Transport for London has refused to grant Indian car-booking app Ola a new licence to operate in the capital, citing “potential public safety consequences” from rule breaches, including more than 1,000 passenger trips with unlicensed drivers and vehicles.
The decision comes a week after its rival Uber won a court battle to continue operating in London following a three-year spat with the capital’s transport authority over issues including its own safety record.
SoftBank-backed Ola was originally granted a licence to operate in London in July 2019, but first began operating in the city in February 2020. The Bengalaru-based company, which also offers services in cities including Birmingham, Cardiff, Liverpool and Reading, hoped to beat competitors with a focus on safety.
However, TfL said that the company had recently made it aware of failures which had “potential public safety consequences”. In addition to the breaches of the licensing regime that saw passengers accepting rides with unlicensed drivers and vehicles, TfL said that the company had failed to draw attention to these issues immediately they were identified.
Ola now has 21 days to appeal against the decision at a magistrates’ court. “If they do appeal, Ola can continue to operate and drivers can continue to undertake bookings on behalf of Ola,” said Helen Chapman, TfL’s director of licensing, regulation and charging. “We will closely scrutinise the company to ensure passengers safety is not compromised.”
Ola’s UK managing director Marc Rozendal said the company’s core principle was to work closely, collaboratively and transparently with regulators, and that it had been working with TfL during the review period.
“Ola will take the opportunity to appeal this decision and in doing so our riders and drivers can rest assured that we will continue to operate as normal, providing safe and reliable mobility for London,” he continued.
London has become an increasingly heated market for car-riding in the last few years, with Ola jostling for market share with competitors such as Uber, the Estonia-based Bolt and Daimler-backed start-up Kapten — which merged with taxi app Free-Now.
For Ola, there may be some hope in the magistrates’ court decision last week to deem Uber “fit and proper”, given that the case focused heavily on how the company handled issues of passenger safety.
TfL refused to renew the San Francisco-based company’s licence in November 2019 after a spate of issues including a technical loophole that allowed drivers to fraudulently upload their photos to other drivers’ accounts. Deputy chief magistrate Tan Ikram ruled on Monday that the company had made sufficient changes since then.