Taxi drivers across Edinburgh have led new calls for an inquest into the running of the US based private-hire transport company Uber in the Capital, following a decision by London’s public transport regulators to revoke the operators’ right to continue its enterprise in the city.
The ruling, delivered by Transport for London on Friday September 22 was later backed by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who declared the current state of Uber’s private hire services as “not fit and proper’’ to serve its estimated 3.5 million customers around the UK capital.
As a result, Uber’s licence expired by Saturday September 30, after which the company should be required to cease operation.
North of the border, the verdict has been welcomed by taxi drivers with the hope that will pave the way for a similar investigation into Uber’s operation here in Edinburgh.
Speaking to The Student this week, Alistair McPherson, a member of the Edinburgh Taxi Association expressed: “Uber offers a dystopian vision of an unregulated, unsafe, unfair, unstable and uncaring future in which the vast majority of their drivers scrape a living through low-paid work with zero employment rights.
“It is not an Uber v taxi fight, it is Uber v the regulator that is the situation now.
“Uber must obey the regulations set down, primarily for public safety,” yet they either flout the regulations or down right ignore them, and the regulator in London has called them out on their approach to DBS checks for drivers, handling of sexual assault cases and illegal use of its software, McPherson continued.
“The council should be looking into Uber practices as a whole and not as a separate entity in Edinburgh. Public safety is paramount and this is why Taxi’s are heavily regulated.
“Uber have shown a complete disregard for regulation and safety in favour of profit”
Finally, McPherson stated: “It is our view that if Uber are not fit and proper for London, then surely they are not fit and proper to operate anywhere in the UK. The safety of the traveling public must come first.”
However, it does not appear that the recent ruling has deterred Uber from continuing its plan to expand into the UK.
Statistics provided by the Edinburgh City Council help highlight the continuous dramatic rise of private operators working for Uber and similar companies within the Capital.
As of October 2015, there were only 1,143 recorded applications for a private hire licence. This figure rose sharply to 1,763 by the next year in 2016, an increase of 54%, and looks certain to surpass even higher figures when the next round of data is released shortly.
Compared to the 1,300 recorded taxis currently working in the city, it is likely that market for traditional black cab drivers only set to be further pressed in the future.
Furthermore, reports emerged on a few days after the ruling from Transport for London, that Uber are still looking into plans to create the role of UK chairman, with the purpose to co-ordinate the companies’ business strategy as it continues to expand in cities around the country.
The Student also reached out for a comment from the Edinburgh Private Hire Drivers Association for their perspective, but they declined to comment on the matter.
Image: Paul Trujillo