It's now been over seven weeks since Uber's operators licence expired in London. Whilst the regulator, Transport for London, was damning in its appraisal of the controversial minicab app they chose to let the "not fit and proper" company continue to work in the capital until all appeals were exhausted.
So what's changed in them seven weeks? Not a lot. Depending where you get your news from there has been an increase in media attention. The public are better informed, however there is also heavy lobbying from Uber as their PR team works overtime to discredit the black cab trade and salvage their own reputation in certain publications. Last week TfL released taxi and private hire sexual assaults statistics. The results; zero charges or convictions for London's taxis and 164 sexual offences for the capital's private hire industry. A certain unfit and improper American company topped the charts with over 50% of the incidents respectively. Siwan Hayward, TfL's Head of Transport Policing said "No one should ever be subjected to sexual behaviour while travelling in a minicab or taxi and, of the tens of millions of taxi and private hire journeys made in London every year, The vast majority go without incident. Where an allegation is made, we take it extremely seriously. We work with police to investigate reports, bring offenders to justice and push for the toughest penalties possible," So why did TfL choose to keep an underperforming and unfit private hire company operational? I say chose because it's worth remembering that between January and July of this year Transport for London chose to revoke 422 private hire driver licences. I also say chose because it's worth remembering that Transport for London revoked the licence of black cab driver Sean Stockings for filming the Head of Surface Transport, Leon Daniels, drinking wine in a public restaurant. Sean was deemed unfit to hold a license.
Oh and don't forget the Taxify debacle. Transport for London rightly acted and swiftly chose to revoke the operators licence bought by the Estonian start-up. So why did the capital's transport regulators do something they've never done before and issue an unfit and improper company a renewed rolling operators licence? And that's not all, only last week the London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced in the monthly question time session that the appeals process could take "years". So the question again why did the London Mayor and Transport for London choose to renew a rolling operators licence for a company they themselves deemed unfit and improper free of charge for potentially years? At this point I would like to say that Transport for London should be congratulated for making the right decision in regards to Uber's licence renewal. However, changing the appeals process for reasons unknown has only produced further uncertainty for drivers in both taxi and private hire industries and, more importantly, uncertainty for the travelling public. This one question is dominating discussion amongst taxi drivers not only in London, but also the UK. Without any clear indication as to why TfL chose to renew the licence, patience seems to be wearing thin within the trade. The GMB union issued a statement saying that they would be returning to action in the near future as the potential lengthy wait to finally remove Uber from the capital was unacceptable. A similar statement from the independent drivers group, ITA, has also seen a proposal for demonstrations in the New Year. TaxiPoint contacted other trade organisations asking for comment on the subject. So far all organisations approached have chosen not to reply.
We've all got choices. What will drivers choose? Patience or action.