A leading London disability charity has ‘partnered’ with ride-hailing app Uber just weeks after the minicab operator was stripped of its operator's licence after concerns around safety.
Transport for All (TfA), an organisation that champions the rights of disabled and older people travelling in the capital, had joined up with US minicab firm to offer free rides to members for yesterday's Election Day.
This partnership came despite the private hire operator losing its ability to operate in London on grounds of safety concerns. The minicab firm are expected to appeal the decision made by London’s regulators.
Transport for London (TfL), who are not connected to TfA, branded the ride-hailing service ‘not fit and proper’ and refused them a new licence on 25 November.
London’s regulators highlighted safety concerns focussing on a change to Uber’s systems, which allowed unauthorised drivers to upload their photos to other Uber driver accounts. This allowed unauthorised drivers to pick up passengers as though they were the booked driver, which occurred in at least 14,000 trips - putting passenger safety and security at risk.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, told LBC that one of those unauthorised private hire drivers had his licence revoked by Transport for London after indecent images of children were found in his possession. He managed to manipulate Uber's driver platform and gain access to jobs illegally.
Earlier this month the ride-hailing firm also announced it received over 3,000 reports of sexual assaults in the US last year in a voluntary report published.
The report details safety statistics in the US for the last two years in 2017 and 2018. In 2017, 2,936 reported incidents of sexual assault were recorded, compared to 3,045 in 2018. That means on average eight reports of sexual assault were reported each day connected to Uber’s ride-hailing service.
The charity announced its partnership on social media: “Access to polling stations is a real barrier for many disabled people. We're delighted to partner with @Uber to offer our members 2 free rides on election day, to help disabled people reach the polls easily.”
One member and volunteer at TfA contacted TaxiPoint and was critical of the charity’s decision to partner with Uber. They told us: “In terms of why this partnership has come about, that requires some explanation. Many disabled people have been fed lies, repeatedly, by various organisations that Uber are safe and legal, by Transport for All and various local and national disability “support” organisations, hence why a lot of disabled people continue to use Uber.”
Steve McNamara, Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) General Secretary, said: “In recent weeks we have seen support from Uber coming from several organisations who are either funded by Uber or who refuse to name their funders.
“These include the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA), London First and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). It would appear that TfA have now joined this club that, for some mysterious reason, seems to be more interested in promoting Uber than in the safety of Londoners”
Grant Davis, London Cab Drivers Cab (LCDC) Chairman, said: “It beggars belief that any charity would want to aline themselves with a company that even London’s transport regulator deems “ Not Fit and Proper” to hold a license to operate.
“What this blatant piece of PR shows is that Uber will stop at nothing to try and paint their company as all caring for Londoners.
“But for me what makes this PR stunt more unpalatable is the fact that in the whole of London’s 89,000 Private Hire fleet there is only 522 wheelchair accessible vehicles, so even if Uber has everyone of these, it would only equate to just 1.2% of their entire fleet.”
A spokesperson from industry marketing group London Taxi PR, said: “We, London Taxi PR, were shocked and saddened to learn that Transport for All (TfA) had and their CEO Kirsty Hoyle had chosen to announce and promote a partnership with Uber, who have not only had their license not renewed by TfL, but also been deemed to be a, ‘Not fit and proper company’due to their breaches of security and particularly passenger safety.
“Especially as we ourselves had met with both Kirsty and some of the TfA trustees, including Mohammed Mohsan Ali and Gwynneth Pedler, having gained their support via their Chair, Alan Benson, previously with regards to access issues affecting not only London Taxis, but importantly ALL Taxi passengers over Ableism issues, and we also discussed the idea of a project we had that we were keen to work on developing with TfA.
“At our meeting we had relayed our concerns over the lack of safety and trust with regards to Uber, and emphasised the fact that London Taxis have been a champion for the freedom of movement for many years for those who have disabilities and their rights to freedom of access and movement across London.
“We also underlined the fact that the London Taxi is still the only fully safe, secure, professional, licensed service that provides a purpose built wheelchair accessible vehicle.”
TaxiPoint approached TfA for comment. So far there has been no response.