Ola denied licence for London roads, to appeal decision

Indian ride-hailing company Ola has been refused a licence to continue operating in London over "passenger safety" failings by the UK capital's transport authority, Transport for London (TfL), a decision the company said it will appeal.

The Bengaluru-headquartered company, which had launched in London in February, has 21 days to appeal against the decision and can continue to operate in the interim.

"Through our investigations we discovered that flaws in Ola's operating model have led to the use of unlicensed drivers and vehicles in more than 1,000 passenger trips, which may have put passenger safety at risk," said Helen Chapman, TfL's director of licensing, regulation and charging.

"If they do appeal, Ola can continue to operate and drivers can continue to undertake bookings on behalf of Ola. We will closely scrutinise the company to ensure passengers safety is not compromised," said Chapman.

Ola is also accused by TfL of a failure to draw attention to concerns as they were identified.

The company, on the other hand, stressed that all issues have been "corrected" and it is therefore confident this can be demonstrated on appeal.

It added that TfL has an important job to do and Ola will help them do this, "constructively and cooperatively".

"At Ola, our core principle is to work closely, collaboratively and transparently with regulators such as TfL. We have been working with TfL during the review period and have sought to provide assurances and address the issues raised in an open and transparent manner," said Marc Rozendal, Managing Director, Ola UK.

"Ola will take the opportunity to appeal this decision and in doing so, our riders and drivers can rest assured that we will continue to operate as normal, providing safe and reliable mobility for London," he said.

The Indian company, which is backed by Japan's SoftBank Group, entered the UK market in 2018 starting with Wales and then south-west England.

At the time of its launch in London in February, it had unveiled partnerships aimed at high driver standards, as it teamed up with DriveTech, part of the British motoring association AA, Mercer and Pearson to offer Ola riders in London the "highest standard of driving skills, and driver customer service and communication".

"Ola is raising the standards of safety in the UK ride-hailing industry and bringing global best practice to the market.

In a number of pioneering moves for the UK, Ola is launching its flagship global safety feature, 'Guardian', which uses AI and machine learning to automatically detect irregular vehicle activity, a 'Start Code' feature to ensure customers and drivers are correctly matched, 24/7 voice support for riders and drivers, and a cap of six penalty points for drivers on its platform," the company said in its statement at the time.

The TfL decision to deny its licence comes a week after American taxi ride-hailing company Uber won a legal battle to continue operating in London.

The Ola rival was granted a new licence nearly a year after TfL rejected its application, also over safety concerns around unlicensed drivers.

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