Uber clampdown could add to London’s travel costs and traffic

Transport for London’s proposed clampdown on Uber could suck public ride-sharing apps into the fray, hurting consumers by adding to travel costs and traffic in the capital, reports The Telegraph.

Ali Clabburn, founder and boss of the car-pooling service Liftshare, said that TfL “could make congestion in London a whole lot worse and make transport unaffordable for a lot of people.”

Ride-sharing is legal, it’s normal, it’s accepted by the public and you can’t outlaw it LiftShare CEO Ali Clabburn

The transport body has proposed “measures to ensure that private hire vehicles cannot be used for ride-sharing purposes in London”.

Mr Clabburn said that Liftshare used to work closely with TfL until around six years ago when the relationship was not renewed because “TfL started feeling pressure from the taxi lobby”.

“TfL said that they can’t support public lift-sharing anymore because they want to make sure people only get in licensed taxis,” he said.

“There are millions of people sharing cars in London – and if they weren’t there would be huge problems – but TfL did not want to upset the taxi firms.”

LiftShare is different from Uber, a cab-booking app, because it allows people who are already driving in a certain direction to rent out spare seats in their car. These drivers do not make a profit but can put the proceeds towards running costs such as petrol.

Uber has a similar service in the US called UberPool, allowing several passengers to share a journey in one of its private hire vehicles, which Uber boss Travis Kalanick has said could take 1m cars off London’s streets when it launches in the UK.

The recent TfL consultation has led to concerns among the lift-sharing community that its business could be affected by the regulation facing Uber.

A clampdown on public lift-sharing services such as those provided by Liftshare, Blablacar and Carpooling would also be a rowback for the Government, which has supported the “sharing economy” and encouraged civil servants to use car-sharing and room-rental services to save public money.

“The Tubes, trains, footpaths, cycle ways and taxi ranks are all full. The only capacity is in empty car seats,” Mr Clabburn said. “If people weren’t sharing cars London would have gridlock. Ride-sharing is legal, it’s normal, it’s accepted by the public and you can’t outlaw it.”

He added: “The way the market is going is about convenience of travel, and the Government will struggle to stand in the way of that.”

A spokesperson for TfL said it was “in favour of technological development but within a context of safety”.

Meanwhile, Hailo, a British taxi-hailing app company, announced that it would ditch its minicab licence. The company had allowed both taxis and minicabs to be ordered via its app but said it would stop offering the latter, and that it was backing London’s cabbies.

Andrew Pinnington, Hailo’s chief executive, said the decision had not been made due to TfL proposing additional regulations for minicabs, but that they “obviously change the landscape”.

Hailo branched out into minicabs last year, a move that sparked protests from taxi drivers, and Pinnington said the company wanted to put itself on cabbies’ sides.