TfL, the body that regulates public transport in the capital, has decided against implementing proposals that would have hit Uber’s service, including forcing operators to provide booking confirmation details to the passenger at least five minutes before a journey starts. It also ditched a proposal to require operators to allow passengers to pre-book minicabs up to seven days in advance.
However, after a consultation launched in September, TfL said it planned to introduce new regulations including a formal English-language requirement, focusing on spoken English, for all taxi drivers in London.
The mayor of London has also secured a commitment for legislation to allow TfL to regulate pedal rickshaws that operate in central London. Boris Johnson, who has expressed increasing concern about congestion and pollution on the capital’s roads, has asked TfL to consider extending the congestion zone to private hire vehicles.
Jo Bertram, Uber’s regional general manager in the UK, said: “We’re pleased that Transport for London has listened to the views of passengers and drivers, dropping the bonkers ideas proposed last year like compulsory five-minute wait times and banning showing cars in apps.”
Other proposals that would have affected Uber that TfL considered but discarded included prohibiting operators from showing cabs as available for immediate hire either by street signage or on an app, and private hire drivers only being able to register with a single minicab firm at any one time.
However, TfL is also suggesting that private hire firms must ensure they have a phone line so that customers can talk to somebody in the event of a problem with their journey. This is a proposal that would require a change of course from Uber, which connects with customers only through its app.
Johnson said: “Private hire vehicles now represent over 10% of vehicles entering the congestion charging zone on a daily basis and I have asked TfL to investigate the impact and feasibility of removing the congestion charging exemption for private hire vehicles with a view to cutting congestion in central London.”
TfL estimates the number of private hire vehicles within the central London congestion charge zone has increased by more than 50% in the last two years.
A spokesman for TfL said it had wanted to hear people’s suggestions during its three-month consultation. “Customers quite clearly want to speak to somebody in the event of any issues,” said a spokesman.
Uber has more than 20,000 drivers in London but its strategy was thrown into doubt last year when TfL launched a far-reaching consultation process after pressure from rivals including the minicab company Addison Lee and black-cab drivers.
Addison Lee broadly welcomed TfL’s announcement, saying it had put customer choice at the heart of the proposals.
However, the company said TfL had ducked awkward safety questions relating to insurance. It urged the transport body to ensure minicab companies and apps fall under its jurisdiction and pass a “fit and proper” test.
Andy Boland, Addison Lee’s chief executive, said: “We regret that TfL has not grasped the nettle on forcing minicab companies to insure all vehicles which do jobs for them as Addison Lee does.”
The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, which represents many of London’s 22,000 or so black-cab drivers, said there had been a missed opportunity.
TfL will undertake a further four-week consultation on the proposals, with the results being put to its board on 17 March.
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