Uber has been warned it will face close scrutiny from regulators and unions after it was granted a new 18-month licence to operate in London.
On Monday, deputy chief magistrate Tan Ikram ruled Uber is now suitable to hold an operator licence in the capital “despite historical failings” following the firm’s appeal.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said Transport for London (TfL) was “absolutely right” not to renew Uber’s licence in November 2019.
He added: “I can assure Londoners that TfL will continue to closely monitor Uber and will not hesitate to take swift action should they fail to meet the strict standards required to protect passengers.”
TfL first refused to renew the company’s licence in September 2017, but the firm was handed a 15-month licence by a judge in June 2018 before a two-month licence in September 2019.
Uber will now be subject to 21 conditions under their new licence, including the regular reporting of breaches to TfL.
Marie Demetriou QC, representing TfL in court, said the conditions would allow the regulator to keep a “close eye” on the app.
Uber has stopped at nothing to keep its London license, says GMB London https://t.co/lvnf3gBI0o
— GMB London Region (@GMBLondonRegion) September 28, 2020
Responding to the judgment Alison Moore, chairwoman of the London Assembly transport committee, said: “Londoners’ safety must come first.
“Following the ruling, TfL will need to ensure that any conditions of the licence renewal are strongly enforced, and we will be keeping a close eye on the way Uber operates to ensure it does operate in the fully safe and responsible manner that Londoners deserve.”
The decision has also sparked calls for improved treatment of Uber drivers and was met with disappointment from unions representing rival private hire vehicle (PHV) drivers.
Steve Garelick, GMB London region organiser, said: “Uber has stopped at nothing to keep its London licence, drivers now need to see the same level of commitment put into improving their working conditions and safety.”
The decision has been greeted by Uber as a “recognition of Uber’s commitment to safety”.
Jamie Heywood, Uber’s regional general manager for Northern & Eastern Europe, said the company would “continue to work constructively with TfL”, adding: “There is nothing more important than the safety of the people who use the Uber app as we work together to keep London moving.”
However the Unite union has said the judgment granting Uber a new licence marked “a sad day for the travelling public in London”.
Chairman of the Unite London taxi section Jim Kelly said: “It is our view that Uber has a ruthless business model that undermines safety and long-established regulations and now they have got the green light to continue operating in London which is very disappointing.
“I genuinely fear for the future of taxis in London, whose history stretches back to hackney coaches in the 1630s,” he added.
The Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), who took part in the appeal as an interested party, said the decision was a “disaster”.
Its general secretary Steve McNamara said: “The LTDA will continue to highlight the problems associated with Uber’s business model and instances where they are putting passengers at risk, ensure that TfL keeps a close eye on them and ramp up our calls on Government to introduce urgently needed new regulation for the taxi and PHV trades to ensure that it is fit for purpose, and Uber can be regulated effectively and no longer get away with the kinds of serious breaches that were outlined in the judge’s decision.”
He added: “(Judge Ikram) is setting a very low bar for a company whose track record clearly shows it can’t be trusted to disclose serious incidents and one that has consistently failed to do the right thing.”