Uber is safe, cheap and innovative. So why the TfL crackdown?


Uber is facing a massive crackdown after a new Transport for London consultation proposed new regulations that would ban some of the minicab-hailing app’s key features.

It’s bad enough that our government should want to regulate against the public interest and limit innovation to protect black cab drivers from competition from Uber and similar firms, says The Entrepreneurs Network’s programmes director Annabel Denham in the Huffington Post. But more worrying is an article from Steve McNamara from August 2015, in which the General Secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) proposes a range of regulatory changes. They were said to dictate (among others):

– A minimum five-minute period between booking and pick up;
– That operators must not show vehicles available for immediate hire – either visibly or virtually, via an app;
– That the fare must be specified at the time of booking;
– That drivers can only work for one operator at a time;
– No ride sharing;
– That operators must record destinations at time of booking;
– That operators must offer a pre-booking facility – up to seven days.

These – published a month ago – are almost word-for-word what TfL is now proposing. Oh, and the LTDA has a seat on TfL’s board. Can we really be surprised that commentators are (rightly – in my opinion) crying “regulatory capture”?

As Charlotte Bowyer of the Adam Smith Institute has pointed out: “It’s hard to see how a mandatory wait time between booking a vehicle and it arriving can provide any value or security to consumers”. It only furnishes the “flag down” black cab trade with a competitive advantage. In addition, restrictions on the number of operators a driver can work for will only shackle hard-working, entrepreneurial drivers who combine shifts at traditional minicab companies with flexible and ad hoc hours with Uber. Ultimately, this will hurt passengers by reducing the supply of drivers.

“The TfL proposals are anti-competition, anti-innovation, and anti-entrepreneurship. Technological progress may seem inevitable, but history is testament to the fact that good or bad politics plays a huge role in a country’s global competitiveness. Lawmakers here in Britain rarely shy away from self-congratulation for our growing economy: it’s time they stopped promoting policies that slow growth and hinder economic opportunity.”

Read the article in full here.