DOES UBER PROGRESS HAVE A PLACE ON LONDON’S STREETS?

3 months ago

Our corporate director Neil Bayley shares his thoughts on the recent decision by TfL to revoke Uber’s license to operate in London.

I happened to be in the BBC Newsroom when the news broke this morning with a CEO waiting to do a live interview. You could sense the scale of the story immediately. Our interview was bumped in favour of live Uber updates.

I’ve rarely taken a black cab over the past year and not had my ear bent about Uber. Against that strength of feeling and consistent concerns echoing loudly across the media, communications can only take you so far. I think the decision is less a failure of communications, more a clash of values and agendas. Progress requires movement on both sides.

TfL’s language has been tough. Judging Uber to be unfit is strong, but calling the company immoral with no place on London’s streets is extreme. Equally on the Uber side, I don’t think most people will give much credence to their claim that London’s reputation as a global tech hub will be damaged.

This kind of public vs. private mud-slinging makes great news. Ultimately the situation will ease because Uber stands for progress – and we all need that. But the company needs to prove its progress delivers more equitably for all stakeholders. It needs to be robust on challenges like congestion, safety and driver conditions, whilst remaining open, willing to flex and comfortable with strong scrutiny. It will continue to think globally, but maybe needs to act locally more in-tune with the political, social and cultural rhythms that define unique places like London.