All London black cabs will support contactless from next week

But is it really worth the increase to the minimum fare for all journeys?


London's entire black cab fleet will be required to carry readers to process card and contactless payments as of Monday October 31st, Transport for London (TfL) has announced today. This is no great surprise, of course. The ball began rolling on the new rule late last year, and TfL set an October deadline this past March. For now, all that's asked of black cabbies is they have the facility, but from January next year readers will have to be mounted on the passenger side of the glass. Some hackney carriages have supported card payments for years, but for the majority of cabbies cash has remained king. From next week, though, it'll no longer be optional.

While the move will make black cabs considerably more convenient for passengers -- especially when contactless support is so ubiquitous now that lugging around a bulging wallet or purse just isn't necessary any more -- it feels like too little too late. One of the main reasons Uber has pinched so much business from the black cab trade is convenience, both in hailing and paying. Gett and Hailo have levelled the playing field for black cabbies somewhat, and Hailo even lets you pay online for taxis you've hailed curbside (you don't even need the app). Requiring black cabs to accept card and contactless payments is welcomed, but it's hardly a game-changer.

The other main reason Uber is so popular is because it's cheap. Black cabbies have avoided taking card payments in the past to dodge transaction fees, and so TfL went about negotiating favourable rates on their behalf before imposing this new rule. However, to cover any shortfall, the basic fare was increased by 20 pence (from £2.40 to £2.60) earlier this year. So, yes, card and contactless payments will be supported across the fleet from next week, but all rides have become even more expensive as a result. What a way to make black cabs competitive again...