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Addison Lee urges mayor to fight “indefensible” Uber action over private hire rules

Uber’s attempt to force Transport for London to water down proposals to tighten up on drivers’ language skills has drawn an angry response from London’s largest private hire operator Addison Lee.

In a letter to London mayor Sadiq Khan, Addison Lee CEO Andy Boland (pictured) said Uber’s bid to take legal action against TfL was “indefensible”.

And Addison Lee’s position is backed by aggregator app Karhoo, which has also written to the mayor –with 30 London operators including iRide, Comcab, eConnect Cars and Abbey Cars also signing the letter.

Uber’s move comes after the TfL board approved a raft of proposals, including written English tests for drivers, a topographical knowledge test for all private hire drivers and a requirement for vehicles to carry hire and reward insurance even when they are not being used as minicabs.

Despite a wide consultation on the proposals over the past year, Uber’s London general manager Tom Elvidge complained that: “The goalposts have moved at the last minute”, adding that the new rules would be “bad for both drivers and companies like Uber”.

In May, Uber had welcomed the outcome of TfL’s consultation process on regulating the private hire industry, after lobbying hard for changes to the initial proposals.

Addison Lee’s Boland said: “Having previously backed the proposals it’s hard to understand Uber’s resistance to implementation of these new regulations. The whole industry was fully involved in the consultation and there is a strong belief that they will benefit both passengers and drivers.”

In a letter to Mayor Khan, Karhoo funder Daniel Ishag wrote in support of the new rules, saying: “We are in favour because, on the whole, they will help create a level playing field for all. Licensed taxi and mini cab fleets have been hit hard by Uber in recent years and the perception of incumbent fleets in the industry is that Uber is allowed to play by a different set of rules – the industry needs rules that apply equally to all.”

An Uber spokesman argued that the B1 written English exam was unnecessarily challenging, adding: “We think requiring people to complete a two-hour written exam and pay £200 for the privilege goes way beyond what's needed to be able to drive people safely from A to B and communicate with their customers.”

But Helen Chapman, TfL’s general manager of taxi and private hire, said: “The proposal for an English language requirement was supported by 80% of the 20,000 respondents in our recent consultation, suggesting very strong public support.”

She added “We think that it’s appropriate for this requirement to apply to private hire drivers, who will often be responsible for transporting vulnerable passengers and is in line with Home Office intentions for customer facing public sector workers.”

Remo Gerber, managing director of rival app Gett, said: “Uber are wasting public money by bringing this action. They seemed to be in agreement with the new regulations and have changed their minds. I just do not understand why.” TfL was “being bashed”, he added, for “looking after the interests of passengers and making journeys safe”.

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