Uber loses London license over safety

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London's transport authority on Monday refused to renew an operating licence for the ride-hailing giant Uber because of safety and security concerns.
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London’s transport authority on Monday refused to renew an operating licence for the ride-hailing giant Uber because of safety and security concerns.

“Transport for London has concluded that it will not grant Uber London Limited a new private hire operator’s licence in response to its latest application,” it said in a statement.

The rejection is the latest setback to the firm’s operations in London, which have been targeted by protests from traditional black cab drivers to previous licence suspensions.

In September, Uber was granted a two-month extension to its licence following the expiry of a previous 15-month agreement. The extension was conditional on passenger safety improvements.

But TfL said on Monday there was a “pattern of failures,” including the use of unauthorized drivers on other drivers’ accounts, allowing them to pick up passengers.

The transport authority said this happened at least 14,000 times, endangering users, as it invalidated insurance. Some trips took place with unlicensed, suspended or dismissed drivers.

TfL said it recognized steps the company had taken to address such issues but was concerned about the ease with which its checks and balances could be manipulated.

Uber vowed to appeal the decision, which is called “extraordinary and wrong.”

The process is likely to include court action and could drag on for months, allowing its roughly 45,000 drivers in London to keep operating in the meantime, despite the expiry of Uber’s licence on Monday.

Legislation allows Uber 21 days to appeal and the company can continue to operate during this time.

Helen Chapman, director of licensing, regulation and charging from TfL, said safety was its “absolute top priority” and the infringements were “unacceptable.”

“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,” she added.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he backed the decision. He added he recognizes the decision would be unpopular but that companies need to play by the rules.

“Keeping Londoners safe is my absolute No. 1 priority and TfL have identified a pattern of failure by Uber that has directly put passengers’ safety at risk,” he said.

Uber said it would introduce measures such as a “discrimination button” enabling drivers and riders to report abuse, enhanced safety training for drivers and a direct link to the emergency services.

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