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As a Licensing Chair I would have understood why TFL has refused to renew Uber’s License. Actually, I wouldn’t have awarded them one in the first place – but that helps nobody now

November 26, 2019 Leave a comment

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If you were looking for a textbook example of what disruptive technology looks like when it hits a marketplace, the assault on the Taxi business in London by Uber would be it.

As a former business owner and entrepreneur, business advisor, business planning tutor and Chairman of a Licensing Authority too, the case that has been bubbling away between TFL and Uber over a period of many months has become very interesting reading indeed.

It’s not simply because of the questions over the Licensing Principles that have come in to question and latterly formed the basis of TFL’s excuse to refuse to reissue Uber’s Operating License.

It’s because the License was awarded in the first place. Especially when the Company’s insistence that it is not itself a Private Hire Company is publicly known.

London is a different situation to the responsibilities of the Licensing Authority covering rural Gloucestershire and some of its Market Towns that I oversaw for 4 years from 2011 – 2015. But the principles that underpin Taxi and Private Hire Licensing in each and every part of the Country are exactly the same.

It doesn’t matter how much the Company protests otherwise, customers know the service and the app they use to be booking an Uber.

Customers don’t know Uber to be a price comparison website, advice site, recommendation site or anything else that could sound like a plausible re-labelling of a what-it-says-on-the-can technology platform. One that aims to distance itself from the very responsibilities that govern the public-facing service and industry that it has aimed so successfully to disrupt – rather than as being a place where you connect online to get a choice of different ‘taxi co’s’.

The real cost of whatever influences allowed and facilitated the entry of Uber into our Capital in the first place – in these circumstances, have only since started to become known.

But the fact that Customers across London have now experienced the low-cost, comparatively easy to use side of a service that exists simply because of what might have been intentional misinterpretation of Private Hire Legislation, means that the rules that were arguably broken to facilitate the arrival of the service in London no longer matter where public opinion is involved.

Herein lies the real problem for TFL having this battle with Uber. Because whoever influenced or made the decision to allow Uber to operate in London without the Company accepting and demonstrating that they would meet all of the requirements of being a Private Hire Operator – not only in principle – but in practical form too – at that very point created the problem that is TFL vs. Uber today.

Because TFL awarded a License in the first place, they should now accept that they have responsibility for Uber being present in London. No matter who was in charge then. No matter who is in charge now.

At the same time however, Uber should not expect to continue operating under the false pretence that it is not itself a Private Hire Operator when doing so is little more than an elaborate charade.

Just because so many drivers now provide a Private Hire Service with Uber in London, it should not in anyway mean that a privately owned company can do whatever it likes without impunity – especially where questions of Public Safety are very clearly involved.

However, the reality that Uber has already held a License of the type they are attempting to regain, should suggest that the Company should at least have the opportunity to address the wider issues that are present. To accept the real responsibilities they have towards customers, employees and contractors too. And begin behaving like they are a part of an existing British Industry that they can work with, within and in support of, rather than treating it like it doesn’t exist and is something that they can walkover and ultimately replace.

No private company or commercial enterprise should be allowed to behave like a dictator over the provision of any service that involves public safety at any level or at any stage.

If Uber wins its License back on Appeal without any review, reform or change of the way that they operate, that however, is exactly what they will have become.

For good or for bad and for reasons unknown, TFL stepped outside the boundaries of the Licensing Principles to award Uber a Licence in the first place.

If it wants to fix the Uber problem properly it will have to be big enough to step outside those rules again for all the right reasons now and use the power and influence that it has to create a Private Hire model in London that works for TFL, for Uber, for the Industry, for the drivers, for the customers and basically everyone involved.

 

image thanks to wsj.com

 

Tube Drivers earning £100K+ is outrageous. But privatising the Underground would reduce value, redirect that money to deep pockets and cost the Public much more besides

December 18, 2018 Leave a comment

The stranglehold that the Unions have on Transport for London has long since been questionable. But questionable and acceptable are two very different things.

With some Tube Drivers now reportedly earning six figures and potentially more, the point has definitely been reached where it has become clear that their ability to command salaries that completely dwarf comparative roles on other networks has simply gone too far.

There is no need to list roles and the salaries of other ‘public’ occupations that show how disproportionate this giveaway is.

Roles that in some cases require many years of academic study and then on-the-job experience to reach a level of employment and positions which encapsulate significantly more responsibility, comparatively unlimited hours and are even then paid perhaps some 25% less.

There is no question that there is specific value to a Tube Driver’s role.

But the financial value placed upon it must be proportionate and reflective of the industry as a whole. Not open to suggestion at any time at the whim of Unions, simply because of the near monopoly status that the Underground in London has. A monopoly status that is clearly being used as a weapon against the Public that own the service, by those the Public have only ever employed to serve it.

Yet running away from the cause of the problem will only cause many more problems in itself.

Privatisation is now being voiced as a solution because it appears to be a quick-fix solution to all the challenges that the Public Sector has.

The problem is that private interests will always prioritise profit above public service.

So when a system there to benefit the Public like the Tube should be thriving, in private hands you would inevitably see it go into serious decline.

The cold, hard, unpopular and politically unpalatable reality is that the unspoken solution to solving problems like these are buried within employment and industrial laws. Laws which were put in place to benefit some without thought for the consequences for others, often so that some politician at some point some where has been able to guarantee that they would gain re-lection once more.

Much of the damaging legislation that has allowed this travesty to unfold, falls at the door of the influence and drip-drip-drip of legislation from Europe.

It has been embraced by previous Prime Ministers thinking only about their own positions whilst selling out efficiency and the realistic end-user costing of services directed at the Public, whilst propagating the myth that ideas have more value than practical reality to the People they were elected to represent.

Legislation brought into being and implemented under the pretence that it will improve some lives, is through its indirect but nonetheless disproportionately massive impact upon all others, one of the biggest contributors to the struggle that many people on low incomes now face, as well as a whole lot more.

To solve wholly avoidable problems like these and many more besides, we need the ability to set our own rules completely and have politicians in power who are prepared to use the responsibility they have been given to take decisions which may appear wrong to a noisy few, but address genuine need as a part of the many wider issues that the UK has. The purpose most rational people believe that Representatives of the People are elected for.

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