So, after the initial disbelief of learning that Uber had been refused a new license to operate from TfL the first thing that entered my head was: Has the Mayor done the right thing in not renewing Uber's license?
I've had mixed feelings surrounding this course of action, partly due to my suspicions surrounding TfL's motives. Why shut down an operation that will glean TfL £2.9 million over 5 years in operator license fees? It occurred to me that they had made the decision for one reason.....public safety. On that basis I came to believe that it is the right decision.
Uber are a company that play fast and loose with regulation all over the world, they have had literally hundreds of lawsuits against them worldwide since their inception. Uber's ethos is to destroy all before them regardless of the collatoral, enter into a market, ply the public with cheap fares whilst running at a loss in some areas, wipe out the opposition, pick up the slack from displaced drivers, then eventually become a monopolistic entity and push prices back up .
In London, Uber drivers have faced 48 allegations of sexual assault in the last year, up 50% on the previous year. Uber have devolved themselves from any responsibility in reporting serious crimes such as sexual assault, in fact in one case, because of their failure to report a sex attack involving one of their drivers the same individual then went on to commit a second attack. According to Neil Billany head of the Metropolitan Police Private Hire and Taxi Unit, Uber drivers were responsible for 79 out of 128 criminal offences by PHV drivers between mid June and mid July, this represents 61.7% of all offences commited by 33% of the entire fleet of PHVs in London.
Disregarding the fact that Uber may not have met all of the criteria when first licensed in London, ignoring the business model and its flaws, such as failing to reveal both how and where bookings are taken, setting aside the appalling standard of roadcraft and knowledge, the sheer volume of assaults and offences, which are completely disproportionate to the rest of the PHV industry as well as the taxi industry is enough to satisfy me that they should not be issued a renewal.
Uber have had 5 years and 4 months to get their house in order. They have finally admitted that there have been systemic failings within the company across the board.
There have however been rumblings in some quarters that the taxi industry has been responsible for Uber's license not being renewed. This is nonsense, the taxi industry is not powerful enough to do that, it is a highly fragmented industry that has major problems in galvanising itself into one unit, only the ill-informed or those with an agenda would believe this to be the case. I
t has also been alleged that the taxi industry is a White, middle class arena that is not open to those from ethnic minorities, again this is a convenient and cheap stick to beat the industry with. As of 2011s statics 14.6% of England's population is from an ethnic background, as of 2015 statistics in relation to the taxi industries ethnic breakdown 3,412 drivers did not identify as White British, approximately 14.5%, which puts the industry directly in line with the national average.....and this figure does not include the massive proportion of Jewish drivers, who are considered to be the second biggest demographic within the industry. So yet again complete nonsense is being purported as fact to validate a very poor argument.
Turning to TfL, they are not responsible for Uber's licence not being renewed either. TfL are regulators,enforcers of the law and as such have acted well within their remit, albeit far too slowly. The real villain of this piece is Uber, they are solely responsible for their own demise. Uber's own actions are the reason for the non-renewal of their license.
Ultimately any PHV company should be able to operate in London, providing the relevant legislation is fully complied with, not circumvented or ridden roughshod over. Competition is welcome, it's good for Londoners and it's good for business
Steve Kenton, is the UK editor of TaxiPoint and a taxi driver with more than 25 years' experience.