The boss of Sheffield’s new Uber taxi service – which has proved controversial in other cities – says ‘competition is a good thing’ as it launches today.
The service allows people to order and pay for a taxi from an app on their mobile phone which sends the closest licensed private hire driver signed up to the scheme to each customer.
It has expanded rapidly since launching in 2010 – and in London triggered massive protests from black cab drivers who felt there was a lack of regulation.
Earlier this month, Sheffield taxi firms Mercury and City revealed they were merging due to ‘increasing competition’.
And Gett, the global taxi app which works exclusively with hackney carriages and black cabs, also launched in Sheffield yesterday.
Max Lines, general manager for Uber Sheffield, which is based at Bramall Lane and will go live from 5pm today, said: “I think all this competition is a good thing.
“Maybe I would say that, but in other UK cities I have never seen one where there is only one major taxi operator, which I don’t think would be a good thing for riders and drivers.
“I think Uber will be great for both riders and drivers in Sheffield, anything that increases the choice available.”
The Uber business model allows drivers – including hackney carriage drivers – to work when they want and works by taking 20 per cent commission from drivers’ fares.
It says its fares are more ‘affordable’, with a journey from Sheffield train station to Hunters Bar listed at £4.60.
Mr Lines said it was expanding to Sheffield because hundreds of residents had downloaded the app,
“The fact that we send the job to the closest driver means they have a shorter distance to go so they are not using as much fuel.
“We make it as efficient as possible so even though the fares are lower the drivers are kept busy and are doing more work.”
Gett has launched a recruitment drive to find hackney carriage drivers in Sheffield to sign up to its scheme.
It too works through an app which is cashless and has come to Sheffield after operating in other cities.
Unlike Uber, it allows passengers to book in advance.
Chief executive Remo Gerber said the expansion followed an ‘amazing response’ from across the country.