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Ride-hailing giant Uber will not be issued with a new license to operate in London, sparking concern for the millions of city dwellers that rely on it for inner-city travel. 

Although Uber is appealing the decision by Transport for London, during which time it will continue to operate, the ride-hailing firm’s future is in serious doubt.

Uber CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, quickly took to Twitter with this statement: “We understand we’re held to a high bar, as we should be. But this TfL decision is just wrong. Over the last two years, we have fundamentally changed how we operate in London. We have come very far — and we will keep going, for the millions of drivers and riders who rely on us.”

TfL released a statement in response that said “several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk” were identified, which led to the decision to pull the plug. 

This news follows TfL’s decision to not renew Uber’s five-year license in 2017, deeming the company “not fit and proper.”

But perhaps most importantly, this decision affects consumers in London who will now be looking at alternatives. But black cabs are too expensive and traditional taxis do not allow the same level of flexibility to meet consumer demand. So, what else is out there? 


Bolt Ride

Arguably the best-positioned rival to take over from Uber, the Estonian startup (formally known as Taxify) has taken over Europe since being founded in 2013. It launched this year in the UK and is already present around London and its major airports via 30,000 drivers – and counting.

What it brings to the table is lower commission charges for drivers and lower fares for consumers, whilst also offsetting its carbon emissions. With its app receiving over 1.5 million downloads, it’s currently the only direct rival that could take the crown. 

Addison Lee

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In contrast to new boys Bolt, Addison Lee has been around, well, since I can remember. Yes, it’s more expensive than many of the new ride-hailing firms we see today, but it has established itself in London as a trusted service with excellent customer satisfaction. It also has a huge fleet of a range of vehicles, including its new offering of fully-electric Audi E-trons. 

The company has already stolen a chunk of the market from black cabs but, if it can lower its prices through cheaper options, I really think it could take over. Plus, it has a great relationship with London authorities.


Ola Cabs

Already labeled as India’s Uber, Ola is ready to take on mobility services in London. The company has been operating in Cardiff, Newport and the Vale of Glamorgan since last year and it has been licensed by TfL ahead of its London Launch. 

Ola has 125 million customers in 110 cities around the world, offering customers private hire vehicles and black taxis on its platform. The firm claims that it pays drivers more, offers work to licensed taxi drivers for safer trips and is open to working alongside local governments and authorities. 


Viavan London Launch

ViaVan operates in central London with over 20,000 drivers and over a million customers. Despite its name, it provides a smart car-pooling service with the help of Mercedes, making trips cheaper than private cabs – even if no one joins the trip. 

According to the company, it has a much better algorithm than Uber which avoids inconvenient detours as many have experienced with Uber. Although it allows drivers to use their own cars, there is a much higher chance of customers being picked up by a Mercedes, which is a big improvement over a Toyota Prius. 

The Catch

For me, Bolt has the best odds of taking Uber’s crown. It is the easiest to use, cheapest and, quite frankly, the nearest replica of the fallen giant.

Just like many of these ‘new mobility’ apps, it also has great promotional deals that will make the switch that little bit more attractive. However, it would be unfair not to mention that Uber also went down this route during its expansion. Let’s hope that Bolt can sustain these low costs and remove surcharges. I’m not holding my breath. 

These new apps must also offer more holistic solutions, such as public transport alternatives like buses, trains and even the option to bike or walk. As our cities get smarter, integration is becoming even more key. We must not over clutter our city.

Another issue that doesn’t seem to be discussed enough is the fact that most drivers use most ride-hailing apps. Which could be a major problem for these companies going forward.

Next time you get into a car by using a ride-hailing app, take a look at the driver’s dashboard. You might notice a second phone, or you might even notice a different ride-hailing app open. This is because most drivers are on each and every platform. 

And can you blame them?

This provides them with several additional incomes and increases the chance of them getting used by customers on each app. Personally, I have no problem with people making extra money, but it does take away the identity, and unique selling point, of the different businesses.

I guess this eliminates a mobility monopoly, which is great for the end-user, but how will these brands build brand loyalty in a world full of choice? 

Only time will tell. 


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