Is London open? Uber calls on customers to help resist 'bureaucratic' TfL rules

The political hot potato of cab regulation is threatening to warm up again, with Uber turning to its users for support in combating new Transport for London rules.

Using London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s post-EU referendum 'London is Open' slogan, the ride-hailing service has today emailed users requesting they help fight the "bureaucratic" new rules imposed by Transport for London.

The email from UK general manager Tom Elvidge says the rules will "threaten the livelihood of thousands of drivers", dwindling their numbers and – appealing directly to customer concerns – resulting in longer waiting times or no cars at all. It encourages users to email the Mayor to reconsider TfL’s plans.

The rules will require drivers from non-English-speaking countries to pass a two-hour written English exam costing £200, Uber says. Elvidge writes: "We support spoken English skills, but this exam is harder than the test for British citizenship."

The rules also ask part-time private hire drivers and Uber to inform TfL before changes are made to the app "which will slow down the roll-out of new features", he says. The latter rules are already active – the English tests requirement comes into force from 1 October.

TfL gave the rules the green light back in March. Uber initially had welcomed them, after a TfL review had earlier proposed that users should wait five minutes after ordering a cab via it or similar apps, even if one was available that very minute. It now appears Uber is less happy with the details of the review.

The company is no stranger to controversy, nor is it afraid of ruffling a few feathers amid its quest for global growth. Uber's operations have been contested heatedly by some – not least London’s black-cab drivers, who staged protests in 2014. More recently, it has come under scrutiny for its employment practices via a tribunal brought by a trade union.

Separately, last week UKIP London Assembly member David Kurten welcomed an apparent increase in TfL's private hire vehicle (PHV) complain team, saying: "I would like to see a temporary freeze on the number of PHV licences issued in London to allow for more stringent regulatory systems to be put in place." He said this should include English language tests.

Ahead of Khan's election, UKIP's candidate said he was the only mayoral hopeful who truly stood up for black-cab drivers.

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