Uber has been stripped of its licence to operate in London after failing to stop unlicensed and uninsured drivers picking up thousands of 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 which allows unauthorised drivers to upload their photographs to legitimate Uber driver accounts, the transport body said.

At least one driver picking up fares had previously had their licence revoked, it emerged Monday.

The company now has 21 days to mount an appeal and can continue to operate during that time; it will have to convince a court it is ‘fit and proper’ by the time of the appeal.

The move could end up seeing the app’s 45,000 drivers looking for other ways to make money, and thousands of customers searching for alternative apps.

Unions meanwhile have welcomed the move as a strike back at the ‘gig economy’.

Announcing the decision, TfL’s director of licensing Helen Chapman said: ‘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.’

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’.

It comes two years after TfL first tried to pull the plug on the firm’s operations in London, following a number of crimes committed by drivers.

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.

The firm’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi raged on Twitter: ‘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.’

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.’

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