Uber taxis set to disappear from London amid TfL ban

TfL found at least 14,000 Uber journeys involved uninsured drivers.

Uber: has 21 days to appeal TfL decision (Getty Images)
Uber: has 21 days to appeal TfL decision (Getty Images)

Transport for London will not renew Uber’s licence to operate in a major blow for the ride-sharing app.

London’s public transport operator today ruled that Uber does not meet the "fit and proper" requirements to be a licence holder for taxis in the capital. 

Uber’s private-hire operator licence was due to expire today and TfL has rejected the company’s application to extend it for another five years. 

However, Uber is likely to continue operating for several months. It has already indicated it will appeal the ban and, by law, is allowed to continue operating while the appeal process takes place. This is likely to take place over several months.

A London ban represents a huge blow for the embattled company, which has lost a third of its value since launching a disappointing initial public offering in May at $45 per share. The company has shed hundreds of jobs – including a third of its marketing department – as it restructures globally in order to become profitable.

TfL said it had identified a "pattern of failures" by Uber, including several instances where passengers and their safety were put at risk. 

The transport body criticised Uber for enabling a change in its systems that allowed unauthorised drivers to upload their photos to other Uber driver accounts, in effect meaning the journeys were uninsured. This practice happened for at least 14,000 journeys, TfL said, and one of these involved a driver who had previously had their licence revoked. 

TfL also criticised Uber for allowing dismissed or suspended drivers to create an Uber account and carry passengers. 

While TfL acknowledged the steps that Uber had put in place to prevent this type of activity, it said it was concerned that the tech company’s systems were "easily manipulated".

Helen Chapman, director of licensing, regulation and charging at TfL, said: "Safety is our absolute top priority. While we recognise Uber has made improvements, it is unacceptable that Uber has allowed passengers to get into minicabs with drivers who are potentially unlicensed and uninsured."

Today’s decision is the latest in two years of argument between TfL and Uber over whether the company is "fit" to hold a taxi licence. TfL had refused to give Uber a five-year licence in September 2017, before a judge granted a 15-month extension in June 2018 while Uber appealed the decision. Uber was given a further two-month extension in September 2019. 

Jamie Heywood, Uber’s regional general manager for northern and eastern Europe, said TfL’s decision today is "extraordinary and wrong" and confirmed the company will appeal. 

He added: "We have fundamentally changed our business over the last two years and are setting the standard on safety. TfL found us to be a fit and proper operator just two months ago and we continue to go above and beyond.

"On behalf of the 3.5 million riders and 45,000 licensed drivers who depend on Uber in London, we will continue to operate as normal and will do everything we can to work with TfL to resolve this situation."

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