As Zelo Street regulars will know, driver and rider matching service Uber has recently encountered significant resistance to its operations around the UK, and not least in London, where the company’s checks on drivers have been shown to have fallen short on several occasions. Worse, some of those drivers who passed their checks were found to have behaved improperly. And then there was the road safety problem.
The litany of bent and mangled Toyota Prius vehicles may be a good laugh for those not involved, but it was anything but for the unfortunate punters, and the emergency services who have to clear up after all the accidents. The thought occurs that having one eye on the Uber app has distracted many of those who have ended up crashing their cars.
All of this came to a head last year when Uber was given a mere two month extension to its licence by TfL. But for London’s regulators, matters have not improved sufficiently, and so it was no surprise when the BBC’s Tom Edwards told this morning “Being reported Uber will get London licence revoked. Nothing official yet but everything seems to be pointing that way ... Uber will no doubt appeal & presumably be allowed to operate. Initial concerns over reporting crimes & driver background checks”. That was almost right.
The licence expired yesterday, and so it was not a revocation. But it was a refusal, as Sky News confirmed. “Transport for London says Uber has not been granted a new licence to operate in London after ‘several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk’ were identified”. Predictably, though, “Uber has confirmed it will appeal against TFL's decision to strip it of its licence describing the action as ‘extraordinary and wrong’”.
Why that should be has been hinted at by the BBC’s report, with TfL’s Helen Chapman telling “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”. The scale of this minor inconvenience was then laid bare by the Mayor.
Sadiq Khan has let it be known that “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”. 14,000 journeys. That’s totally out of order.
Also, “Uber's use of secret software, called ‘Greyball’, which could be used to block regulators from monitoring the app, was another factor, according to TfL”. And although Uber has claimed “We have fundamentally changed our business over the last two years and are setting the standard on safety”, Zelo Street readers will know the reality.
The Metropolitan Police expressed serious concerns about the use of Uber vehicles by the criminally inclined back in 2017. Potential problems with the booking process have been known about since the start. TfL tried to bring Uber to heel in 2014, but their initiative was overridden, allegedly by central Government intervention.
Uber keeps saying it will up its game. But it never does manage to address the problems. So it should surprise no-one that it may now have come to the end of the London road.
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