Uber rule changes: Transport for London to shake up private hire vehicle regulation - but it won't insist on the five minute wait time

Catherine Neilan
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Uber Taxi App In Madrid
There will be changes - but they might not be the ones the Black Cab trade wants (Source: Getty)

Transport for London has revealed its plans to shake up private hire vehicles - including Uber - which would include formal English language requirements for drivers - but it won't insist on the controversial five-minute wait time.

Other proposals include the introduction of guaranteed fare estimates for customers ahead of their journey, the provision of driver and vehicle details to customers, including a photo of the driver, before the start of each journey and for PHV operators to ensure that customers can speak to someone in the event of a problem with their journey.

It will also call for more robust ‘hire and reward’ insurance requirements and improved record keeping - an issue which has been heavily flagged by the Black Cab industry. TfL is also seeking to alter the structure of licence fees paid by operators of different sizes to better reflect the costs of compliance and enforcement activity.

But TfL has rejected outright calls for operators to provide booking confirmation details to passengers at least five minutes prior to the journey commencing. Uber had argued this would bring its entire operation under threat.

It is also not proposing that new regulations should include having to offer the ability to pre-book up to seven days in advance and being prohibited from showing vehicles as available for immediate hire, another critical issue for Uber's business model.

It will also not look further into the argument that private hire drivers should only be registered to a single operator at any time.

Uber welcomed the news.

Regional general manager of Uber in the UK, Jo Bertram, said: “This is good news for Londoners and a victory for common sense. We’re pleased Transport for London has listened to the views of passengers and drivers, dropping the bonkers ideas proposed last year like compulsory five minute wait times and banning showing cars in apps.

"It means Uber can continue to keep London moving with a convenient, safe and affordable ride at the push of a button."

The proposals, which will be put in front of the TfL board for approval in March, follow a consultation into the way PHVs are regulated in London. The consultation attracted more than 16,000 responses.

Garrett Emmerson, TfL’s chief operating officer for Surface Transport, said “Londoners have given a very clear indication of how they would like us to shape the regulation of the private hire industry to deliver improved safety and customer service.

"We had an overwhelming response to the consultation with 16,000 responses and all of the proposals we are taking forward received majority support. We also discussed the proposals in detail with the trade over several months.... This will create the environment for a flourishing private hire industry and wide choice for customers alongside London’s iconic and world-class taxi service.”

On top of this, London Mayor Boris Johnson is now pushing for TfL to investigate the impact and feasibility of removing the congestion charge exemption for PHVs.TfL now estimates that one in 10 vehicles entering the congestion charge zone are PHVs.

Johnson said: “New technology has revolutionised the private hire industry in recent years, bringing with it quantum leaps in terms of faster, better and cheaper services for customers.

"However it has also meant a rapid increase in the number of private hire vehicles on our streets, an increase that is responsible for causing congestion and has the potential to worsen air quality in central London."

TfL will now undertake a further four-week regulatory impact assessment consultation on proposed changes to private hire regulations.

The final decision will be taken at the TfL board’s meeting on 17 March.