Uber is bracing itself for regulators to deliver a crucial ruling that could trigger the removal of tens of thousands of private-hire drivers from London’s streets.
Sky News has learnt that Transport for London (TfL) could announce as soon as Friday whether it is handing the world’s biggest ride-hailing app a new five-year operating licence.
Sources close to the decision said there were growing expectations that the capital’s transport body would curtail or reject altogether Uber’s application for a new licence.
If such a decision transpired, it would be welcomed by Uber’s growing army of critics, who argue that the company has exacerbated London’s traffic congestion and done too little to address violent incidents involving its drivers.
A ruling by TfL against a new operating licence for Uber, which last raised money from investors at a valuation of almost $70bn, would stun the company, which has been left in turmoil over the conduct and subsequent exit of its founder, Travis Kalanick.
Uber Technologies Inc announced last month that it was appointing Dara Khosrowshahi, the boss of travel company Expedia, as its new chief executive following a bitter row involving board members and investors.
The ride-sharing app has faced numerous regulatory obstacles in markets around the world, but having its licence abolished in London would be one of the biggest blows it has faced during its short history.
Sources insisted that TfL could yet decide to renew the licence.
TfL had been due to make a decision about Uber’s licence by the end of September, but two sources said on Thursday night that a ruling was likely roughly a week before that deadline.
In May, TfL renewed the company’s permit to operate but for a period of only four months, amid continued opposition and threats of legal challenges from the GMB union and Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association.
Uber now has about 40,000 drivers in London, and is used by about 3.5m customers, but its rise has sparked the most significant backlash to date against a major champion of the so-called sharing economy.
Spokesmen for TfL and the Mayor of London’s office both declined to comment, while a source close to Uber said it had yet to be notified of any decision.