The shock decision that TfL will not be renewing Uber’s private hire operator licence was announced last week; effective 30th of September. Whilst taking the U.K by storm, Uber, the multi-billion pound taxi service, revolutionised the way we use taxis. A storm which caused a hurricane of controversy and resulted in Uber being banned in several countries. Uber has been hugely popular for its speed, price and smart phone accessibility. So popular that black taxi drivers have waged a war against the company since its launch in 2012.
But, is the ban justified? Why is their licence being revoked at all? How will this affect users?
After speaking to an anonymous TfL/Polestra licence compliance officer, it was revealed that Uber had been on a “slippery slope“ for some time and “failed due diligence guidelines with their criminal background and medical screening of its drivers.” She also detailed some interesting findings which claimed TfL had evidence that many Uber driver’s forged medical or DBS documents before commenting that she felt “the decision was a mistake.” The employee stated that in her experience, “black cabs are far worse for breaking TfL licensing rules and had higher rates of criminal allegations.” She felt the decision was clouded by the need to “protect British culture” and I can’t help but agree.
Uber has stated that its lawyers have begun to appeal the decision, as the rift in its supporters and denouncers increases. TfL has defended its recent decision by stating that Uber has consistently demonstrated practices that put the safety of customers in danger. I strongly disagree.
Uber has provided an affordable and reliable service, especially for London’s most vulnerable: the young and female. With an Uber ban in place, we are likely to see a rise in drink driving, more crowding on the already strained transport system and the scope for taxi services to extort their customers. I think back to being a young teenager and having to take night buses or walk by myself to my house. I think back to being charged £24 by a black taxi driver who took advantage of the fact that I didn’t know my location was less than a 5-minute walk (and we have all experienced that mini heart attack as the black taxi meter seems to jump up £1 every three seconds). I also think back to losing a friend to the hands of drink driving at a very young age.
Despite the introduction of the night tube, the reality is, the service is not accessible to all of London as yet, nor does it provide the security of knowing that you will be taken to your front-door. It will not stop you being told that your local cab company will be 45 minutes or worse: have no available cabs at all.
Moreover, an estimated 40,000 drivers are set to lose their jobs and will be throw into hire-purchase debt if the ban remains in place. Uber has provided a flexible and fairly paid job for thousands who, without it, wouldn’t be able to survive in Britain’s chilly economy. Ironically black taxi drivers are rumoured to have an average salary of £80,000 with many central London drivers earning £120,000 and above.
Many have also commented on their negative past experiences with black cabs and some cab companies, similar to that of yellow taxi’s in New York with their tendency to drive past customers of colour.
Another Polestra compliance officer at TfL tells me that the Mayor of London and TfL are unlikely to reverse the decision but only time will tell. Whether you agree or disagree, the decision is without a doubt a huge one, that will have significant implications on the taxi industry, customers and London as a whole. Perhaps for the better, perhaps for the worse.
I personally feel the decision is a huge mistake that will compromise the safety of Londoners, put more strain on our pockets and further the lack of confidence in post Brexit London. The only solace some may take in the decision, is that legally, until all appeals have been exhausted and denied, Uber will still be able to operate for quite some time, possibly even years.
Written by Monique Monrowe
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