A controversial proposal to ban Uber and other app-based mini cab services from showing vehicles as available for immediate hire have been dropped by Transport for London.
The change was one of several proposals recently consulted on by the regulator which is seeking to update the rules which private hire firms working in London must adhere to.
Other measures dropped following the consultation include banning drivers from working for more than one mini cab operator and the introduction of a mandatory 5-minute delay between booking and pickup.
However in future all drivers will need to have a good standard of spoken English and provide passengers with a guaranteed fare ahead of their journey.
Operators will also need to ensure customers can speak to someone in the event of a problem with their journey and provide passengers with a photo of their driver as well as their details and those of the vehicle.
The popularity of Uber and other private hire firms has seen the number of mini cab drivers increase from 59,000 in 2009/10 to more than 95,000 today with mini cabs now accounting for one in ten of all vehicles entering the congestion charge zone.
City Hall had hoped to persuade the government to change the law to allow TfL to limit the number of private hire vehicles it licences however ministers have make it clear they will not do so.
In light of the government’s response Mayor Boris Johnson has asked TfL to investigate making mini cab drivers pay the congestion charge, from which they’re currently exempt.
Announcing the new regulations, which need to be ratified by the TfL board, Mayor Johnson said: “New technology has revolutionised the private hire industry in recent years, bringing with it quantum leaps in terms of faster, better and cheaper services for customers.
“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.
“Private hire vehicles now represent over 10 per cent of vehicles entering the Congestion Charging zone on a daily basis and I have asked TfL to investigate the impact and feasibility of removing the Congestion Charging exemption for private hire vehicles with a view to cutting congestion in central London.”
The Mayor’s announcement was welcomed by Valerie Shawcross, chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee which has previously called on TfL to ensure it properly enforces regulations for the private hire trade.
She said: “It is good to see TfL exercising its regulatory muscle, however the length of time it took to recognise the problem in the first place is questionable and the suggested measures have not pleased all the parties involved. Most of the cross-party recommendations we submitted to the Review have been taken on-board.
“It should be possible for Licensed Taxis, Private Hire Vehicles and Uber to co-exist harmoniously on London’s streets – but clearly more discussion will be required.”
While ministers have refused to grant TfL the power to limit mini cab numbers, they have agreed to extend its powers to regulate pedicabs.
The vehicles are popular with visitors but their unregulated nature exposes passengers to vastly inflated fares while traders in the West End and black cab drivers have long complained about the congestion they cause.
Mr Johnson said: “I am also delighted to have secured a commitment from the Government to take forward new legislation that will finally enable us to regulate the pedicab industry that has operated free of any real authority for far too long.”
News of government’s decisions comes just days after Conservative mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith called on ministers to clamp down on the pedicab trade.