Uber to appeal after TfL refuses license

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Uber may disappear from Brentwood after being refused a new operating licence – a decision welcomed by taxi drivers.

An estimated 25 per cent of taxi journeys in Brentwood are now being made through Uber, which will not be granted a new licence to operate in London through Transport for London due to repeated safety failures.

It will, therefore, no longer be able to operate in Brentwood.

The Brentwood Borough Taxi Drivers Association (BBTDA) wrote to Brentwood Borough Council earlier in the year detailing the issues they say they are facing due to the rising number of drivers in the town who are licensed elsewhere.

Uber had initially had its licence pulled by TfL in 2017 due to safety fears, but was granted two extensions, the latest of which expired on Sunday, November 24.

And its future in Brentwood has been thrown into doubt after TfL refused an extension in light of new safety failures.

Among the most serious are how around 14,000 Uber journeys involved fraudulent drivers uploading their photos to other driver accounts.

The firm will be able to operate during any appeal.

Steve Smith from Brentwood firm 202020 Taxis said: “I am very pleased about that because it is very frustrating for the trade that operate completely against a major company who effectively ignore so many different rules. So we are delighted.

“They will appeal, they have already said they will. But just because they will appeal doesn’t mean that will be successful.

“It is very good for Brentwood taxi drivers without a doubt.”

Uber drivers are not licensed by Brentwood Borough Council, but receive their licenses from TfL.

The BBTDA says because Brentwood “has no control” over the vehicles registered to TFL it is unable to respond to complaints, making any malpractice difficult to deal with.

However, according to legal advice provided to the council, Uber is not officially ‘operating’ in the town or doing anything unlawful.

And in August, Uber rejected requests for it to apply for a licence through Brentwood Borough Council.

The council admits over the last two to three years there has been a steady rise in the number of Uber vehicles active in the area, as they spread outside of London on their TfL licences.

It says this is “having a significant impact on the level of business for the local licensing Hackney Carriage and private hire trade”.

A Brentwood Borough Council spokesperson said: “We will be looking at the decision notice that TfL has issued to Uber to understand the full reasons for refusal.

“However, during the 21 day appeal period, and while any appeal is determined, Uber will have the right to continue to operate in Brentwood.”

The law requires that the private hire operator, private hire vehicle and the private hire driver are all licensed by the same authority, commonly known as the “triple lock licensing system”.

The triple lock, or trinity of licences, which is required for an operator to conduct business lawfully, is met with Uber holding an operator’s licence issued by TfL and using drivers and vehicles which are also licensed by TfL.

There is no geographical restriction on where the drivers may start and finish a journey booked with a lawfully-run operator.

It means Uber can operate under the “cross border hiring” provisions, allowing an operator in one authority to take a booking in another authority’s area, providing that they dispatch a vehicle and driver licensed by the authority that issued their operator’s licence.

The council previously wrote to Uber requesting it remove the Borough of Brentwood from its ‘London and surrounding areas region’, or apply for an operator licence with Brentwood.

It also asked the firm to licence all drivers who are predominantly working in Brentwood, but the company refused.

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter

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