Via, an Israeli-founded taxi app that’s raised a reported $US200 million (£152 million) from the likes of Mercedes-Benz, is ready to launch in London.
The Uber rival has hired a team of people and contacted thousands of drivers about working for the platform.
But the company is struggling to get an operating licence from Transport for London (TfL), which has been busy deciding whether to renew Uber’s licence over the last few months. It decided not to renew it on September 22.
Luca Parducci, Via’s general manager in London, told Business Insider: “We applied five months ago in April. Usually the application process takes eight weeks maximum. We had no indication that it would take longer than that.
“So we went through the whole process and started recruiting a team, which I’m part of, opened an office, started registering the interest of thousands of drivers that can’t wait to work with us,” continued Parducci, a former executive at travel booking website HotelTonight.
“In the process with TfL, we’ve provided additional information on our product, our company, our processes, and basically answers to all the questions that they had. Now we’re basically ready to start. We’re only missing the approval and licence from TfL.”
Via’s app is a ride-sharing service that allows people to catch a ride with other people going in the same direction. It’s similar in many respects to UberPool, which is the Uber service that allows people to do the same thing.
The app was launched in New York City before expanding to Chicago and Washington D.C. Now the company wants to launch in its first European city.
Via is focused on getting the London licence but the company could start to consider other cities if TfL doesn’t start to process its application. The company’s website shows that it is looking to hire general mangers in Berlin and Rome.
“It’s been frustrating to experience these delays because normally it will take less time than this and we really can’t wait to bring this service to London,” said Parducci.
A TfL spokesperson said: “Our regulation of London’s taxi and private hire trades is designed to ensure passenger safety. Private hire operators must meet rigorous regulations, and demonstrate to TfL that they do so, in order to operate. TfL must also be satisfied that an operator is fit and proper to hold a licence. We do not comment on individual licence applications.”
Uber said it plans to appeal TfL’s decision not to renew its licence and it has started a petition which now has over 850,000 signatures.
Other competitors in London include MyTaxi, Gett, Addison Lee, and the traditional black cab service.
Last week, taxi app Taxify launched in Paris after being banned in London.
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