Uber’s application to renew its private hire operating licence in London has been rebuffed again by regulators.
Transport for London has instead given the ride-hailing firm only a two-month extension to its licence, which is due to expire on Wednesday night.
It is the second time in two years that TfL has rejected Uber’s application for a full operating licence.
In September 2017, at the end if its first five-year licensing period, TfL said Uber was not a “fit and proper” firm, citing concerns including passenger safety. On appeal, Uber was granted a 15-month provisional licence.
TfL said its initial decision not to licence Uber had led the firm to improve its culture and governance.
A TfL spokesperson said: “Uber London Ltd has been granted a two-month private hire operator licence to allow for scrutiny of additional information that we are requesting ahead of consideration of any potential further licensing application.”
The two-month licence will have additional conditions attached to ensure passenger safety, covering ride-sharing, insurance and checks on driver’s documentation by Uber.
The terms of the 15-month licence granted by magistrates last year will continue to apply, obliging Uber to produce an independently verified assurance report every six months, elect three non-executive directors to its board, give TfL four weeks’ notice of any changes to its operate model, and to report any potentially criminal complaints from passengers to the Metropolitan police.
In July this year Uber was fined £28,800 for two counts of its drivers operating without insurance and for failing to keep proper records.
Uber said it had made progress, including more checks on driver hours and additional safety measures for passengers. Jamie Heywood, Uber’s regional general manager for northern and eastern Europe, said: “TfL’s recognition of our improved culture and governance reflects the progress we have made in London. We will continue to work closely with TfL and provide any additional requested information.
“Over the past two years, we’ve launched a range of new safety features in the app, introduced better protections for drivers and our clean air plan is helping to tackle air pollution.
“We will keep listening, learning and improving to provide the best service while being a trusted partner to London.”
Black cab drivers said the ruling showed Uber should not be trusted by Londoners. Steve McNamara, the general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, said: “Granting Uber a two-month temporary licence clearly shows that the firm have failed their probation and are still a huge threat to public safety.
“Over the last 15 months Uber was supposed to change its operations for the better, but the firm has continued to shirk its responsibilities. The granting of the shortest operator’s licence ever shows the mayor doesn’t trust Uber, and neither should Londoners.
“It’s time the mayor pulled the plug on Uber’s immoral operation for good.”
The GMB union, which represents minicab drivers, said Uber had had “more chances than a game of Monopoly”. Steve Garelick, regional officer, criticised the decision: “A two-month licence extension is no good for anyone – it leaves uncertainty for drivers and passengers, meanwhile Uber still operates an unsafe model on the streets of London.”
A spokesman for the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, said he backed TfL’s decision. He said: “Sadiq has been crystal clear that in London it doesn’t matter how powerful and how big you are, you must play by the rules.”