, it was claimed today … London Assembly Tories claimed that if a deal was not reached, the consequences for the app’s users could be far-reaching”.
Yes - far-reaching enough for Londoners to realise they don’t need Uber to get around the capital. But where does this dubious-looking figure come from? Here’s the first hint: “The Tory analysis shows that, excluding surge charging, the cost of an average journey by Uber is 40 per cent cheaper that a black cab”. Very good - but surge charging is now a regular feature of Uber journeys, especially at busy time.
Indeed, some drivers have figured out how to induce surge pricing to kick in and therefore make a handy bonus - something for which it is hard to blame them, when many are making so little out of driving around scratching for fares. But there’s more. “With one million Uber journeys a week taken in London, and with black cabs making up 17 per cent of all licensed cars, the report calculated that Londoners would pay an extra £89.5 million a year if they used black cabs instead”. Except that is crap.
As black cabs make up only 17% of all licensed cars, the idea that all Uber customers would switch to them and ignore all the other private hire operators is just fanciful. The reality would be that most would use other private hire services. The additional revenue coming to the taxi trade would be nothing like the £89.5 million claimed.
The Standard also claims that the Tories’ report states “a permanent ban could also affect Uber’s 40,000 drivers, who face lost earnings of £864 million a year”. Two things here. One, if black cabs cost 140% of Uber fares, and £89.5 million is 40% of that 140%, then the 100% of London Uber fares is £224 million. And what the drivers make - 80% of the fare - is £179 million. The Tories’ own figures show they are lying.
And two, the accounts for Uber BV, the company registered in the Netherlands which takes the revenue, or at least most of it, show total 2016 revenue for all their Europe, Middle East and Africa operations of $650,662,000. That’s less than £500 million. Which means the claimed figure of £864 million just for London is yet more lying.
Perhaps Andrew Boff, the Tories’ London Assembly spokesman, got his decimal point in the wrong place. But if he did, then his “£89.5 million extra” claim is wrong, because that, as I’ve shown, gives the lie to that excuse.
London’s Tories would be more convincing with their Uber propaganda if only they could get their figures straight. But they can’t. So they won’t be convincing anyone.