Transport for London has announced that Uber will not be given a new London licence after it was deemed “not fit and proper” to hold a licence in the capital, prompting many to look for alternatives.
In 2017, the ride sharing company lost its licence after TfL deemed it to not be a “fit and proper operator”. However, a judge granted it a 15-month extension. This expired in September, but Uber was then granted a two-month private hire operator licence extension, which came to an end on Sunday. Uber now has 21 days to appeal and can continue to operate during that time.
Although TFL acknowledges the “positive changes and improvements to its culture, leadership and systems” that Uber has made, it has identified a “pattern of failures” such as unauthorised drivers being able to operate due to “weak systems and processes”. Uber appears to be planning to heap pressure on TfL and mayor Sadiq Khan to encourage them to overturn the decision, much as it launched a petition when a ban was first proposed in 2017. It has mounted similar campaigns in other cities around the world.
It took out a full-page advert on the back page of London business newspaper City AM on Tuesday as it moves to reassure customers it is business as usual. “We’re still here for the 3.5 million Londoners who rely on Uber to travel safely around the city, or make a living,” it read. It has also been not only reassuring customers logging into its app—”We’re still here, London!”—but also urging them to “share how you use Uber” by tweeting to them.
About 45,000 drivers work for Uber in London, and if its licence is ultimately rejected all of them could lose their jobs. However, there are other apps providing a similar service which they could join.
This news could come as a huge blow to the 45,000 drivers in London who work on the Uber platform, but one of the benefits of being freelance is that they do have the option to work for other companies as well as the famed ride-hailing app. With both Ola and ViaVan being offered licenses this year, this market and its operators are expanding, giving workers and customers more choice. If this decision by TfL is upheld, there will be a large gap in the market that these players will be racing to fill and a vast sum of drivers looking for other platforms to operate on.
Safety has to be TfL’s priority and Sadiq Khan said that 14,000 Uber journeys have involved fraudulent drivers uploading their photos to other driver accounts, this decision is not surprising. If the new and existing players learn from Uber’s mistakes, this could be a very exciting time for freelancers in the ride-hailing market over the next three to five years.
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