Earlier this week TaxiPoint reported that Uber plan to clamp down on cross-border hiring, the next day, Uber have announced a raft of changes, designed to persuade Transport for London to renew their operators license.
On the surface this looks like a highly philanthropic and responsible gesture, maybe it is, maybe it isn't, what has become highly apparent is that this now leaves the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, out on a limb.
Over the last few years, the licensed London taxi industry, the rest of the UKs taxi industry and even the PHV industry across the country have been encouraging Chris Grayling to act in relation to a number of issues, one of those issues being cross-border hiring, and yet the silence, emanating from Mr Graylings office is deafening.
Now we have Uber themselves, who's drivers are the chief protagonists in this sorry tale, recognising that there is a major problem surrounding cross-border hiring.
Uber have taken it upon themselves to, in effect, artificially set the boundaries of cross-border hiring with the following restrictions:
Drivers operating in the North East can operate in the following areas:
Newcastle Sunderland Durham Drivers operating in the North West: Merseyside Greater Manchester Chester Drivers operating in Yorkshire: Leeds Bradford Sheffield Drivers operating in the Midlands: Birmingham Wolverhampton Leicester Nottingham Derby Stoke Drivers operating in the East of England: Cambridge Drivers operating in the South East: Southampton Brighton Portsmouth Drivers operating in the South West: Bristol Bath Drivers can operate in Greater London: Including surrounding areas Drivers operating in Wales: Cardiff Newport
This is all very noble from Uber, however, there is a major issue with this, Uber do not dictate taxi nor PHV policy, this is the Governments remit.
Of course, as a company Uber are entitled to do this, however, the boundaries that they have set bare no relation as to how borders are designated within the industry. This therefore looks like nothing more than lip service to appease those who aren't as well informed both at regulatory and Governmental level. That said, this is probably what Uber should be doing so as to soften up their critics.
The real criticism has to lay at Chris Grayling's door because of his systematic rejection of the appeals made by those within the industry to reform legislation. In effect Mr Grayling has forgone using his position to solve the myriad of problems within the taxi and PHV industry, in favour of sticking with his neo-liberal, free-market ethos.
What seems to be occuring at the moment is that by sticking with the free-market ethos, Chris Grayling is inadvertantly damaging the PHV industry, the taxi industry, even Uber themselves and putting the general public at risk, all of whom he is supposed to serve.
To alleviate this problem, Mr Grayling must recognise that there have been systematic failings over the last 5 years, and act with immediate effect. The Secretary of State for Transport MUST start to engage with stakeholders across the UK so as to find a viable, workable solution that is fit for the 21st Century. Helen Chapman, TfLs interim taxi and private hire director, was 100% correct when she said that the current PHV act in London is now outdated. In tandem, the same legislative issues apply across the country.
Uber must be disregarded as a stand alone entity, and this must include their attempts to soften the hearts and minds of authorities across the UK. Instead Chris Grayling must act with immediate effect, otherwise he will leave both the taxi and the PHV industry in a far worse state than he found it.