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Uber campaigns against tough rules proposed in London

A user scans for an available vehicle using the Uber Technologies Inc.'s app on an Apple Inc. iPhone 5 smartphone in this arranged photograph in London, U.K., on Friday, May 30, 2014.

[LONDON] Ride-sharing giant Uber launched a petition that had more than 116,000 signatures by Thursday against proposed regulation in London that would force drivers to pass English language and map reading tests.

Drivers of traditional London taxis or "black cabs" have protested against services like Uber for years and hold frequent rallies in the streets of the British capital, accusing them of unfair competition.

"We understand that black cab drivers are feeling the pressure from services like Uber," the company's British branch said on its website.

"But the answer is to level the playing field by reducing today's burdensome black cab regulations - not to introduce rules that will be bad for riders, drivers and London," the statement said.

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Transport for London (TfL), which runs the city's transport system, launched a public consultation on Wednesday on a series of proposals that would affect all minicab services, including Uber, but not taxis.

The consultation ends on December 23 and the measures would be adopted by TfL after that, depending on public support, a TFL spokesman said.

One of the proposed requirements would be for private hire companies to operate a fixed landline telephone and accept bookings up to seven days in advance.

It would also tighten insurance rules for drivers and introduce an interval of at least five minutes between making a booking and the start of the journey to give drivers time to plan their route.

"No final decisions have been made and we're keen to hear a range of views from the trade and Londoners too," said Garrett Emmerson, TfL's chief operating officer for surface transport.

The centre-right Daily Telegraph newspaper criticised the proposed regulation saying: "Uber is here to stay - London has to embrace innovation".

"It's about protecting a taxi cartel that has become cosy with its regulators," wrote the author of the article, Madhumita Murgia.

The number of minicabs in London has risen by 26 per cent in the past two years to 62,800, according to the latest official data.