Transport for London (TfL), the governing body for the UK capital’s transport network, on Monday refused to renew taxi hailing firm Uber’s license to operate in the city because of safety and security concerns.
TfL said the US-headquartered taxi app was not “fit and proper” as a licence holder despite having made a number of positive changes to its operations.
“Transport for London (TfL) has concluded that it will not grant Uber London Limited (Uber) a new private hire operator’s licence in response to its latest application,” it said in a statement.
The Uber said it will appeal against the decision because it was “extraordinary and wrong”. Meanwhile, it can continue to operate until the appeals process is ongoing.
“As the regulator of private hire services in London we are required to make a decision today on whether Uber is fit and proper to hold a licence. Safety is our absolute top priority,” said Helen Chapman, Director of Licensing, Regulation and Charging at TfL.
“While we recognise Uber has made improvements, it is unacceptable that Uber has allowed passengers to get into minicabs with drivers who are potentially unlicensed and uninsured,” she said.
The move could potentially benefit Indian ride-hailing start-up Ola, which clinched an agreement for its entry into the London market in July.
Ola’s model, already operational across a number of regions in the UK, is expected to involve London’s traditional black cabs to also use the ride-hailing service.
Uber originally lost its licence in 2017 due to safety concerns, but was granted a 15-month extension. It had received an additional two-month extension in September which expired on Sunday.
“We have fundamentally changed our business over the last two years and are setting the standard on safety,” said Jamie Heywood, regional general manager for Northern & Eastern Europe at Uber.
“TfL found us to be a fit and proper operator just two months ago, and we continue to go above and beyond. Over the last two months we have audited every driver in London and further strengthened our processes,” he said.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan welcomed TfL’s decision on safety grounds.
“Only in the last few months it has been established that 14,000 Uber journeys have involved fraudulent drivers uploading their photos to other driver accounts – with passengers’ safety potentially put at risk getting into cars with unlicensed and suspended drivers,” said Khan.
“I know this decision may be unpopular with Uber users but their safety is the paramount concern,” he said.
TfL’s concerns included Uber’s approach to carrying out background checks on drivers and reporting serious criminal offences. Uber’s use of secret software, called “Greyball”, which could be used to block regulators from monitoring the app, was another factor, according to the transport regulator. PTI AK