Birmingham could ban Uber if London licence renewal row is not resolved


Uber will be denied a new licence in Birmingham until a safety dispute in London is resolved, potentially setting a dangerous precedent for the ride-sharing giant in Britain.

The Birmingham licence expires at the end of this month. Uber has applied for a five-year extension. However, the city council will delay its decision until the outcome of Uber’s appeal against a banning order by Transport for London (TfL) is known, according to senior sources.

TfL stripped Uber of its licence in November after finding that more than 14,000 trips were taken with drivers who had faked their identity on the firm’s app. The company has been allowed to continue operating while it appeals against the decision.

Uber will also be allowed to operate in Birmingham until the appeal is heard. It is understood that the council has encountered no problems with the service, but it would be a “matter of concern” for the city if the TfL ban were upheld.

The move is a blow to Uber as it seeks to convince authorities that it is tackling complaints about passenger safety and its treatment of drivers. Birmingham is one of the Silicon Valley company’s biggest markets outside London and failure to secure a new deal would send a signal to other cities. Uber’s licence in Manchester expires next year.

Uber, which has a market value of $59.8bn (£45.9bn) and posted a third-quarter loss of $1.2bn in November, has fought regulators around the world for its right to operate, allowing newer rivals such as Bolt and Kapten to expand.

Dara Khosrowshahi, who became chief executive in 2017, has tried to soften some of the aggressive culture instilled by co-founder Travis Kalanick.

London, where there are 45,000 drivers, is the key battleground. TfL identified a “pattern of failures” that put customer safety at risk and said Uber “is not fit and proper at this time”. Uber described the decision as “extraordinary and wrong”.

Birmingham’s Labour-run council declined to comment. Uber would not comment on its licence in the city. It said it was “working closely with TfL to address their concerns and requests”.