Addison Lee boss: TfL ‘bottled it’ by letting Uber come to London

Liam Griffin

Liam Griffin: Said TfL ‘bottled it’ Picture: Glenn Copus

The boss of the UK’s biggest cab firm Addison Lee today accused Transport for London of “letting down” black taxi drivers by allowing a controversial American tech giant to muscle in on the capital.

In an interview with the Evening Standard, the firm’s chief executive claimed TfL had “bottled” it by letting taxi app Uber operate in London.

Uber’s presence in London has sparked fury and, earlier this year, protests among London’s black cabbies who claim the company’s technology effectively turn its drivers’ phones into a meter.

And Liam Griffin accused TfL of refusing to enforce regulations with Uber that Addison Lee – which has nearly 5000 cabs operating across London – has had to comply with because of a fear of legal action from the San Francisco company, whose backers include Google.

 “TfL completely and utterly bottled it,” he said. “They decided that they would fold and not enforce regulations that they have done to us for a long, long time on the basis that they are worried about being sued by Uber.”

The decision put TfL’s “credibility” in doubt, he said: “This has been enforced for ten years… Along come these guys, and all of a sudden its fine to do it. That’s just weak management.”

Uber, founded in 2009, has enjoyed an extremely rapid global expansion that has seen it now operate in over 200 cities and be valued at $40 billion. But its growth has been marred by controversy, including legal opposition in a number of countries as well as questions over the security of its process for vetting drivers.

TfL said Uber “meet all the requirements to be a licensed private hire operator”. A spokesman added a recent successful prosecution of Uber by TfL for an offence of causing or permitting a vehicle to be used without insurance showed it was not afraid to take action as a licensing authority.

Griffin, 41, also attacked Boris Johnson’s plans to create the world’s first “ultra low emission zone”. Under TfL’s current proposals, private hire vehicles who want to enter central London have to meet the conditions by 2020 or pay a daily £12.50 charge, while new private hire vehicles and taxis applying for a license have to be zero emission capable by 2018.

Calling the proposals “flawed” and “another TfL classic,” Griffin claimed passengers would end up footing the bill as no vehicle currently exists that fits the criteria and could be used by Addison Lee, and that no manufacturers were close to making one. “We are sitting here hoping that a suitable vehicle is created between now,” he said, “but we’ve spoken to Ford, we’ve spoken to Toyota, we’ve spoken to Mercedes – three of our current suppliers – and at this moment none of them are saying we will have a suitable vehicle.

“So at this moment you’ll have to pay £12.50 to drive into the middle of town [which will go onto the bills] of the driver and then the consumer.”

He added that it was not “just an Addison Lee problem, this is an industry-wide problem” and accused TfL of trying to rush through the proposals before the general election: “It’s become more of a political issue than it has a practical one, and that’s not beneficial to anyone.”

Griffin, who took over as head of Addison Lee from his dad and founder John, said he was “aligned with black taxis” on the issue.

TfL’s spokesman said the ULEZ will “improve the capital’s air quality and significantly reduce the number of people living in areas of poor air quality”, adding that the consultation on the proposals was ongoing and that it welcomed submissions by the deadline of 9 January.

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