Monday 25 November 2019 1:01 pm

Uber ban: London business groups mourn 'dark day'

Business groups have slammed the decision to not grant Uber a new operating licence in London, with one think tank calling it a “total disgrace”.

Transport for London (TfL) announced this morning it had not renewed Uber’s licence, after a long-running battle over the company’s safety record.

Read more: TfL bans Uber from London after ‘pattern of failures” leaves customers at risk

The transport body found a number of “safety breaches”, which made it “not fit and proper to operate”.

TfL said Uber had unlicensed operators upload photos on other people’s accounts, leading to at least 14,000 trips involving these fraudulent drivers.

Uber’s UK general manager Jamie Heywood said the company will appeal the decision.

The company can continue to operate in the meantime.

The Institute of Economic Affairs’ (IEA) director of trade Shanker Singham said the decision marked a “dark day for competition”.

“Uber – and other platforms like it – give consumers real alternatives to the monopoly enjoyed by London’s black cab industry,” he said.

“As with any regulatory crackdown on new entrants, this action will harm London’s consumers, particularly damaging the least-well-off who cannot afford the high cost of black cabs.”

The licensing decision was supported by mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who said: “TfL have identified a pattern of failure by Uber that has directly put passengers’ safety at risk.”

Matt Lesh, director of research at the Adam Smith Institute, said Khan had “sided with the vested interests of black cabs”.

“Khan’s decision to strip Uber of their operating licence on spurious grounds is a total disgrace,” he said.

Uber was originally banned from operating in London in 2017, sparking a legal challenge.

It was granted a 15-month licence in 2018 with a set of regulatory conditions by the chief magistrate.

The company’s licence was renewed for just two months in September, after TfL said it needed to see more evidence that Uber could “ensure passenger safety”.

The transport body implemented a number of restrictions on the tech giant during the two-month probationary period, including more stringent driver and licence checks.

The Entrepreneurs Network said Uber had done enough to improve safety measures and should have been granted a new licence.

A spokesperson for the group said: “The violations uncovered by TfL, while troubling, have been addressed through stricter checks on drivers.

“Furthermore, if you take into account Uber’s other safety features, it’s likely they compare favourably to other modes of transport in London and definitely favourably compared to transport in London ten years ago before Uber.”

Read more: Uber rivals sharpen knives after the app’s London ban

The CBI was more diplomatic in its response.

CBI chief policy director Matthew Fell said: “TfL of course have to be confident around safety issues, so we’d encourage both sides to continue the dialogue to determine what changes are required in order that Uber’s customers can continue to enjoy the service in the long term.”