Uber has been stripped of its licence to operate in London after failing to stop unlicensed and uninsured drivers picking up passengers.
Transport for London (TfL) found that at least 14,000 trips were made with drivers who were different to the ones shown on the app.
This was due to a system change enabling unauthorised drivers to upload their photographs to legitimate Uber driver accounts, the transport body said.
All of these journeys were uninsured and some took place with unlicensed drivers, including one who had previously had their licence revoked, TfL added.
Tfl said it had identified ‘several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk’ and ‘does not have confidence that similar issues will not reoccur in the future’.
The company has said it will appeal the decision and apply for another extension to its licence in the meantime.
Announcing the bombshell decision, TfL’s director of licensing Helen Chapman said today: ‘As the regulator of private hire services in London we are required to make a decision today on whether Uber is fit and proper to hold a licence.
‘Safety is our absolute top priority. While we recognise Uber has made improvements, it is unacceptable that Uber has allowed passengers to get into minicabs with drivers who are potentially unlicensed and uninsured.
‘It is clearly concerning that these issues arose, but it is also concerning that we cannot be confident that similar issues won’t happen again in future.’
The move sparked a mixed reaction among Londoners, with some saying they rely on the app to get them places cheaply.
Others were less sympathetic with the firm, saying they were shocked at the security risks.
Responding, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said in a statement: ‘I know this decision may be unpopular with Uber users but their safety is the paramount concern.
‘Regulations are there to keep Londoners safe, and fully complying with TfL’s strict standards is essential if private hire operators want a licence to operate in London.’
In September, Uber’s right to operate in the capital was extended by just two months after Transport for London (TfL) refused to grant a full five-year licence.
Uber was granted a 15-month licence by a judge in June 2018 after it appealed against a TfL decision not to renew its licence over safety and security concerns. The ride-hailing app’s existing licence was due to expire at 11.59pm today.
The reasons previously given for revoking the licence cited by TfL included: the company’s approach to reporting serious criminal offences, how drivers’ medical certificates were obtained, how criminal record checks were carried out and its use of technology which allegedly helped it evade law enforcement officials.
Uber says a range of new safety features have been introduced to its app in the past two years.
Uber’s regional general manager for northern and eastern Europe Jamie Heywood said today: ‘TfL’s decision not to renew Uber’s licence in London is extraordinary and wrong, and we will appeal.
‘We have fundamentally changed our business over the last two years and are setting the standard on safety. TfL found us to be a fit and proper operator just two months ago, and we continue to go above and beyond.
‘On behalf of the 3.5 million riders and 45,000 licensed drivers who depend on Uber in London, we will continue to operate as normal and will do everything we can to work with TfL to resolve this situation.’
Earlier this month, it launched a system which automatically checks on the well-being of drivers and passengers when a journey is interrupted by a long stop.
It also unveiled a discrimination reporting button on its app, and collaborated with the AA to produce a safety video to educate drivers on topics such as reading the road, speed, space management and how to drop off and pick up passengers safely.
There are around 45,000 Uber drivers in London.
The reputation Uber has gained for dangerous drivers has come from a series of court cases in the capital.
Scotland Yard criticised the firm after it emerged it failed to report 48 serious crimes.
In 2017, driver Jahir Hussain was jailed for 12 years for raping drunken women he picked up outside east London bars.
His first victim awoke to find Hussain fondling her breasts and undoing his belt on 12 October last year.
The woman lay still in the back of the cab frozen in fear as he raped her, Snaresbrook Crown Court heard. Father-of-four Hussain then carried out two attacks in quick succession in the early hours of 2 December.
He wasn’t working for Uber at the time of the attacks, but the first of his two victims had booked an Uber cab and he said he was the driver.
In 2015, driver Samson Haile was jailed for eight months for sexually assaulting a female customer in the back of his taxi.
During a journey, the 32-year-old told the woman ‘you are very pretty’ and asked her if she had a boyfriend, before saying ‘I want to have sex with you’.
He then turned round in his seat and touched her leg with his hand, before moving it up to her thigh. Minutes later touched her again on the knee at which point she screamed to be let out of the car.
In 2017, mother Annastazia Merrett claimed she suffered a black eye in a racist assault by an Asian Uber driver who called her a ‘white b****’.
She said she was hit twice by the driver who refused to help her open a gate after dropping her off in Elephant and Castle, South London.
Police said a community resolution was agreed upon by both parties. Uber said the driver ‘strongly denied’ the allegations.
Last year, a hairdresser told how she required stitches after an angry Uber driver alleged dragged her down the road.
Sabrina Benltaief, 20, of Bromley, South East London, claimed the motorist drove off while she was leaning into the car and left her unconscious in the street before she later woke up in hospital.
Uber condemned the actions but no action was taken by police.
In 2017, head of the Metropolitan police’s taxi and private hire unit Neil Billany said Uber seemed to be ‘deciding what [crimes] to support’, in a letter seen by a Sunday newspaper.
He spoke of a ‘significant concern’ that Uber was only reporting ‘less serious matters’ that would be ‘less damaging to [its] reputation’.
He accused Uber of ‘allowing situations to develop that clearly affect the safety and security of the public’ by keeping drivers’ crimes from police — including at least six sexual assaults on passengers.