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17/12/2012 - Are Britain's black cab days numbered?

The London taxi has been a dependable and dignified feature of the city's streets, but now it is under threat.
 
This week it appears the future of the black cab is now under threat, after the vehicle's manufacturer, the Coventry-based Manganese Bronze, announced that it was going into administration.
 
In October, LTI (London Taxi International) went into administration putting the future of Britain’s only black cab maker at risk. The administrator, PWC (Price Waterhouse Coopers), sacked 156 workers and there is now a very real risk that the company could collapse, or the black cab could end up being built abroad.
 
The administrators are reaching a crucial stage in shortlisting potential buyers and Unite the union is urging stakeholders to apply as much pressure as possible to ensure that any buyer commits to building the black cabs in the UK.
 
The company, which has been making black cabs since 1948, has not turned a profit since 2007, and last-minute discussions with its largest shareholders have failed to secure any kind of bailout. Should no solution to Manganese Bronze's financial woes be found, it will mark the end of a long and majestic era.
 
Black cab drivers are of course the stuff of legend – famed not only for their familiarity with the city's streets (a wisdom called The Knowledge, gathered over the course of two to four years' study) but also for the quality of their conversation.
 
Unite has called on prime minister David Cameron to join London mayor Boris Johnson in backing their campaign to ‘Save the Black Cab’.
 
The union has written to David Cameron, Boris Johnson, business secretary Vince Cable and transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin urging them to support Unite’s campaign.
 
In a letter responding to Unite’s request, Boris Johnson wrote:” Be in no doubt that I remain fully committed to the future of the iconic black taxi and will do everything in my power to help ensure a secure future for cab drivers in London. Please take this letter as proof of my support for your campaign to keep the black cab on the streets and thank you again for writing to me.”
 
Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said:”We’re pleased the London mayor is backing our campaign and we hope David Cameron will join him in supporting the iconic black cab. There is a very real risk to the future of the black cab and Unite is campaigning to ensure that any buyer commits to building the black cabs in the UK.”
 
Unite is urging PWC and any potential buyer to keep manufacturing in Coventry and the black cab on the road. PWC could make the final decision on the company’s future towards the end of this month or early January.
 
Unite has set up a facebook campaign page with a link to a petition and is building public support for the campaign. Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity commented: "Unite should be congratulated for spearheading the campaign to save a British icon."