On the 22nd of September, Sadiq Khan announced the controversial decision that Transport for London (TfL) would not renew Uber’s ride-hailing license within London. This would mean that no longer could you use the trusty app to order a taxi to you within minutes.
Khan explained the decision by stating that “companies must play by the rules”, with TfL citing a “lack of corporate responsibility” in their treatment and reporting of crimes committed by their drivers as well as their “approach to how medical certificates [and] Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are obtained”.
Uber is a part of London’s transport links, whether TfL want to admit it or not.
Many have agreed with and praised the decision, arguing that Uber’s often problematic operating procedure demands that they be stripped of their license until they “play by the rules”. I don’t disagree that Uber has been rife with issues in the past and that it can, and should, do better. What I do disagree with is TFL’s lack of thought for the estimated 3.5 million Uber users within the city who rely on the service for safe and effective transport, not to mention the 40,000 drivers who need it to pay their mortgages.
Uber’s failings cannot be overlooked. The Metropolitan Police revealed that there were 48 alleged sexual attacks by Uber drivers in the first two months of this year alone, which is horrific and astounding. What’s even more horrific and astounding is that the Crime Survey of Sexual Violence for England & Wales (CSEW) indicates that each year, around 24,000 adults experience sexual assaults in London. This is largely due to unsafe or impractical transportation provisions in London that don’t do enough to protect the people that see late-night shows or get off work in the early hours of the morning and need to travel within London or further afield to their homes.
With London ever-expanding, many areas are left lacking safe, effective 24-hour transport links.
The Night Tube, a service introduced by TfL in 2014, provides Tube services every Friday and Saturday evenings for those that are working late or going out within London. It is a great service and something that many people use as a cheap and safe transport system. However, it runs the problem of only being available on those specific evenings and solely operating on certain lines.
Furthermore, it doesn’t travel to stations that are on the outskirts of London’s area zones. A friend of mine that lives in Dagenham is unable to use the Night Tube as it doesn’t service her area. Many would suggest the use of the Night Bus but, again, it doesn’t service every area and would often lead to people getting off at the nearest station and walking in the dark towards their homes.
With London ever-expanding, many areas lack safe, effective 24-hour transport links. But, they aren’t completely deprived. Uber is a part of London’s transport links, whether TfL want to admit it or not. It provided affordable, effective and largely safe transport for the 3.5 million people that needed it. Regardless of TfL’s scepticism concerning Uber’s practices, people use Uber because they trust it. It is also convenient and comparably cheap when you look at the costs of Black Cabs around London.
In addition, the application is registered with your personal details as well as the personal details of the driver that picks you up, allowing for mutual assurance of identity with the pick-up and throughout the journey.
They make sure that Transport for London really means Transport for all of London
The app allows you to send your driver’s information, current location and your estimated time of arrival to a friend so they can monitor your journey and you can feel more comfortable in the long-run. Plus, being picked up and dropped off exactly where you need is extremely convenient and safe for the user. If, for instance, you go to see a West End show that ends at 11pm and there are no black cabs available, Uber can pick you up right outside the theatre, saving you from wandering the streets in the dark looking either for a cab or for a bus/tube station that is either still running or goes where you require it to go.
TfL need to be clear on what they’re going to do for the people they aim to serve and protect rather than just ‘banning’ Uber recklessly. It isn’t acceptable to simply take away a means of transport without anything in place beforehand to replace its service. They need do better to make sure that Transport for London really means Transport for all of London – not just the gentrified and well-off areas that they are currently amenable to.