Uber is one step closer to securing its business in London with the granting of a probationary licence, Reuters reports.
For fans of the popular ride sharing business the 26th of June is a day to celebrate as Uber Technologies Inc. was granted a 15-month licence to continue operating on the capital’s streets.
The taxi service that operates through a mobile app has had strained relations with London’s transport authorities, engaging in a long battle over operating standards.
London is not the only place where the ride sharing business has faced a backlash. Cities all over the world have approached the arrival of Uber with caution, some even placing restrictions or bans on the company. Often this comes after protests and complaints from unions representing taxi drivers. Uber has faced restrictions in New York City, where it is only allowed a limited number of cars on the road.
The strongest resistance to the arrival of Uber in London came from London’s famous black cabs, and their union the Licenced Taxi Driver’s Association (LTDA). The union is engaged in a continuing legal battle with Uber and the London Mayor’s office; when Uber first arrived cabbies blocked the streets of London in protest , arguing that Uber should have to comply with the same regulations and licencing as everyone else.
This 15-month probationary period was granted as Uber promised to make changes to governance arrangements and introduce new safety initiatives. Uber must now inform Transport for London (TfL) of their actions in any relevant areas, as well as submitting to an independent assurance audit every six months.
Safety seems to be one of the main concerns of this ruling, with further initiatives added to comply with the standards required for a probationary licence. Uber are now expected to be proactive in reporting serious incidents to the police as well as operating 24/7 telephone support for anyone using their services.
In a statement, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said, “Uber has been put on probation – their 15 month license has a clear set of conditions that TfL will monitor and enforce.”
This compliance with regulations is a new step for Uber who initially intended to fight the ruling, accusing the Greater London Authority (GLA) of bowing to outside pressure from unions. However, under new leadership it seems they have chosen a different approach.
The international company is valued at more than 70 billion US dollars and has about 45,000 drivers in the London area. A loss of licence would mean a large loss of profit for the business as well as putting many Londoners out of a job.
But the ruling has not pleased everyone. Steve McNamara, the General Secretary of the LTDA, expressed his disappointment at the ruling. “The justice system has failed Londoners today and let an aggressive multinational corporation win,” he said. LTDA’s lawyer warned the court of “Uber in sheep’s clothing” , suggesting that Uber posed a threat to cab drivers and Londoners alike..
However, it would appear smaller minicab services are less concerned about the presence of Uber in London. An interesting turn of events, as it is normally small businesses who are seen as the main victims of the power of international corporations.
A former Uber driver I talked to expressed his disappointment that the licence granted was only temporary. Now driving for a local south-east London minicab service, he believed this was not a battle between Uber and all other taxi companies but simply a battle between Uber and London’s black cabs.
“No one will use black cabs because they are too expensive,” he said. “They need to lower their prices and compete, rather than use the law to fight Uber.”
He had no worries that Uber might push out smaller independent taxi companies. “London is a very big place, with a lot of people. We need all the drivers we can get.”