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Controversial Taxi App Rolls into Birmingham

After landing in London during 2012, and appearing in Manchester just four months ago, California-based taxi service ‘Uber’ has now arrived in Birmingham.

Wherever the company goes controversy seems sure to follow. Earlier in the year, large-scale protests from black cab drivers briefly saw London grind to a halt, and earlier in the month a German court chose to prevent the firm operating in Frankfurt due to concerns over safety and the legitimacy of its drivers.

But what makes it so different to other taxi firms?

The primary point of difference with Uber is in its app-orientated platform. Many taxi firms offer booking services via smartphone, but this is the first service to exist solely without a telephone service – meaning that, should other taxi businesses follow suit, there may be a growing number of firms with no option to make a phone booking at all.

While London taxi firms staged mass-protests in June, there are no plans for a similar response from Birmingham cabbies. The news will be welcomed by ‘Uber’ after the setback that occurred in Germany. That said, there are concerns regarding the safety of the service.

Mohammed Taj, part of the Birmingham Black Cab Drivers’ Association, said the effect of the app-based service on trade would not be a problem, but he was worried its drivers were not held to account in the same way as other firms.

‘What does concern us is that because it’s an app-based company, will they have to go through all the scrutiny and checks we do, like enhanced CRB checks and doing “the knowledge” like our drivers do?’

Mr Taj also downplayed the threat Uber would present to rival companies, saying: ‘These kind of app-only companies haven’t been very successful in Birmingham and several have tried to operate here and failed. We already have several black cab companies who operate using apps so Birmingham people are well used to them.’

Another concern in regards to this app-based system from some quarters is that categorisation may be a problem. Because Uber’s taxis work on a meter system, they are comparable to a Hackney carriage service. But as the service must be pre-booked, it could also be a considered private hire.

Only time will tell how Uber fare.



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