Uber claims it makes London "safer" in TfL licence battle

The ride-hailing service says it has improved systems to verify drivers' insurance documents and identification

Uber has argued that it makes London a "safer place" in its appeal against Transport for London’s refusal to renew its operating licence in the city. 

TfL refused to grant the ride-hailing service a new licence in November 2019 after it found that Uber demonstrated "a pattern of failures" involving passenger safety. In particular, TfL said a change to Uber's system allowed unauthorised drivers to upload their photos to other driver accounts and pick up passengers illegally in at least 14,000 trips.

Uber, which was also denied a licence by TfL in 2017 before a judge restored it on a probationary basis, this week said during its appeals process that it had improved systems to verify drivers' insurance documents and to provide real-time identification in the app.

“The energy and responsiveness which Uber... has demonstrated in seeking to meet TfL’s concerns reflect a deep-rooted commitment to safety and provide further and strong evidence of fitness and propriety,” the company said in a document submitted to court.

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Uber’s representative Tim Ward QC, told the court: “It is a different business to that which existed in 2017, when TfL refused the licence extension.

“There have been far-reaching developments relevant to that question since that decision. We accept its past conduct is relevant to that question, but so is the progress it has made.”

Uber’s 45,000 drivers in London are still able to operate until the appeals process is exhausted, which could go on for several more months or even years, depending on when a decision is made and any further legal action that could follow.

Ward said that denying the company a licence would have a “profound effect” on groups at risk of street harassment, such as women and ethnic minorities, and that London is a “safer place” when Uber can operate.

Uber's battle to renew its operating licence comes just weeks after the company's former CSO was charged with obstruction of justice for attempting to cover up a data breach with a $100,000 payment to the hackers. 

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