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Uber wants UK gov intervention over TfL’s '5-minute wait' rule

Taking ‘money from drivers’ pockets’ claims taxi/app firm

Uber has indicated that it would seek an intervention from the UK government if Transport for London was to force the controversial taxi/app company to introduce a "five minute wait" rule.

The proposals for a forced delay time were suggested in September, as part of plans that would amount to a clampdown by the regional transport body on the way Uber operates in the capital.

"Frankly we were puzzled by some of the aims of the TfL transport review, such as the five minute rule," Uber’s UK head of policy Andrew Byrne told MPs today.

“It's about protecting interests of London taxi drivers,” he told the Business Innovation and Skills Select Committee. "The public safety [issues] of a five-minute wait time would be negative," he said.

Asked if Uber would want the national government to intervene if such a proposal were made, Byrne replied he would.

He also claimed the move, to wait and confirm a passenger's booking, would cost drivers £19m per year in wasted bookings, essentially "money being taken out of drivers' pockets".

Byrne said Uber was looking to the government to concentrate on the outcomes via regulation, such as quality and safety standards to protect the general public, rather than regulate "how" its business model works.

Last month, the High Court ruled that Uber's minicab-hailing app was indeed lawful, following a request for clarity by TfL.

There are currently 20,000 Uber drivers in London, with the company taking a 20 per cent cut from drivers (and a 25 per cent cut from new drivers). Uber itself directly employs 125 people.

Byrne said the "big picture ambition" of Uber was to end car ownership in London, whereby people either took taxis or rented vehicles through services such as Zipcar.

However, Richard Massett, chairman of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, said the biggest impact Uber was having is traffic congestion. He said in 2013 there were 50,000 private hire vehicles on the road, with that number now reaching 91,000.

"Uber floods the market and undercuts prices, and that is not a high tech solution," he said. ®

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