Uber granted new, shorter licence to operate in London

LONDON • Taxi-hailing app Uber has been granted a new, shorter licence to operate in London after a judge said it had made the changes required to be deemed fit and proper, following the rejection of its earlier application last year.

Transport for London (TfL) refused to give the Silicon Valley taxi firm a five-year operating licence last September, citing failings in its approach to reporting serious criminal offences and to background checks on drivers.

But Judge Emma Arbuthnot at Westminster Magistrates Court yesterday ruled that Uber could operate in London on a 15-month licence, subject to strict conditions.

Uber has admitted that TfL's decision to deny it a licence last year was the right one, but insists changes in policy and personnel justified the award of a shorter licence to prove it had changed.

The ruling came after 11/2 days of arguments in which lawyers for Uber insisted the global ride-sharing app had completely overhauled its culture and passenger safety policies, and reset its testy relationship with the regulator.

For TfL's part, it effectively disengaged from the dispute and said that the main concerns had been addressed.

The conditions include giving TfL notice of what Uber is doing in matters that may be areas of concern, reporting safety-related complaints, and having an independent assurance audit report every six months, Uber's lawyer Thomas de la Mare said earlier before the court ruling.

TfL's lawyer said that costs for the case, to be paid by Uber, would be £425,000 (S$766,000).

Uber, which has about 45,000 drivers in London, introduced several new initiatives in response to TfL's refusal to renew its licence.

The changes include round-the-clock telephone support and the proactive reporting of serious incidents to police. It has also changed senior management in Britain, its biggest European market.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2018, with the headline 'Uber granted new, shorter licence to operate in London'. Print Edition | Subscribe