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London taxi app Ola banned over safety concerns

Transport for London has refused to grant Indian ridesharing firm Ola a licence due to safety concerns including the use of unlicensed drivers.

TfL said it needed to be satisfied that firms operating in the Capital were doing so while adhering to its “rigorous” passenger safety protocols.

It said Ola, which has been operating in London since February 2020, has made “historic breaches” of the licensing regime that led to unlicensed drivers and vehicles undertaking more than 1,000 passenger trips on behalf of the firm.

It then failed to draw these breaches to TfL’s attention when they were first identified.

TfL has previously had an ongoing dispute with London’s most popular ridesharing app Uber over safety concerns which also included the use of unlicensed drivers.

After a series of temporary extensions and pleas from the firm that it improved the safety of London transport options, it was finally granted a licence to operate for 18 months last week.

The deputy chief magistrate in that case said he had “sufficient confidence that Uber London no longer poses a risk to public safety… despite historical failings”.

Like Uber, Ola has a right to appeal the decision not to grant it a licence within 21 days and it can continue to operate pending the outcome of any appeal process.

It has been a difficult year for the capital’s taxi firms due to significantly weakened demand in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

With an absence of both tourists and workers coming into central London, the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association said in August that just 10 per cent of London’s black cabs were currently in operation.

Helen Chapman, TfL’s regulation director, said: “Our duty as a regulator is to ensure passenger safety. Through our investigations we discovered that flaws in Ola’s operating model have led to the use of unlicensed drivers and vehicles in more than 1,000 passenger trips, which may have put passenger safety at risk.

“If they do appeal, Ola can continue to operate and drivers can continue to undertake bookings on behalf of Ola. We will closely scrutinise the company to ensure passengers safety is not compromised.”

Marc Rozendal, Ola’s UK managing director, said: “At Ola, our core principle is to work closely, collaboratively and transparently with regulators such as TfL.

“We have been working with TfL during the review period and have sought to provide assurances and address the issues raised in an open and transparent manner.

“Ola will take the opportunity to appeal this decision and in doing so, our riders and drivers can rest assured that we will continue to operate as normal, providing safe and reliable mobility for London.”

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