Uber’s subtle change of tone bodes well for the future of the ride-hailing app in London, the city’s mayor has said.
Sadiq Khan said the apology from Uber’s chief executive and the different tone struck was an important factor as the company attempts to keep its foothold in the UK capital.
Transport for London shocked Uber by refusing to renew its licence last month, despite the widespread popularity of its service, saying it was not a “fit and proper” operator.
But Khan contrasted the actions of Uber’s global boss, Dara Khosrowshahi, with the management of Uber in London, which he had repeatedly criticised.
Speaking on LBC Radio, the mayor said: “What gives me confidence about the TfL decision is the fact that the global chief executive officer for Uber apologised to London. I think that bodes well in relation to the humility which hasn’t been shown by Uber London or Uber UK.”
Khosrowshahi met the transport commissioner, Mike Brown, this week, a discussion both sides described afterwards as “constructive”. Khan said it would have been inappropriate for him to join the talks.
Last week Jo Bertram, who set up the London office and headed Uber in northern Europe, quit. While Uber said the move was unrelated, TfL has seen it as a signal that Uber will change its approach to reflect its regulatory concerns.
Uber will be able to continue operating pending an appeals process that could last a year, but the mayor indicated he would prefer a solution outside the courts.
Alluding to the cancellation of a strike planned for Thursday on the underground, and other issues with unions in London, Khan said: “[Uber’s] global CEO has gone away to do some further work and I always think, as I said before when it came to the tube strikes, the way to resolve differences is constructively and amicably around a table rather than through litigation.”
The mayor said he wished to cut the number of minicabs on London’s streets, but did not have the power to do so. “I’ve been lobbying the government to have the powers to cap the numbers of private hire vehicle drivers.”
He said he had written to the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, about the issue.
About 120,000 private hire drivers are now licensed in the capital, compared with 67,000 in 2013. This has contributed to congestion, with Uber and minicabs now occupying 12% of London’s road space, the mayor said: “Many of these private hire vehicles are driving round and round – they are not strictly speaking plying for trade.”