The Sharp End: Doing a fare day's work

The life of a minicab despatcher is not the low-tech one it once was, finds Dave Waller.

by Dave Waller

I'm off to flex my phonetics as a cab despatcher - foxtrotting and tangoing down the radio with the taxi drivers at Addison Lee.

The first thing that strikes me when I arrive is that Addison Lee is not your typical minicab company. It has clearly moved up a gear from those old-school, nicotine-stained cab offices where at 2am a wan, stubble-bedecked bloke barks into the radio and a motley line of ancient Toyotas and Nissans lurks outside. Its Euston HQ is more like the lair of a Bond villain, full of uniformed minions plugged into banks of screens showing rolling databases and London maps. The latter are submerged under a sea of coloured dots, as if Blofeld is planning to suffocate the city with skittles.

In fact, each dot represents one of their 1,381 minicab drivers: red means they're busy, blue they're en route to a job, green they're ready for work and yellow they're reading the sport pages.

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