Uber concern in Portsmouth as app service loses licence in London

UBER drivers have called for reassurance from a council amid fears their operating licence could be scrapped.

Monday, 25th November 2019, 3:31 pm
Updated Monday, 25th November 2019, 5:47 pm
Damaged taxis Uber and Aqua etc

Portsmouth City Council has been called to clarify its arrangement with the ride-hailing app firm.

It comes ahead of a ‘doomsday’ blow for Uber, which is not having its licence renewed in London over safety and security concerns.

Transport for London (TfL), which is responsible for authorising licences, said Uber’s existing arrangement will expire at 11.59pm tonight.

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An Uber taxi. Photo: PA

However, the mobile travel group will be allowed to continue to run in the city pending the results of an appeal by Uber lawyers.

The situation in the capital has unsettled drivers in Portsmouth, who in recent weeks have faced a surge of targeted attacks by city vandals.

Romanian engineering graduate George-Razvan Bodescu has been a taxi driver for 10 years and quit his role at Uber a few months ago after his vehicle was vandalised.

The 36-year-old of Southsea, who now runs his own luxury chauffeur service GRB Executive Cars, said: ‘If Uber loses London they’re doomed. Drivers will be worried about this.

‘We do need more support right now. No-one really cares what a taxi driver goes through to earn a living.

‘I’ve had acid thrown at my car, I have had nails in the rear of my tyres – it’s not right or fair.

‘Now with what’s happening in London, drivers in Portsmouth need reassurance.

‘Portsmouth City Council should come out to show us support publicly. It will reassure local drivers that there will be no action here.’

However, Peter Sutherland, Uber driver and trade representative in Portsmouth, said there was nothing to fear.

He said: ‘We have concerns from Portsmouth City Council about other things but on this issue we don’t.

‘If licensing were to say anything other than – or to not choose not to – renew our licence, then I would be gobsmacked.’

Portsmouth has a licence to operate with Uber that runs until January 31, 2021, Mr Bodescu said.

The News has approached the council for comment.

In London, the TfL said its decision had been taken after ‘several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk’, were identified.

At least 14,000 trips were made with drivers who were different to those shown on the app, TfL claimed.

Helen Chapman, TfL's director of licensing, regulation and charging, said: ‘Safety is our absolute top priority. While we recognise Uber has made improvements, it is unacceptable that Uber has allowed passengers to get into minicabs with drivers who are potentially unlicensed and uninsured.

‘It is clearly concerning that these issues arose, but it is also concerning that we cannot be confident that similar issues won't happen again in future.’

Uber's regional general manager for northern and eastern Europe, Jamie Heywood, insisted the company was ‘setting the standard on safety’ after two years of improvements.

He added: ‘TfL's decision not to renew Uber's licence in London is extraordinary and wrong, and we will appeal.

‘TfL found us to be a fit and proper operator just two months ago, and we continue to go above and beyond.’