Uber seeks licence talks with Transport for London

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Uber and TfL have not talked about its licence at all this year (Source: Getty)

Uber is seeking talks with Transport for London in a bid to regain its licence to operate in the capital as the public backlash against the regulator’s decision to withdraw it gains traction.

More than 600,000 people have signed a petition to save Uber and more than 20,000 drivers have emailed the mayor after the shock decision not to renew permission on Friday.

Not a single meeting has taken place this year with the regulator in regard to its licence, it’s understood, in a sign of the diminishing relations between the two sides.

Read more: Sadiq Khan: Londoners should direct anger at Uber

And mayor of London Sadiq Khan is also understood to have refused Uber’s requests to meet during his term.

No contact has been made between the two sides over the weekend and, no talks are planned as yet.

“We’re always willing to talk to Transport for London and the mayor. While we haven’t been asked to make any changes, we’d like to know what we can do. But that requires a dialogue we sadly haven’t been able to have recently,” Uber London general manager Tom Elvidge said.

“The 3.5m Londoners and 40,000 drivers who rely on our app would expect us to sit down and work together to get this right,” he added.

Meanwhile Uber will continue preparing an appeal against the decision. Uber has until 21 October to make an official challenge via the courts.

It is the first major test of the company under newly appointed chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi who said in an email to staff that “there is a high cost to a bad reputation” in light of the decision.

Read more: How Uber's CEO responded to losing its London licence

Any talks will centre around safety and driver checks, areas cited by TfL for deeming Uber not “fit and proper” for permission to operate. Safety is one of several issues to have contributed to its toxic reputation in recent months.

Uber maintains that it complies with the rules and passed its annual compliance audit in April.

Meanwhile Taxify, a rival to Uber from Estonia and backed by China’s Didi, is also in talks with TfL to get approval to operate after it was told to cease operations.

In a separate dispute TfL told Taxify to stop operating in the capital. The startup said it was forced to pursue other means of gaining a licence, buying an existing operator, after TfL failed to engage with it despite attempts to contact the regulator 20 times.

But TfL had five meetings in the past 12 months with Uber’s biggest rival, it's been revealed, despite it not even operating in London. It’s understood that Lyft, a rival in the US also backed by Didi, does not have imminent plans to launch in the capital.

Read more: Uber must brace itself for a winter of discontent

Another rival, Via, backed by car giant Daimler, has plans to launch in London this year, however, concerns have been voiced that the TfL decision could put off such businesses coming to the UK.

Tech investor Eileen Burbidge and chair of industry group Tech City UK, said on Friday: “I’m disappointed to see this decision because it does suggest that London is being more protectionist than innovative, given how extraordinarily popular Uber is in London.”

Innovation director at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said: “It’s not in the interests of our economy, people in London and in this case, drivers, to restrict new products and services.

“Both Uber and TfL recognise the vital importance of customer safety. Reaching a sensible agreement that allows services to continue will matter to the millions of consumers and thousands of drivers who use the app.”