December’s meeting of the Transport for London board was a little livelier than usual thanks to a bust up between transport commissioner Sir Peter Hendy and Bob Oddy, a TfL board member and London Taxi Drivers Association deputy General Secretary.
The pair locked horns after Sir Peter updated the board on the TfL’s attempts to have the High Court rule whether, as the LTDA claims, Uber’s use of an app to calculate fares breaches laws forbidding minicabs from fitting meters.
Transport for London says the app is legal but asked the High Court to make a final ruling because it says some aspects of the law are “unclear”. However its request for a hearing was derailed by the LTDA’s decision to start private prosecutions of some Uber drivers.
These prevent the court from considering TfL’s application as it cannot hear issues where related litigation is underway.
The LTDA was unwilling to withdraw its prosecutions, in part because it feared if TfL later failed to take action, of if the High Court failed to hear the application, it would be ‘out of time’ and unable to bring the cases back to court.
The two sides have been chucking accusations at each other for months, but December’s row was especially noteworthy for Oddy’s claim that the LTDA only took action after waiting “92 weeks” for TfL to act and Sir Peter’s very passionate denial and claim that this amounted to an accusation that he and other managers were misleading the board.
Sir Peter undertook to write to board members setting out TfL’s account of its actions.
That letter was sent out yesterday and Sir Peter’s office has generously forwarded a copy to me with permission to share its contents.
Rather than quote selectively I’m embedding the whole letter below – though not the attachments which include the names of the Uber drivers action was brought against – but the most important development is that the LTDA has agreed for TfL to take over its prosecutions and that TfL, if it agrees, will then withdraw the cases so that the High Court can finally consider its application for a determination.
There’s still a long way to go before the matter of the legality of Uber’s app is decided, but after months of rows which have led to growing mistrust of TfL among some Taxi drivers, it looks like progress is finally being made.
Update: To address some the concerns raised elsewhere, Oddy is normally barred from discussing Taxi business at TfL board meetings but at December’s meeting Mayor Boris Johnson, who also serves as TfL’s chair, adjourned the meeting to allow him to respond to Hendy’s comments.
Boris requested that the webcast continue throughout the resulting discussion which was on the public record but legally happened outside of the meeting in order to satisfy rules on any conflict of interest.