The minicab hailing app Uber is facing a crackdown in London under plans by TfL.
It’s launching a secondary public consultation on potential changes to the regulations that govern the Capital’s private hire trade. This follows an initial consultation which ended in June and received almost 4,000 responses from customers, stakeholders and the trades.
TfL says that, following a detailed analysis of the responses to the initial consultation and meetings with trade representatives, a number of detailed suggestions have been drafted for consideration with the aim of helping TfL to “better regulate the 21st century private hire trade”.
These include proposals to improve driver skills, including English language capabilities and stricter requirements for insurance, as well as proposals around the way private hire operators can accept bookings and changes to how bookings are recorded. In addition a tough topographic exam to test driver navigational skills will also be introduced.
Garrett Emmerson, TfL’s Chief Operating Officer for Surface Transport, said: “We are launching a public consultation in order to inform and improve the regulations that govern the Capital’s private hire trade. In recent years the private hire industry has grown exponentially and technology has also developed rapidly. The consultation sets out a number of ways that standards across the industry could be raised, ensuring Londoners can continue to benefit from the service provided by licensed private hire vehicles. No final decisions have been made and we’re keen to hear a range of views from the trade and from Londoners too.” Alongside the consultation, TfL has also published a vision for the future of the taxi and private hire trade as a whole, setting the proposed changes to private hire regulations in the wider context of developments in the entire industry. The consultation will run for 12 weeks and close on 23 December 2015.
The proposals have been criticised by some media commentators. James Kirkup in the Telegraph has written: “You have a car. I do not. I have money. You do not. I need to go somewhere. You are willing to take me there. If you do that, I will give you money. At the end of this process, I will be in the place I want to get to, and you will have some money. Everyone gets what they want. Simple, isn’t it? Two people agree between them to a mutually beneficial exchange. So simple it makes you wonder why anyone else needs to be involved. But of course, someone, or rather something else, does want to be involved: the state. The state takes a very close interest in taxi services. That interest is threatening to smother Uber, a firm that does something close to what I describe above. Until now, that protectionism had not come to Britain, where the value of free markets is generally better understood than in places like, say, France. Sadly though, London is turning a little more French.”