The days of the black cab are set to make a return because Transport for London (TfL) has just stripped Uber of its London licence.
The American ride-hailing company had applied for a new licence to operate in the capital, but TfL rejected it on the basis that Uber is not a “fit and proper” private car hire operator.
TfL said that, “Uber’s approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility,” relating to serious criminal offences, driver background checks and obtaining medical certificates.
Uber will immediately appeal the decision made by London’s transport authority, which it says demonstrates that, “far from being open, London is closed to innovative companies”.
In an official statement, Uber London general manager Tom Elvidge added: “Transport for London and the mayor have caved in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice.
“3.5-million Londoners who use our app and more than 40,000 licensed drivers who rely on Uber to make a living will be astounded by this decision.
“To defend the livelihoods of all those drivers and the consumer choice of millions of Londoners who use our app, we intend to immediately challenge this in the courts.
“Drivers who use Uber are licensed by Transport for London and have been through the same enhanced DBS background checks as black cab drivers. Our pioneering technology has gone further to enhance safety with every trip tracked and recorded by GPS.”
London Mayor and Labour party member Sadiq Khan was in favour of the move: “I fully support TfL’s decision ─ it would be wrong if TfL continued to license Uber if there is any way that this could pose a threat to Londoners’ safety and security.”
He added: “I want London to be at the forefront of innovation and new technology and to be a natural home for exciting new companies that help Londoners by providing a better and more affordable service.
“However, all companies in London must play by the rules and adhere to the high standards we expect, particularly when it comes to the safety of customers. Providing an innovative service must not be at the expense of customer safety and security.”
Good news for black cabs and private hire firms, then, although there are fears such a decision sends a message that innovative and disruptive companies may want to reconsider a move to London.
David Learn, a director at the London First campaign for businesses, said: “This will be seen as a Luddite decision by millions of Londoners and international visitors who use Uber and will also hit London’s reputation as a global tech hub.”
London First added that it was a “rash decision” on TfL’s part and that the “issues should be worked through” for the sake of the Uber drivers and users.
Others have criticised the fact TfL should have been stricter with Uber in the first place and that it is partly to blame for the situation. London Assembly member, Andrew Boff, commented: “TfL must answer questions about why its background checks on licence applicants appear to be failing. Uber provides the platform but it is TfL that conducts checks on the drivers.”
Uber’s current licence for London will expire on the 30th of September, 2017. The company has 21 days to appeal the decision.
Other locations around the world have booted Uber out, or plan to do so, including Italy, Hungary, two states in America, Taiwan and the Northern territory of Australia.