‘Taxi Wars’ as Uber arrives

From The Argus

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Taxi wars are set to take hold of Brighton and Hove as Uber hits the city today.

The controversial taxi-hailing app will launch in the city at 4pm Friday 28th October.

It comes as Southern Taxis – which runs Brighton and Hove cab company City Cabs – launches its own mobile phone app also enabling passengers to hail cabs with a click from their phone.

It is set to spark a price-cutting war between the two firms as Uber drivers set their own prices and can undercut competing Hackney Carriage cabs.

Both apps will enable customers to pay by card and track their vehicles’ arrivals on a map.

Uber was given the green light to roll out across the city last October after four days of deliberation by Brighton and Hove City Council.

Uber’s private hire vehicles are distinct from hackney carriages in that they must be booked in advance. They cannot ply for hire in the street, wait at cab ranks or be hailed by passers-by.

But that means they can set their own prices.

The introduction of Uber is set to spark a price war amongst the city’s taxis. Whilst Hackney Carriage cabs have to charge a set tariff of prices ranging from £2.80 to £5.60 for the first 320 yards and any subsequent 160 yards.

Most of the city’s existing private hire cabs also charge the same rates – meaning Uber could bring in stiff competition.

Fred Jones, Uber’s general manager in Brighton, said: “We are a smart phone app through which you can book licensed private hire vehicles.

“There are lots of cool features to improve safety. You can see a picture of the man or woman coming to pick you up and the make and model of the car and the registration details so you can be 100 per cent sure they are background checked.

“In Brighton the private hire companies run off the Hackney Carriage fares. This is one of the only places where private hire rates aren’t cheaper so it’s really exciting to be introducing that level of competition.

The company was only granted its licence by the council’s licensing committee on the grounds that they abide by all the conditions in the Blue Book – a set of guidelines for the local cab trade.

All Uber drivers will have to hold the same licence as any other private hire driver, which includes a check by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), successor to the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).

Uber has always stated they want to be treated the same as every other operator in the city and they will only be allowed to send Brighton and Hove-registered drivers to pick up customers.

The launch of the app also means that licensed drivers already working in the city will be able to move over to working for Uber.

Neither of the city’s two biggest existing taxi companies City Cabs or Streamline wished to comment on the launch of Uber.

In relation to their new rival app Andy Cheesman, managing director of Southern Taxis, said: “As a local, independent company, we are delighted to launch this new app which means our customers can now pay for their journey by debit or credit card while also taking cash and account bookings.

“In addition, it also means they can see the exact whereabouts of their taxi so this will improve waiting times. “Finally, and most importantly, when they use the app to book a taxi, they can do so in the knowledge that all our drivers are DBS checked and all our taxis have state-of-the-art CCTV.”

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