New Uber CEO to meet London transport boss in licence battle

LONDON: The new chief executive of Uber Technologies will meet the head of London’s transport system next week to try to retain the licence for its ride hailing service in the British capital. 

Transport for London (TfL), which regulates and operates the transport network in one of the world’s richest cities, stunned the taxi-app firm last week when it said it would not renew its licence after the end of September.

TfL said Uber, valued at about US$70bil (RM296bil) and whose investors include Goldman Sachs, was unfit to operate in the capital and cited its approach to reporting serious criminal offences and background checks on drivers.

Uber said it would appeal against TfL’s ruling and improve its conduct to keep its 40,000 drivers in London on the road. It can operate during the appeal, a process that could last months.

The decision to strip Uber of its licence has caused a backlash from drivers and customers in the British capital. More than 800,000 people have signed a petition against the ruling.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who is less than a month into his job, meets TfL Commissioner Mike Brown on Tuesday.

“Our new CEO is looking forward to meeting with the commissioner next week,” an Uber spokesman said. “We want to work with London to make things right.”

Uber has until Oct 13 to appeal the decision. TfL officials would then review the appeal to decide whether to uphold or reverse the ban, a TfL spokesman said.

Uber received a boost on Thursday when Prime Minister Theresa May said “a blanket ban” was “disproportionate” but said safety concerns must be resolved. However, May has no role in deciding on the issue.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, an opposition Labour politician who has criticised the firm in the past, backed the ruling and said it would be wrong to license Uber if its conduct threatened the safety and security of Londoners.

Khan had asked the transport regulator to meet Uber’s CEO. But Khan’s spokesman said the mayor would not meet Khosrowshahi although he welcomed Uber head’s visit to London.

Premium car service Addison Lee plans to increase driver numbers in London by up to a quarter, it said on Friday, stepping up competition in the city.

The dispute in Britain, among Uber’s most important global markets, is one of many to confront the new chief executive, who has been brought in to try to clean up the company’s reputation as aggressive and unapologetic, following a string of scandals.

The company has faced regulatory and legal setbacks around the world, and been forced to quit several countries including Denmark and Hungary, amid opposition from traditional taxi services and concern among some regulators.

Khosrowshahi has already apologised to Londoners for Uber’s mistakes, marking a break with the firm’s usual combative tone. — Reuters