Transport for London under fire over legality of Uber rival Taxify's licence to operate

 
Lynsey Barber
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Transport for London has been asked to look at the regulation of Taxify (Source: Getty)

Transport for London is facing mounting pressure to take action against a new Uber-style startup which has been accused of flouting the rules for operating in the capital.

"Transport for London and the police need to get their act together pretty quickly," said Labour MP Wes Streeting who heads up the taxi all-party parliamentary Group (APPG).

"I will be in touch [with TfL]. I expect them to take a robust approach. They are openly advertising but don't appear to have a licence to operate. I don't expect TfL to sit on its hands and wait for complaints to come in."

Read more: Uber's facing a fresh challenge in London with two new rivals pulling up

Estonian ride-hailing startup Taxify launched in London this week taking on Uber with cheaper fares and better pay for drivers. It's backed by China ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing. The startup said that it operates under the licence of an existing operator in London which it acquired.

"Taxify is a technology platform that provides an app-based booking service to City Drive Services, a fully licenced operator in London. We look forward to resolving any outstanding issues with TfL very soon," the startup said.

The head of the black cab group the Licenced Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA), Steve McNamara said: "They [Taxify] applied for a licence and have yet to receive one. They are circumventing the rules"

"We have contested from day one they [Uber] don’t comply with the private hire act and operate completely outside of regulation. As a result they [Taxify] think it's a free for all," he told City A.M., adding that it has written to TfL on the matter and is hoping for a "quick response" in the form of compliance action.

A Transport for London spokesperson said: "Taxify is not licensed as a private hire operator in London.” It does not comment on individual licence applications.

Update: TfL has said it is "urgently" investigating the matter. Read more.

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who has promised to seek greater powers when it comes to the taxi industry, said:

"The safety of Londoners is the Mayor’s number one priority, and TfL are doing everything in their power to make sure Private Hire vehicles are as safe as possible, including increasing the number of compliance officers, and ensuring stricter safety checks, following the latest guidance from the DBS. TfL will take robust enforcement action against any provider or driver found to be breaching licencing rules."

And drivers for Taxify, of which there are around 3,000, are concerned they have been placed in legal jeopardy.

James Farrar of United Private Hire Drivers (UPHD), a group representing minicab drivers in the capital, said it had previously asked TfL for clarification on Taxify's regulation, but it had not been forthcoming.

"TfL need to pull their finger out and tell drivers what they can and can't do for Taxify," he said, adding that drivers are the ones at risk from enforcement action.

The latest row comes as another startup, Daimler-backed Via, said it plans to set up in London.

Read more: China's Didi has invested in a European rival to Uber heading for London

TfL has been forced to consider increasing the fee for operating private hire vehicles in London to cover the cost of regulation and enforcement as the number of PHVs has rocketed in recent years with the arrival of Uber.

Uber and Addison Lee have both had their licences renewed for months rather than the usual five years as a result. The former is due for renewal again at the end of the month.

And TfL last week told 13,000 Uber drivers they must undergo fresh criminal checks after deciding that it will no longer accept ones done by third-party providers other than its own contractor.

Caroline Pidgeon, the Liberal Democrat London Assembly member and deputy chair of City Hall's transport committee said: “London is facing a perfect storm of the long standing poor regulation of private hire vehicles and an increasing number of aggressive new companies that think they can write their own rules," said

“A thriving taxi and private hire trade are vital for London, but that requires a step change in regulation and enforcement activity, to ensure passenger and road safety standards are put at the forefront.”

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