London transport regulator refuses licence to Ola, citing passenger safety

FILE PHOTO: An employee speaks over his phone as he sits at the front desk inside the office of Ola cab service in Gurugram, previously known as Gurgaon, on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, April 20, 2016. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee

BENGALURU (Reuters) - London’s public transport authority said Indian ride-hailing company Ola was not “fit and proper” to hold a licence, having put passenger safety at risk and refused to grant one to the taxi app, days after Uber received a green light in the city.

Bengaluru-based Ola entered the London taxi market in February this year. The market is dominated by rivals including Uber, Freenow and Bolt and has seen drivers of traditional black cabs blocking streets in protest at what they see as a threat to their livelihoods.

Transport for London (TfL) said in a statement that it refused to grant Ola, a Softbank-backed operator, a new London private hire vehicle (PHV) operator’s licence.

TfL said Ola made it aware of its failings, including breaches of its licensing regime, which led to unlicensed drivers and vehicles undertaking more than 1,000 passenger trips on the platform’s behalf.

“Ola can continue to operate pending the outcome of any appeal process”, TfL said, adding that Ola had 21 days to appeal against the decision.

In an emailed statement, Ola said it was working with TfL during the review period and “have sought to provide assurances and address the issues raised in an open and transparent manner”.

Ola said here in May that it would cut about 1,400 jobs as the lockdown in India brought business to a screeching halt.

The lockdown has since eased, but companies across sectors still face challenges as demand for their services have dropped.

Uber on Sept. 28 won a legal bid to restore its London operating licence, which was taken away over safety concerns.

Reporting by Vibhuti Sharma and Rebekah Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Cooney and Bernard Orr