2015 was a difficult year for the taxi industry. The strength of sterling made the UK an expensive destination for tourists to visit, impacting on taxi earnings. The delay by TfL on its taxi age limit decision caused huge uncertainty in the London market and was compounded by the General Election which adversely impacted UK business activity and investment. On top of that, the unregulated growth in private hire licenses caused misery due to increased traffic congestion and pollution, not to mention the more sinister aspects of illegal touting, uneconomic fares that exploit drivers, and a general deterioration in safety standards.
When faced with such challenges, it is important that the taxi industry speaks with one strong voice. We must retain and build upon the goodwill of the travelling public, and put forward reasoned arguments that support a progressive long term vision of the taxi trade as the gold standard transport service. Only then will regulators and politicians provide a fair and sustainable regulatory platform.
Over the past year, under the #StayFareMayor campaign umbrella, we developed our united trade campaign to promote and enhance the best taxi service in the world. Our target audience is the taxi customer, because if we get more people in black cabs it benefits us all. We are also targeting our regulators, because we need a fair regulatory framework that maintains the distinction between taxis and mini cabs. We have plenty more work to do in this area but we are making progress.
One issue I’m majoring on in all of my meetings with senior regulators and politicians is the urgent need to cap mini cab numbers across the UK and in London to remove the Congestion Charge exemption that mini cabs currently enjoy. The situation is unacceptable, unbalanced, and we must get it changed.
Our commitment to the licensed taxi trade
Our mission is to support the provision of safe, accessible, reliable, durable and professional taxi services throughout the world. In a modern, caring society, transport policy should stipulate that all taxis are accessible to the whole population as this is the only way of guaranteeing universal mobility.
We are 100% committed to the licenced taxi trade and consequently we want our purpose built taxis to be the vehicle of choice in all cities around the UK. We believe that to achieve this goal we must continue to invest in new technologies to improve emissions performance, lower operating costs and provide greater levels of comfort for drivers and passengers alike.
In October 2015 we launched our new Euro 6 TX4, which is not only the greenest taxi we have ever produced but has been described by independent commentators as the best taxi we’ve ever built. This £10m investment programme to meet new emissions standards was the largest product development project that the company has ever delivered. The Euro 6 project demonstrates that we are not just focused on future products, but that we are absolutely committed to providing drivers with the best possible vehicle today. I would urge you to book a test drive to assess the difference and, with PCP deals available from £159 per week, it offers an affordable opportunity to drive a new vehicle that delivers a better driving experience with no worries during the three-year or 120,000 mile warranty period.
Laying the foundations for the future
In the past, the licenced taxi trade has suffered from under investment, a lack of policy focus, and short-term thinking. Under Geely ownership we are now looking to play our part and do what we can to put that right.
Geely’s £300 million investment is the single-largest investment ever in the licensed taxi trade and will enable us to build, not only our Zero Emission Capable TX5 taxi, but to do so in a new state of the art factory in Coventry that will secure British jobs for the future. This investment includes £50 million for establishing a research and development centre of excellence for advanced hybrid-electric powertrains and lightweight body structures, which will deliver ongoing improvements to our products into the future.
We’ve also recognised the strategic importance of retaining London’s largest Knowledge school - Knowledge Point - by rescuing it from closure and accommodating it within our London dealership. I want to support good quality job creation in London and so will be promoting new initiatives to help attract and train the London cabbies of the future in conjunction with Knowledge Point.
All of the above demonstrates our commitment to delivering a stronger, better future for the taxi trade. And within that, LTC is now in a healthier position to keep providing that support and investment. In 2015 we recorded a £1.5m trading profit before tax and other deductions, which builds on the positive £1.2m result we posted in 2014. We’ve achieved this by focussing on our priorities: you the customer and the quality of our products.
In 2015, we also hired 100 new employees, launched our graduate and apprenticeship schemes and have begun the construction of our new production facility which will be completed later this year. This growth will continue in 2016 with over 140 new employees set to join the business.
Opportunities, not just threats
Looking ahead I’m optimistic about 2016 and the years to come. London is a growing mega city; by 2030 we expect there to be another two million people living in London and, if industry experts are to be believed, car ownership in cities – not just London but across the UK – is on a downward trajectory. This means there will be more people without private cars that need to be moved around safely and efficiently. We’re getting older as a society and the demographics are shifting such that that there is a growing social need for professional drivers with vehicles people can access. The increase in demand from our growing cities and aging population should mean more business for the taxi trade. As a trade, we must capture these opportunities by continuing to improve the services we offer, be that new vehicles, accepting card payments or using e-hailing apps.
We have huge inherent strengths as a trade. We have professional drivers the public can trust; we’re fully accessible; we’re the fastest and, soon, we will be the greenest mode of road transport. I know looking ahead is difficult when we are faced with the pressures of today. But be assured, LTC is working hard to fight for a fairer playing field for the trade now and at the same time laying the foundations for a brighter future.
Thank you for continuing to support our business.
The London Electric Vehicle Company