Transport for London: Uber and London's private hire trade need new regulations

Leon Daniels
"We know that some of the proposals are controversial" (Source: Getty)

On Friday, the High Court declared that smartphones used by some private hire drivers were not taximeters. This confirmed the view that Transport for London (TfL) has held all along.

It was right to seek clarity on the matter at the High Court because, as the regulator of the taxi and private hire trades, we must ensure that the market reflects the needs of our customers and stakeholders.

Some people believed that smartphone technology used in some minicabs constituted a taximeter. While we disagreed, we recognised the validity of their arguments and the importance of establishing legal certainty in a matter of significant public interest.

Read more: Uber crackdown could threaten the UK's business brand

Now that we have clarity, we will continue to work with partners to deliver safe, modern and innovative taxi and private hire services for the benefit of our customers.

The next step is the current public consultation on the regulations governing the private hire trade.

Many of the current regulations were written before the introduction of disruptive new technology and innovative business models that widened the choices available to passengers.

Londoners love innovation and we are at the forefront of harnessing modern technology for the benefit of passengers – state of the art signalling improvements to the Tube and road networks, Oyster, contactless payment and free open data provision all attest to that.

However, we need to ensure that the regulations reflect how the market has developed in the face of substantial change. There are over 88,000 minicab drivers in London – a rise of over 20,000 since 2013. At this rate, there will be over 128,000 by 2017.

Read more: Why Black Cabs are protesting Uber and TfL

This huge increase has implications for air quality, parking and congestion - in particular in central London, to say nothing of the need to ensure high standards of driving and service as the market expands.

We held a wide-ranging public consultation in the summer and spoke to representatives from both trades about the results. We are now consulting on proposals to come out of that engagement.

We know that some of the proposals are controversial, and that not everyone agrees with them – indeed, we don’t necessarily agree with all of them.

However, as a responsible regulator it is right that we do not suppress debate.

Instead, we want to hear what the public want. We want to hear from drivers, from drivers, from passengers – from you.

We want to know what you think of these proposals so that we can set a path for private hire that is good for London.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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