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Uber wins back London licence after appeal

Written by: Emma Lunn
The ride-hailing service is free to continue operating in the capital after losing its licence in November 2019 amid safety concerns.

Uber has successfully appealed after Transport for London rejected its application for a new London licence last year, due to “several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk”.

Uber has now been granted the right to a fresh licence in the capital after an appeal found it was a “fit and proper” firm to run private hire car services.

The hearing took place at Westminster Magistrates Court where magistrates ruled in favour of Uber.

Deputy chief magistrate Tan Ikram said he had “sufficient confidence that Uber London Ltd no longer poses a risk to public safety … despite historical failings” after a three-day case earlier this month.

Ikram said Uber had tightened up review processes to tackle document and insurance fraud and it now “seems to be at the forefront of tackling an industry-wide challenge”.

Last year Transport for London said it had safety concerns about Uber after identifying a “pattern of failures” including serious breaches that risked passenger safety.

It found that Uber’s systems allowed unauthorised drivers to upload their photos to other Uber driver accounts which meant they could pick up passengers seemingly as the booked driver.

About 14,000 trips were made in this way, meaning all the journeys were uninsured and some customers rode with unlicensed drivers, one of which had previously had their licence revoked.

Dismissed or suspended drivers were also able to create an Uber account to take on bookings, which compromised passenger safety and security, according to Transport for London.

Transport for London first deemed Uber not “fit or proper” to operate in the capital in September 2017.

Uber initially won a provisional extension on appeal, but was refused a licence last November on the identity concerns. However, Uber was allowed to continue operating in London pending the appeal.

It told magistrates the company had changed over the past three years.

Jamie Heywood, Uber’s regional general manager, said before the hearing: “We have worked hard to address TfL’s concerns over the last few months, rolled out real-time ID checks for drivers, and are committed to keeping people moving safely around the city.”

Steve McNamara, the general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), which represents black cab drivers, said the decision was “a disaster for London”.

LTDA had made submissions to the court under two main headings: the photo-fraud issue and breaches of conditions.

It claimed Uber had breached conditions, which require it to report safety-related complaints about its drivers to Transport for London within 48 hours, at least 104 times in 15 months.

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