Uber granted short-term operating licence in London

PA

Uber won a partial victory when a judge granted it a short-term operating licence in London after the permit was not renewed over safety concerns, but the taxi-hailing app came under criticism.

The firm conceded it had made "serious mistakes" and that Transport for London (TfL) was correct in its September decision, but told an appeal hearing that it had made "wholesale" reforms.

On Tuesday, Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot granted a 15-month "probationary licence", having found the Silicon Valley giant was now "fit and proper" to hold the licence in the capital.

But, during her judgment at Westminster Magistrates' Court, she criticised the firm's past "gung-ho" behaviour as "grow the business come what may".

The judge also said the firm painted a "false picture" of its processes during previous court battles and "tried to whip up public outcry" after TfL's decision by launching a "public attack" rather than immediately accepting blame.

Uber was asking for a five-year licence when TfL rejected the application.

View of Westminster Magistrates' Court
View of Westminster Magistrates' Court

Under the ordered licence, Uber must inform the Metropolitan Police of criminal allegations, face regular independent audits and not employ anyone who has helped evade law enforcement.

The judge also ordered the Silicon Valley giant to pay TfL's £425,000 legal costs.

Labour's London Assembly transport spokeswoman Florence Eshalomi said it was reassuring that Uber had taken "some action to clean up their act" and warned it would be closely monitored.

Tom Elvidge, Uber's UK general manager, also said he was "pleased" with the decision and said the firm would work to earn TfL's trust.

During the appeal, Mr Elvidge admitted the company had made a string of failings and now accepted TfL's decision over public safety and security.

Tom de la Mare QC, representing Uber, argued "wholesale change" at Uber and the appointment of three non-executive board members meant the court should approve a new licence.

TfL had told the firm of a string of concerns, which included it failing to report criminal allegations against its drivers to the police, using eye tests over Skype open to cheating, and voicing concerns over the use of technology to thwart regulators outside the UK.

Uber could continue operating in the capital while the appeal process was under way.