Transport for London (TfL) has ditched plans to heavily restrict Uber and similar car services. The decision was announced Wednesday, following a public consultation, in a far-reaching review of transport policy that proposes numerous rule changes for private hire firms operating in the British capital.
TfL will no longer consider requiring that booking confirmations to be available no later than five minutes ahead of a ride. For an app like Uber, which prides itself on speed and efficiency, the restriction would have placed a burden on the firm to slow down journeys to comply with regulations.
Uber will also not be required to offer bookings seven days in advance, and its private drivers won't be barred from working for other private hire firms. The regulator also dropped a rule that would have meant operators had to remove in-app features that display where the nearest drivers are located.
However, TfL will be pursuing a number of new regulations that will restrict private hire firms. The proposals include an English language requirement for drivers, guaranteed fare estimates before the start of a journey and a requirement that driver information is provided to customers.
The announcement also revealed that Boris Johnson, mayor of London, wants to remove an exemption to the congestion charge that currently applies to private hire vehicles. The charge means drivers have to pay 11.50 pounds ($16.58) a day for driving inside the central zone during peak hours, although discounts exist. The mayor has put the proposal to TfL, asking the regulator to investigate the idea's feasibility.
"New technology has revolutionized the private hire industry in recent years, bringing with it quantum leaps in terms of faster, better and cheaper services for customers," said Johnson. "However, it has also meant a rapid increase in the number of private hire vehicles on our streets, an increase that is responsible for causing congestion and has the potential to worsen air quality in central London."
Privately held Uber is one of the world's most valuable private companies, with a valuation at $62.5 billion in December 2015.