Transport for London (TfL) has today (September 22) informed Uber London Limited that it will not be issued with a private hire operator license after expiry of its current license on September 30. The news follows a report by a cross-party group of MPs in July, that called for the number of private hire vehicles in London to be capped, to fight congestion and pollution.
The report, which was backed by a study from the Department for Transport said the number of private hire vehicles in London has doubled to 120,000 since 2010. Although Uber disputed the figure at the time.
“The explosion in the number of private hire vehicles on the streets of London is causing serious congestion and pumping out fumes contributing to the toxic air that is killing more than 9,000 Londoners each year,” said Wes Streeting MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Taxis and Labour Member of Parliament for Ilford North.
A statement released by TfL today read, “TfL has concluded that Uber London Limited is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator license. TfL considers that Uber’s approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications.”
TfL’s decision has been backed by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who said that Uber must “play by the rules”, but has been met by both opposition as well as support.
UBER UNDER FIRE
Jennette Arnold OBE, chair of the London Assembly, said of TfL’s decision, “We welcome Transport for London’s decision not to renew Uber’s licence. The London Assembly unanimously agreed for the licence not to be renewed, unless the company improved its working practices.
“Londoners’ safety must come first and the Assembly was concerned about the effects of Uber’s practices on its own drivers, other private hire operators, and the London licenced taxi trade.
“If Uber wants to operate in London in the future, it really must up its game, in terms of safety and its working conditions.”
But the decision sparked anger in some quarters. London Assembly member Andrew Boff said of TfL’s announcement, “This is a hugely damaging decision by Sadiq Khan that will effectively put 40,000 people out of work at the click of a finger.
“The mayor consistently tells us London is open but in shutting down the operations of an innovative market leader like Uber he has caused immense reputational damage to our city as a global business hub.
“With 3.5 million registered users almost half the city’s adult population Uber has shown to be providing a hugely beneficial service to Londoners. Sadiq Khan has ignored their needs and instead believed the smears and propaganda propagated by Uber’s rivals.
“Yes there are elements of the industry that need tweaking; yes there needs to be a reduction of bureaucracy for black cab drivers; but snuffing out the competition at the expense of thousands of employees and millions of customers is not the solution.”
On the issue of safety, the Conservative assembly member said, “All allegations around passenger safety, especially those alleging assault, have to be taken seriously and referred to the police but I would expect the same standard to apply to all operators.”
FORMAL APPEAL EXPECTED
TfL has stated that there is the option for Uber to appeal today’s decision: “The Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 includes provision to appeal a licensing decision within 21 days of it being communicated to the applicant. Uber London Limited can continue to operate until any appeal processes have been exhausted. No further comment will be made by TfL pending any appeal of this decision.”
Uber has announced that it plans to immediately challenge the decision.