Uber has hit back at London Mayor Boris Johnson’s plans to cap the number of minicabs operating in London.
The Mayor of London wants to limit the number of minicabs operating in the city, arguing that the increase is causing more congestion, increasing air pollution, and adding to the number of illegally parked vehicles.
According to a letter seen by the Financial Times, Jo Bertram, the head of Uber’s business in the UK, is asking for a chance to debate the issue with Johnson.
Bertram said that since Uber is not yet represented on the board of Transport for London, and has been shut out of other industry bodies, it is unable to challenge the move directly.
Only allowing a finite number of minicabs to operate in the capital could hurt Uber. If the company is unable to add more drivers to meet the demand for its service, it won’t be able to keep prices low enough to retain users, or attract new ones.
“We have asked to meet the Mayor as we agree with him that London’s traffic is a concern,” Bertram said in a statement provided to Business Insider. “The answer isn’t to limit licenses and jobs. As seen elsewhere in the world, this would simply push up prices and force people back into their own cars, causing more congestion and pollution.”
The number of minicabs in the city grew by nearly a fifth last year to around 78,000, the Financial Times report added. Out of this number, 17,000 are operated by Uber drivers, currently the largest provider of private hires in London.
“We must be able to take action against the threat posed by the massive increase we are seeing in the number of private hire vehicles,” Johnson in a statement announcing his plans last week.
“There are only 25,000 black cabs and 8,000 buses in London and yet there are already over 75,000 minicabs and rising,” he added.
A spokesperson for Johnson says the Mayor is not “on an Uber witch hunt,” according to the FT.
“It doesn’t matter who the drivers work for,” Johnson’s spokesperson continued. “It just doesn’t make sense to have such a large number of minicab drivers in the capital.”
But Johnson seems to have taken it upon himself to protect the rights of London’s black cab drivers, who have previously argued that a lack of regulation is skewing the market in Uber’s favour. Last year, as Uber began to grow rapidly in London, Johnson dismissed the firm’s actions as “excessively bumptious,” adding that he didn’t like the way Uber was “moving into London and claiming they could take all this business away from black cabs.”
The London Taxi Drivers Association has now taken Uber to court, claiming that the use of a smartphone to log journeys goes against current regulations.