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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

Police hit out at Uber safety record as 600,000 Londoners call for ban to be overturned

Transport regulators in London have decided not to renew the app-based taxi service's licence citing concerns over "public safety and security"

Uber has been told that its licence to operate in London will not be renewed.Toby Melville/ Reuters
Uber has been told that its licence to operate in London will not be renewed.Toby Melville/ Reuters

More than 600,000 people in the United Kingdom have signed an online petition protesting against Uber’s ban in London, even as police in the capital accused the company of falling short over reporting sexual offences allegedly committed by some of its drivers.

Transport regulators in Britain’s capital made the shock decision on Friday not to renew the app-based taxi service a licence to operate from September 30, on the grounds of “public safety and security”.

The petition opposing the announcement says that 40,000 drivers would be put out of work, while millions of Londoners would be deprived of “a convenient and affordable form of transport".

Meanwhile, the head of London’s Metropolitan police’s taxi and private hire unit accused Uber of being selective over which crimes it reported, telling police only about “less serious matters” that would be “less damaging to [its] reputation”.

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Inspector Neil Billany wrote in a letter obtained by The Sunday Times that the company had kept at least six alleged sexual assaults on passengers, two public order offences and an assault committed by its drivers from police. In one case, the driver in question had gone on to commit a second, more serious sexual attack.

“Had Uber notified police after the first offence, it would be right to assume the second would have been prevented,” Mr Billany wrote.

Scotland Yard received 48 allegations of sexual assaults by drivers against passengers in London in the year to February 2017.

On Friday, Uber’s chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi warned that the global company would pay “a high cost for a poor reputation” in the wake of the ban in London.

Mr Khosrowshahi, who replaced Travis Kalanick as the Uber chief last month, sent an email to employees in which he confirmed that the company would appeal the Transport for London (TfL) ban.

Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber's boss, has apologised to Londoners for mistakes made by the firm. Matthew Lloyd/ Bloomberg
Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber's boss, has apologised to Londoners for mistakes made by the firm. Matthew Lloyd/ Bloomberg

“It’s critical that we act with integrity in everything we do, and learn how to be a better partner to every city we operate in,” he wrote.

“That doesn’t mean abandoning our principles - we will vigorously appeal TfL’s decision - but rather building trust through our actions and our behaviour. In doing so, we will show that Uber is not just a really great product, but a really great company that is meaningfully contributing to society, beyond its business and its bottom line.”

Operating in 50 British cities, London is Uber’s biggest European market with 3.5 million customers.

Its arrival in the capital in 2012 was controversial because it significantly undercut the prices of the city’s famous black cab fleet, one of the most expensive in the world.

Unsurprisingly, black cab bosses, who last year blocked London’s streets in protest at Uber, praised the decision not to renew the licence as the “right call”.

For now, Uber will continue to operate as the company appeals the ban by TfL, which itself is chaired by London’s mayor Sadiq Khan.

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