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Administrative Court upholds Transport for London’s decision not to prevent Uber from trading pending its licence appeal


On 25 November 2019 Transport for London (“TfL”) declined to renew Uber London Limited’s (“ULL’s”) Private Hire Vehicle operator’s licence. On the same day, TfL concluded:

  1. that the refusal of ULL’s renewal application did not automatically make it unlawful for ULL to continue to trade (subject to conditions) following the expiry of its existing licence and pending the determination of any appeal; and
  2. that TfL should not prevent ULL from trading during that period (“the Decision”).

ULL has appealed the refusal to renew its licence to the Magistrates’ Court in Westminster. That appeal will be heard over four days in July 2020.

United Trade Action Group (“UTAG”) challenged TfL’s Decision. UTAG argued that:

  1. the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 rendered it unlawful for ULL to continue operating pending appeal once its existing licence expired; and 
  2. in any event, TfL’s decision not to take steps to prevent ULL from continuing to operate was irrational.

At a half day oral permission hearing, held remotely via videolink, Mr Justice Robin Knowles refused UTAG permission to advance its claim for judicial review. The Judge held that:

  1. the statutory framework did not bear the construction that UTAG argued for. The refusal to renew ULL’s licence did not prevent it continuing to operate pending the determination of its appeal; and
  2. TfL’s decision not to prevent ULL from continuing to operate was not arguably irrational.

In reaching that decision, the Judge noted that TfL retained the ability to suspend or revoke ULL’s licence if serious safety breaches occurred before the hearing of the appeal.

The Judge also rejected UTAG’s application for specific disclosure of the voluminous appendices to the TfL’s decision refusing ULL’s licence (the main body of which had been voluntarily disclosed).

Marie Demetriou QC and Tim Johnston appeared at the hearing on behalf of Transport for London.

James McClelland appeared at the hearing for Uber London Limited (as an interested party in the claim).