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Uber tells court of ‘wholesale change’ since London licence renewal declined

Transport for London decided not to renew the taxi-hailing app’s operator licence in September last year over concerns for public safety and security.

Uber accepts its licence should not have been renewed in London over safety concerns but believes the decision should be overturned because there has been “wholesale change” since, the taxi-hailing app has argued at its appeal hearing.

The company’s appeal began on Monday after Transport for London (TfL) decided not to renew its operator licence in September last year over concerns for public safety and security.

Tom de la Mare QC, representing Uber, told Westminster Magistrates’ Court the firm had taken the “unusual” stance of not opposing TfL’s reasons for not renewing the licence.

We accept TfL's decision in September was the right decision on the evidence at the time. TfL had considerable concerns about its (Uber's) fitness that warranted its refusal to renew Tom de la Mare QC, representing Uber

He said: “We accept TfL’s decision in September was the right decision on the evidence at the time.

“TfL had considerable concerns about its (Uber’s) fitness that warranted its refusal to renew.”

But, he added, this “led to wholesale change”.

“It’s profound and very much for the better,” he said.

He argued TfL’s last three inspections showed a “perfect record of compliance” and said three non-executive board members are now in place to ensure “total compliance to the letter and spirit” of regulatory obligations.

Improvements also include reporting to TfL any convictions or other matters that stop a driver being available, Mr de la Mare said.

This shows the “change of a business that grew very fast to one that has grown up”, he argued.

Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot indicated an 18-month provisional licence would be “too long” for her to grant.

The judge also said she is interested in whether those responsible for “misleading” the High Court in 2014 are still in power and what happens now if someone makes a complaint of sexual assault in an Uber.

TfL’s concerns also included how Uber obtained drivers’ medical certificates, how criminal record checks were performed and its use of technology to allegedly help it evade US law enforcement officials.

Uber has said it has made significant reforms such as changes to leadership, proactively reporting serious incidents to the Metropolitan Police and changing the app so users are told Uber has accepted their booking and their driver is TfL licensed.

The judge will rule whether Uber is “fit and proper” to hold a licence in the capital now, rather than whether TfL’s decision was correct in September.

Uber can operate as normal during the appeal process, which could continue in higher courts if either party is not satisfied with the Westminster result.

The hearing, expected to last several days, continues.

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