Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Science & Tech
22 September 2017

What is going to happen to Uber? Your questions answered

Transport for London has announced it will not renew Uber's licence to operate in the city. 

By Amelia Tait


A: Transport for London (TfL) has decided not to renew Uber’s licence to operate in the city of London. Allegedly, they informed Uber of this decision just one minute before they told the rest of the world. 

Q: So, can I no longer get Ubers in the big smoke?

A: If you wanted to, you could still take an Uber right now. The ride-hailing app’s current licence will expire on 30 September, although the company has 21 days to appeal the decision. 

Q: And will Uber appeal?

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

A: Yes, the company has released a statement saying they will challenge the decision in court. Tom Elvidge, Uber’s general manager for London, said:

Content from our partners
How do we secure the hybrid office?
How materials innovation can help achieve net zero and level-up the UK
Fantastic mental well-being strategies and where to find them

“To defend the livelihoods of all those drivers, and the consumer choice of millions of Londoners who use our app, we intend to immediately challenge this in the courts… This ban would show the world that, far from being open, London is closed to innovative companies who bring choice to consumers.”

Q: I don’t use Uber, why should I give a hoot?

A: The move will affect Uber’s 40,000 London-based drivers and 3.5 million Londoners who use the app. 

Q: But why has TfL made this decision? I need answers, child!

A: It costs TfL a lot to regulate the private hire car industry in London, but on top of this, TfL has branded Uber “not fit and proper” to hold a licence. It said: “TfL considers that Uber’s approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications.”

TfL specified it does not agree with Uber’s approach to reporting crime and its standards for doing background checks on its drivers, but the ride company has been embroiled in tens of scandals over recent years. While black cab drivers fear the competition and unions have complained about its treatment of its drivers, the company has also been accused of failing to deal with drivers accused of sexual harrasment and rape. Uber is also a prime example of a gig economy company which accepts little responsibility for its workers (claiming they were self-employed until a court ruled otherwise last year).

Uber, however, sees it a different way, with Elvidge stating: “Transport for London and the Mayor have caved in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice”. He is most likely referring to traditional taxi drivers and unions, who have suffered due to Uber’s meteoric rise. 

Q: What’s our boy Sadiq got to say?

A: The Mayor of London said of the decision: “All companies in London must play by the rules and adhere to the high standards we expect – particularly when it comes to the safety of customers.” 

Q: What about the rest of England, sweet England?

A: This decision only applies to Uber’s London licence, though other cities may follow suit. 

Q: How can I get around now, please, papa?

A: Lyft, Uber’s biggest competitor, isn’t actually available in the UK yet. For now, you could get a traditional black cab. Or a bus. There’s no app for them, but they work pretty well. 

Q: What will happen to UberEATS?

A: Why are you asking this? What are your priorities? Leave me alone.