Whether Transport for London is right or wrong to refuse to renew Uber’s licence to run its taxis in the capital, the timing and manner of the decision will be hugely damaging and disruptive to Uber’s 40,000 drivers, as well as its millions of passengers, and could have implications for the other towns and cities where Uber’s app is actively used.
In just a few weeks – assuming the appeal Uber has launched fails at the end of the 21-day process – every Uber driver will be faced with losing some or all of their livelihood. Some may join other, more conventional minicab companies, perhaps with even worse terms and conditions than those they currently enjoy with Uber. For others, it may be the end of the road.
For all its well-publicised shortcomings, Uber’s form of employment made perfect flexible sense for many of those contracted to it. Such freedom to work or not, and at what times, may be denied to them in the new regime. None will be able, in the short run at any rate, to opt to become black cab drivers because of the time taken for training and to acquire “The Knowledge”.
Meantime, all those Toyota Priuses (apparently the Uber chariot of choice) hired on lease agreements will need to be funded by the drivers with little or no income coming in. A sudden glut of them on the secondhand car market will do nothing for their resale values. Thus, some will face ruin.
Whatever else, the manner of this decision is chaotic and will bring misery to the very people – Uber drivers – who have turned to the authorities for justice and protection.
Uber loses licence to operate in London – reaction highlights
The other people affected are of course Uber users, some three million of them, who are now faced with more expensive and less safe modes of getting home late at night or when they are otherwise vulnerable – especially female passengers. Despite the assaults committed by a minority of Uber drivers, they are far from unique in their propensity to commit crime; and many young women would feel much less secure travelling by night bus, Tube or walking. Certainly that is a perception shared by many. The argument could be made that the licensed black taxi is generally safer and more reliable anyway (though black cab drivers have also been charged with sexual assault in the past) but it comes at a price that some simply cannot or will not pay. That is the reality – and this sudden withdrawal of the Uber service will hurt the…