London – Uber Set To Make a Deal to Get Back Its London Licence

Last week came with some pretty shocking news. Transport for London announced (in a tweet, of all places) that it would not be renewing Uber’s licence. That meant that once Uber’s current licence expired on 30th September (aka this Saturday) the taxi company that insists it isn’t a taxi company would not be allowed to operate within the city.

Uber was naturally outraged by this decision, but now it seems to have calmed down a bit. In fact, word is that the company is willing to make a deal to get its licence back. Presumably this was TfL’s plan all along.Speaking to the Sunday Times, Uber City Manager Tom Elvidge said that he would like to know what could be done to “get this right”. So it sounds like he’s willing to make some changes in order to get Uber back in business. That’s a bit of a difference to the response on Friday, which saw Uber almost immediately declare that it would be taking the matter up with the courts. It also started a petition demanding the licence be reinstated. All because it was so worried about all the Uber drivers that aren’t actually employees.
Sources speaking to the Times claim that TfL officials are encouraged by this less hostile stance, and that it would be open to talks with the company. It’s not clear what stage things are at behind the closed doors, but it feels like a good first step to solving some of the issues TfL had with Uber’s operations. The paper claims that some of the concessions Uber is willing to make include improvements to passenger safety and offering benefits to its drivers – which is something Uber has been under fire for not doing for quite some time.

Engadget notes that while TfL clearly has the upper hand in this situation, the company has u-turned a lot faster than it has done in the past – suggesting that the new leadership is taking a far less antagonistic approach to its operations.

Still, it seems to me that TfL’s refusal to renew Uber’s licence was a play to fix some of the less favourable aspects of the company’s day to day activities. The system does need fixing, and the ‘ban’ was a clear way to show that TfL is serious and isn’t willing to suffer any nonsense in the process. [Sunday Times (paywall) via Engadget]