Transport for London (TfL) says it will not grant ride-hailing app Uber a new licence to operate in London.

TfL said that the firm was “not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence”, citing a “pattern of failures” including “unauthorised drivers exploiting vulnerabilities in the app to carry thousands of passengers”.

Uber now has 21 days to appeal the decision, and will be allowed to continue to operate “pending any appeal and throughout any potential appeals process”.

The firm originally lost its licence in 2017 over safety concerns, but was granted a 15-month extenstion, followed by a further two-month extension in September.

In a statement TfL said:

“As the regulator of taxi and private hire services in London, TfL is required to make a decision on Uber’s fitness and propriety before its current licence expires. Safety is TfL’s number one priority.

“Uber has made a number of positive changes and improvements to its culture, leadership and systems in the period since the Chief Magistrate granted it a licence in June 2018. This includes interacting with TfL in a transparent and productive manner. However, TfL has identified a pattern of failures by the company including several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk.

“Despite addressing some of these issues, TfL does not have confidence that similar issues will not reoccur in the future, which has led it to conclude that the company is not fit and proper at this time.

“In September Uber was granted a two-month licence as further information was required on these issues, some of which emerged late in the process of its reapplication.

“A key issue identified was that a change to Uber’s systems allowed unauthorised drivers to upload their photos to other Uber driver accounts. This allowed them to pick up passengers as though they were the booked driver, which occurred in at least 14,000 trips – putting passenger safety and security at risk.

“This means all the journeys were uninsured and some passenger journeys took place with unlicensed drivers, one of which had previously had their licence revoked by TfL.

“Another failure allowed dismissed or suspended drivers to create an Uber account and carry passengers, again compromising passenger safety and security.

“TfL recognises the steps that Uber has put in place to prevent this type of activity. However, it is a concern that Uber’s systems seem to have been comparatively easily manipulated.

“Other serious breaches have also occurred, including several insurance-related issues. Some of these led TfL to prosecute Uber earlier this year for causing and permitting the use of vehicles without the correct hire or reward insurance in place.

“While Uber has worked to address these issues, they highlight the potential safety risk to passengers of weak systems and processes.

“This pattern of regulatory breaches led TfL to commission an independent assessment of Uber’s ability to prevent incidents of this nature happening again. This work has led TfL to conclude that it currently does not have confidence that Uber has a robust system for protecting passenger safety, while managing changes to its app.”

For our guide to alternative ride-hailing apps in London, see:

Guide to ride-hailing apps in London

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