Uber was granted a 15-month probationary license to operate in London on Tuesday when a UK judge overturned a previously implemented ban. The US ride-hailing firm was stripped of its license last year by the regulatory agency Transport for London (TfL) over safety concerns.
"Uber's approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications," the TfL had said at the time. The decision had even received the support of London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
The concerns expressed were significant including an irresponsible approach to reporting serious criminal offenses and obtaining drivers' medical certificates. The company was also accused of lax processes in regards to criminal record checks and the use of technology to evade law enforcement.
After a two-day hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Judge Emma Arbuthnot, however, seems to have given the firm the benefit of the doubt. The company was given a temporary license albeit with some conditions.
This may be due to the fact that Uber acknowledged its mistakes and argued that the TfL’s 2017 ruling led the company to change. "I agree that Uber London Limited (ULL) and Uber generally was undergoing a period of significant change and, in light of what was available to TFL given the mistakes that ULL made, I absolutely accept that decision in September," Tom Elvidge, Uber's general manager in the UK, told Westminster Magistrates Court during the hearings.
Uber introduced mandatory six-hour safety breaks for drivers after 10 hours shifts in January and has said it will now be responsible for reporting serious incidents directly to the police. Criminal complaints will also no longer be logged with the TfL avoiding delays.
The ruling so far seems to be well-received by all parties. "We are pleased with today's decision," said Elvidge.
The general manager also reinforced the company's dedication to working with the TfL and earning "their trust." Meanwhile, Khan said the city's stance was "vindicated" in court.
"After years of operating poorly in London, Uber has now accepted that TfL's action in refusing to renew their license was totally justified," said the mayor. "Uber has been put on probation - their 15-month license has a clear set of conditions that TfL will thoroughly monitor and enforce."
Helen Chapman, the licensing, regulation and charging director at TfL, who had previously referred to Uber's behavior as "very disturbing" and described a "very difficult relationship" with the firm, also expressed support for the verdict. Chapman said Uber's measures for redeeming the firm "could, if applied correctly, enhance public safety."
No comments have been made as to whether the company will seek to win back its lost licenses in Brighton and York. The firm has, however, acquired new ones in Sheffield, Cambridge, Nottingham, and Leicester.