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Mon, 28 September 2020

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Getting London moving post lockdown: providing more choice and a better alternative

Getting London moving post lockdown: providing more choice and a better alternative

Both black cabs and private hire vehicles as individual modes of transport subject to strict hygiene measures address concerns around future virus spread, says Mariusz Zabrocki | Credit: FREE NOW

Mariusz Zabrocki, UK General Manager | FREE NOW London

4 min read Partner content

As they have for decades previously, black cabs and private hire vehicles will be at the forefront of getting the capital and wider country moving again.

Following the Government's call for London’s workers to start to consider a return to the office earlier this week, the Capital has accelerated its reopening following the lockdown.

The main worry for many of those looking to return to work, is how to get there - with understandable concerns about crowded buses, tubes and trains.

A raft of recent studies confirm the majority of people are looking for alternative means of transport, in response to the new normal of social distancing.

Much of what we took for granted has been changed beyond recognition by the events of the past few months, with few aspects of life impacted more than transport.

However, as well as presenting an immense challenge for public and private transport companies, the lockdown has also offered us an opportunity to reflect on consumer needs, reset our offerings and redefine the future of transport.

Indeed, latest figures show that road usage in the UK is already at 83 percent of its pre-COVID levels, whereas train use in London remains at just 16 percent, and bus rides across the wider country at 20 percent.

As they have for decades previously, black cabs and private hire vehicles will be at the forefront of getting the capital and wider country moving again.

A separate study also shows that over 70% of office workers would only feel comfortable if employers provided bikes and taxis for their commute to and from work, it is vital that people are given confidence in returning to work, with the commute being the thing that worries most. 

The current shift in mobility patterns is centred on three areas of change; convenience, safety and sustainability. 

The first point is convenience. As they have for decades previously, black cabs and private hire vehicles will be at the forefront of getting the capital and wider country moving again.

Whether it’s individually using them to ferry between working and socialising, or private businesses utilising them en masse for their workforce, there is a marked shift from public to private transport as a result of the pandemic. 

As of today, the UK’s number one black cab app, FREE NOW and Kapten, the UK’s number two ride-hailing firm have merged to offer both services through a single app.

Both black cabs and private hire vehicles as individual modes of transport subject to strict hygiene measures address concerns around future virus spread.

For the first time ever, both iconic black cabs and private hire vehicles will be available to consumers on a single app.  

Through the launch of the new app, FREE NOW has the fleet scale and the passenger base to become the number one market player - taking on Uber directly - with access to over 35,000 drivers using the app in London alone. 

The second area of focus is safety. Both black cabs and private hire vehicles as individual modes of transport subject to strict hygiene measures address concerns around future virus spread - particularly as additional protective measures such as masks become commonplace.

Particularly black cabs have a unique position to offer socially distant environments thanks to factory-fitted partition screens.

The final, and perhaps most universal, consideration is sustainability. London continues in its sustainability drive, with transport at the heart of progress.

Over 40 percent of taxi rides on FREE NOW are taken in electric vehicles. By bringing private hire cars (formerly under the Kapten brand) with its electric class, the new app is poised to play a part in ensuring the air quality in London doesn’t go back to pre COVID levels. 

I was also delighted to learn of the Government’s approval for the usage of rental e-scooters on UK roads, which is already in effect. We have been in discussions with a number of London boroughs on the potential roll-out of e-scooters.

In addition to providing more electric vehicles, the company is also looking to launch e-scooters in London in the coming months, replicating our offering across Europe.

As we look to rebuild more broadly from the lockdown, it’s important that we adapt to the ongoing change to consumer expectations.

As both an industry and a society, we have a unique opportunity to accelerate innovation and shape the future of transport.

For both transport providers and everyday consumers, it’s vital that we take it.

Mariusz Zabrocki is the UK General Manager at FREE NOW.

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