Minicab drivers licensed in London will no longer be able to drive for Uber in Brighton after the US company makes changes to its app next month.
The multinational company announced last week that it was splitting the UK into different regions, and that drivers would only be able to use the app within the region their licensing authority was located from March 14.
Brighton is part of the south coast region, which means drivers from immediately neighbouring authorities, such as Lewes and Adur, will be able to drive in the city – but those licensed with TfL won’t. The latest available figures from TfL indicate that 78 drivers are licensed in London but have Brighton and Hove addresses.
But local union bosses say the changes have been made to pre-empt changes in the law preventing any cross-border hiring – which they are still pushing for.
Andy Peters, secretary of GMB’s Brighton and Hove taxi branch, said: “Although we will no longer see cars from Wolverhampton or Sefton working in Brighton, at the moment there is no specific detail on how big this region is.
“All the TfL ph drivers who live in Brighton and predominantly work in the city because they either failed the high standards that the city requires or who just could not be bothered to even attempt to go for a Brighton licence will only be able to work in London.
The question is why has Uber suddenly taken this change in direction? Is there something that Uber knows will be happening in the future with regard to cross border hiring?
“Uber has not done this as a favour. This is not how Uber works. Is this a case of Uber becoming scared of what the Local Government Association has been pushing for and trying to act quickly before there is a change in legislation?
“However this does not go far enough because it doesn’t matter whether a private hire is working predominantly in Brighton and Hove from over 250 miles away or just 50. The fact is that Uber is still encouraging private hire vehicles to predominantly work in areas that they are not licensed in.
“This announcement should not make people think it is all over as it certainly is not. Do not be fooled by Uber. The fight goes on to fully change legislation.”
In its announcement, Uber said: “While cross-border driving is something the law allows for and is common in private hire journeys across England and Wales, we’ve heard from local licensing authorities that the way our app works can make it hard for them to oversee what some drivers are doing in their jurisdiction.
“That’s why next month we are making a significant change which will mean drivers will only be able to use our app within the region where they are licensed as a private hire driver.
“While we will of course keep everything under review we believe this change strikes the right balance for the drivers, riders and cities we serve.
“It will help local licensing authorities tackle the challenge they currently face in regulating drivers in their area when they are licensed in another part of the country; passengers will still be able to take affordable long distance trips (such as to and from airports, hospitals or back home after a night out in the city centre); and drivers will be able to carry out those longer trips without being forced to drive back without a fare paying passenger.”
According to the latest figures from TfL, there are a total of 78 private hire drivers licensed to drive in London whose registered address has a BN1, BN2 or BN3 postcode. Under the new Uber rules, these drivers will no longer be able to use the Uber app in Brighton and Hove.
A further 14 are licensed taxi drivers, but these will be black cab drivers who work in the capital.