Saturday, 19 June 2010

London Cab Reform

I'm going to write an article on London cabs and cab-drivers soon, so expect the odd addition to the website. Here's a nice article:

LONDON CAB REFORM
If John Bull were not, with all his grumbling, one of the most patient animals in existence, he could never have endured so long the cabs which he has to employ for the conveyance of his person through the streets of the metropolis. They are very poorly furnished and nasty, far below similar conveyances in any continental city with which we are acquainted. Greater fault still is to be found with the drivers, a large proportion of whom are so prone to overreach, that it is hardly possible to settle for their fares without a squabble. Our experience leads us to say, that at an average a stranger pays 30 per cent. above the proper sum, besides having his temper in almost every instance ruffled to some extent by the sense of having no adequate protection from the rudeness of this class of men. For a lady, there seems to be no chance of escape but by the alternative of some enormous over-charge. Altogether this department of public economy in London is in a most unsatisfactory state. Most people avoid using these street vehicles whenever thhey can, and this is especially true of strangers. We can state as a fact that a provincial gentleman of our accquaintance is accustomed to take the inconvenience of the cab-system into account in deliberating whether he shall have a month of Londdon life or not. It is one of the repelling considerations, to a degree that the Londoners themselves are not aware of.
    In an age of such exquisite contrivance and precision in mechanical and commercial matters, it might have been anticipated that the bad system of London cabs could not long survive. All dishonest businesses write their own doom. Those only thrive which sincerely seek the good of the public. Accordingly, it is not surprising, at a time when one-and-a-half per cent. is a fact in banking, to find two large and powerful companies getting up to supersede the bad, old, dear, cheating cabs with a new and civilised set. It is proposed by one of these bodies to 'provide for the public a superior class of carriages, horses, and drivers, at reduced and definite fares; to afford the utmost possible security for property; ans especially prompt and easy redress of complaints.' With better vehicles at three-fourths of the present charges - namely 6d. a mile - and these to be settled for in a manner which will preclude disputes, this company deserves, and will be sure to obtain, the public patronage. One good feature of the proposed arrangements will, we think, be highly satisfactory: the companyh will form a sufficient magistracy in itself to give quick and easy redress in the case of any wrong. But, indeed, from the precautions taken as to the employment of drivers, and the hold which the company will have over them, through the medium of guarantee and their own deposits in a benefit-fund, it seems to us that the good conduct of the men towards their 'fares' must be effectually secured. The other company proposes to have two classes of vehicles - one at 8d. and the other at 4d. a mile; and it contemplates the use of a mechanism for indicating the distance passed over. We most earnestly hope that both companies will succeed in establishing themselves and carrying an improvement so important to the public into effect.


Chambers Edinburgh Journal, 1852

1 comment:

  1. Did that cab company come into existence, I wonder, and if so, did it thrive?

    Cabs, boatmen and (as I found in Egypt) camel drivers, have always been criticised for rapacity and foul manners. Plus ça change...

    If I were to invent a new aphorism it might be "Success breeds contempt". By that I mean that new companies trying to become successful conduct themselves in an exemplary manner, with excellent customer service, but then, once success is theirs, lose sight of their original good intentions and become no different from their unworthy competitors.

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