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TfL plans harsher rules for Uber

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London's transport regulator has promised to get tough on Uber and other ride-hailing companies, admitting that current rules are failing to keep up with technological developments.

New plans could include women-only car sharing options and forcing innovative companies to share their data, as well as grating permission to operate only for limited periods of time.

"The private hire market is unrecognisable from when current legislation was introduced. The growth of ride-sharing and other advances mean that regulation has to be fit for the next decade and not the last," said interim director of licensing, regulation and charging at Transport for London, Helen Chapman.

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"Our vision sets out clearly how we will manage these new developments that improve convenience for customers, while ensuring safety remains our top priority."

An Uber spokesperson said that it is planning "a number of changes and improvements over the coming weeks" following on from the introduction of limits on driving hours.

New rules being considered for private hire vehicles (PHVs), include clearer reporting methods for complaints and emergencies, and potentially allowing customers to chose who they share a ride with, for example, women only options for services such as UberPool.

TfL could also force companies to share their data with authorities to help understand patterns of travel and transport use across the capital. It's the second time in a week that authorities have focused on such an area. Members of the London Assembly suggested on Tuesday that TfL and the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan look into data sharing agreements with companies that use TfL's open source data. It comes as TfL faces a major challenge identifying what's behind a drop in the number of people using the Tube.

Incorporating workers rights into licensing decisions could also be on the table.

And TfL signalled that licences for PHVs could now be offered for shorter periods as standard in order to keep up with regulatory changes. They are usually granted for five years, but recently have been dished out for periods of a few months when they come up for renewal.

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It's one of the most significant moves yet by the under pressure regulator seeking to manage the growing number of companies offering new ways of travelling in the capital.

It comes after TfL said it would not renew Uber's licence over safety fears late last year – now the subject of a legal battle – and as other challengers have been met with barriers to launching services in London.

TfL had already put forward some proposals for regulatory reform, including ditching minicab's exemption from the congestion charge and increasing licensing fees.

Changes will also apply to what is referred to as Demand Responsive Transport (DRT), such as the Gett and CityMapper taxi-bus hybrid routes unveiled last year, with the goal of bringing their operations closer in line with PHVs.

Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said earlier today that the startup plans to get into all forms of transport, including buses and bikes.

View the policy document here.

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