London

London taxi hire proposals would 'be an end' to the way Uber operates

Taxis blockade Whitehall in protest at Uber in June 2014 Image copyright Peter Macdiarmid
Image caption Black cab drivers blocked Whitehall in protest in 2014

Uber has said a consultation on private hire regulation could spell an end to way the taxi-hailing app operates.

Transport for London (TfL) is to consult on plans to demand a new English language test, a map-reading assessment, a fixed landline and the chance to book seven days in advance.

Uber said: "If adopted these [rules] would mean an end to the Uber people know and love."

Black cab drivers have argued regulations need to be tightened.

There has been growing pressure on city legislators, most recently when cab drivers protested outside City Hall.

The Uber app connects customers and nearby drivers using GPS technology and gives an estimate of the fare.

It generally charges lower fares than traditional firms and drivers rely on technology for navigation. Transactions are cashless using pre-registered bank details.

TfL says the consultation seeks to "raise standards across the industry" following an "exponential" growth in the private hire industry and technology.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Uber's unique selling point is using GPS to connect drivers and customers

Uber said it was a deliberate target and if the proposals went ahead they would raise prices and increase congestion in London.

Gareth Mead, from Uber, said: "If you think that this is supposed to be a public consultation, well I think the public are not at the heart of the proposals that have been made so far.

"I think if the recommendations do progress then clearly we would need to change the way we approach the service and ultimately it ends up being more clunky which is not what people want."

A leaked copy of the rules for consultation includes:

  • Specific requirement for an English language test
  • New training for private hire vehicles
  • Operators must provide a specified fare prior to a booking being accepted
  • Fixed landline must be available at all times

Uber says TfL's consultation includes implementing a minimum wait time between booking and starting a trip which would also penalise the hire firm.

Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association, has accused Uber of benefiting from a "lax regulatory system".

Garrett Emmerson, from TfL, said: "No final decisions have been made and we're keen to hear a range of views from the trade and from Londoners too."

He added TfL had 3,000 operators of private hire companies in the capital and the proposed regulations would apply to all of them.

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