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Uber claims it makes London safer as it battles for its licence

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Uber has said in court that it has addressed concerns from Transport for London (TfL) over safety and should be granted its full licence to operate after running on temporary licences for the last few years.

The ride-hailing service had its licence revoked in November 2019 after it was deemed that a “pattern of failures” had led to its passengers sometimes being put at risk.

In particular, Uber was found to be employing unauthorised and unlicensed drivers following a change to its systems that allowed them to upload their own photos.

The firm had previously been denied a licence in 2017 before a judge restored it on a probationary basis. Uber said it has assuaged previous concerns by improving insurance document verification systems and rolling out real-time identification.

“The energy and responsiveness which (Uber)...has demonstrated in seeking to meet TfL’s concerns reflect a deep-rooted commitment to safety and provide further and strong evidence of fitness and propriety,” the company said of itself in a document submitted to court.

Deputy chief magistrate Tan Ikram will determine whether the ride-sharing app is “fit and proper” to hold a private hire vehicle (PHV) licence after the four-day hearing this week.

Uber’s representative Tim Ward QC, told the court: “It is a different business to that which existed in 2017, when TfL refused the licence extension.

“There have been far-reaching developments relevant to that question since that decision. We accept its past conduct is relevant to that question, but so is the progress it has made.”

Uber’s 45,000 drivers in London are still able to operate until the appeals process is exhausted, which could go on for several more months or even years, depending on when a decision is made and any further legal action that could follow.

Ward said that denying the company a licence would have a “profound effect” on groups at risk of street harassment, such as women and ethnic minorities, and that London is a “safer place” when Uber can operate.

London’s black cab drivers have long been opposed to the presence of Uber in the city, as it is perceived as a threat to their livelihoods. The trade body that represents them, the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association, is also part of the court case.

Despite the ongoing legal battle, Uber took over London's commuter boat service in August in collaboration with Thames Clipper.

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