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Has the UK Uber crackdown begun? TfL opens consultation on private car biz

Get ready for tighter regs, possibly, no decisions made yet

Transport for London (TfL) has today opened a public consultation on the regulations governing private-hire taxis, a move that could see a major clampdown on the way Uber operates.

The proposals include stricter controls on insurance and tighter controls on private hire bookings, such as forcing operators to provide booking confirmation details to the passenger at least five minutes prior to the journey.

Garrett Emmerson, TfL's chief operating officer for Surface Transport, said: "We are launching a public consultation in order to inform and improve the regulations that govern the capital's private hire trade. In recent years the private hire industry has grown exponentially and technology has also developed rapidly."

Earlier this month Tory mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith warned that London's iconic black cabs were at risk of disappearing from the capital's streets because of Uber.

The number of minicab drivers in London has increased by 46 per cent to 86,500 when compared with five years ago, and is increasing by 1,000 every month, said Goldsmith.

Black cabs bear greater costs as they are subject to more regulation, although this allows them to pick up anyone from the street. In contrast, private hire vehicles are subject to less regulation because they are booked in advance, he said.

"That system largely worked fine until recently, but the emergence of Uber has turned it on its head," he said. According to Goldsmith the speed of the Uber app means that its cars are effectively hailed by users.

"The consultation sets out a number of ways that standards across the industry could be raised," said Emmerson, "ensuring Londoners can continue to benefit from the service provided by licensed private hire vehicles. No final decisions have been made and we're keen to hear a range of views from the trade and from Londoners too."

The UK is generally thought to have the loosest regulations governing the use of mini cabs in Europe. In other countries across the continent Uber has butted heads with numerous regulators and is fighting several legal battles.

Yesterday, the Dutch Public Prosecution Service confirmed cops had raided Uber's Amsterdam office as part of an ongoing crackdown against the California upstart for operating unlicensed taxis.

The consultation will run for 12 weeks and close on 23 December 2015. ®

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