THE BLOG

Uber Losing Its License Is A Backward Step For London

22/09/2017 13:10 SAST | Updated 22/09/2017 13:10 SAST

TfL have announced that Uber's license to operate in London won't be renewed, giving it just weeks to appeal.

Uber for all its faults - provides a good service for the vast majority of people. I have spent probably hours collectively talking to amazing drivers, some who actually left the black cabs for an eco-friendlier car, because the technology is better, there are more clients and because it's more cost effective for the customer.

The black cab, the traditional rival, has a unique historical resonance with London, but frankly, they have struggled to compete with Uber and their focus deteriorated to naive tourists, emergency travel and dodging rainstorms, and this can be seen by the rapid loss of market share when Uber came to town.

The costs were obscene, paying through the roof just to sit in traffic and yes - while it's impressive to see drivers spend months memorising 'The Knowledge', it's not exactly a good use of energy when Google maps can also predict traffic hotspots in real time (even if it's not always perfect).

This sudden announcement by TfL is jarring for the average consumer and does not exactly demonstrate the open market economy that London has become. Competition should be welcomed, innovation embraced not squashed so aggressively by regulators. Think of the tens of thousands of people that are using Uber as an income and think of the revelers late at night in Zone 4 that need an Uber to get home safely.

No doubt, Uber has plenty of problems to deal with, including on safety features, training colleagues, better terms, reporting process and transparency at the management level. Many of these issues are common in the emerging gig economy and it shouldn't be surprising that there are teething problems when entire industries are being disrupted. I am hoping this announcement by TFL is simply a way to shake Uber into action.

I am sure there will be a rapid appeal and a deal struck. I think I speak for a lot of users who believe that Uber is a heck lot better than traditional black cabs and it would be a backward step if Uber loses its license in the long term.