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Uber stripped of London licence over safety concerns

The ride-hailing service can appeal against the decision by Transport for London

A photo shows the Uber app and a bus in London. Reuters
A photo shows the Uber app and a bus in London. Reuters

Uber has lost its permit to operate in London after the transport regulator in the UK capital declared the company "not fit and proper" to hold a licence.

Transport for London said on Monday that a "pattern of failures had placed passenger safety and security at risk".

The regulator said breaches by Uber included unauthorised drivers exploiting vulnerabilities in the app to carry thousands of passengers.

Uber’s licence in London is due to expire on Monday at midnight local time.

Uber Technologies Inc's shares fell 4.3 per cent as US markets opened.

Helen Chapman, Director of Licensing, Regulation and Charging at TfL, said: "Safety is our absolute top priority. 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.

“It is clearly concerning that these issues arose, but it is also concerning that we cannot be confident that similar issues won’t happen again in future."

Uber has 21 days to appeal against the decision, during which time it will be able to continue to operate in London.

Uber has been engaged in a battle with London's transport officials since 2017 after TfL refused to renew its licence, citing failures in the San Francisco company's approach to reporting serious criminal offences and driver background checks.

Uber appealed the decision and was granted a 15-month licence in 2018, which expired in September this year. The company was then granted a further two-month extension.

The company said it would introduce measures to improve driver and passenger safety, including a discrimination button enabling drivers and riders to report abuse, enhanced safety training for drivers and a direct connection to the emergency services.

Uber described the decision as "extraordinary and wrong". The company claims to have audited every driver in London over the past two months.

Uber's chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi wrote on Twitter: "We understand we’re held to a high bar, as we should be. But this TfL decision is just wrong.

"Over the last 2 years we have fundamentally changed how we operate in London. We have come very far — and we will keep going, for the millions of drivers and riders who rely on us."

However, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said in the past few months, it had been established that 14,000 Uber journeys had been conducted fraudulently with unauthorised drivers uploading their photos to other drivers' accounts.

"I know this decision may be unpopular with Uber users but their safety is of paramount concern," Mr Khan said.

"Regulations are there to keep Londoners safe, and fully complying with TfL's strict standards is essential if private hire operators want a licence to operate in London."

The company has fired back, pointing out that Tfl had found it fit and proper in its most recent license renewal in September.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition party Labour, said: "We want innovation but not at the expense of people's safety. Sadiq Khan is right. Like everyone else, Uber must play by the rules."

"A Labour government will not tolerate companies which exploit their workers, don't pay their fair share of taxes and disregard passengers' safety," he added.

Updated: November 25, 2019 09:05 PM

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