Following approval by Brighton and Hove City Council, the taxi service Uber is to shortly begin operating within the Brighton area.
Initially, Uber faced lengthy opposition from incumbent taxi firms who claimed that it could undercut their business. Objections were raised with regard to whether the vehicles would be wheelchair accessible, and if customers’ data was secure. There were also concerns as to how drivers would be checked to ensure the safety of the customers. In general, Uber has faced sweeping criticism across the world from taxi companies with many accusations of unlicensed drivers being able to escape regulations which are required by professional taxi drivers.
Mary Mears, Conservative Counsellor for Rottingdean Coastal said there were serious concerns and had urged the council to refuse the licence. According to the BBC, a spokeswoman for Uber said: “Uber has been licensed as an operator by more than 30 city councils across the UK and we look forward to being able to offer a safe, reliable and affordable choice in Brighton and Hove. We submitted our application over seven months ago and we’ve since seen over 85,000 people download and open the app so we’re excited about the potential in the region.”
Darren Fell, founder of Hove-based Crunch Accounting, which works for micro-businesses including Uber drivers, said the city had to embrace change. He said there were already 15,000 Uber drivers in the UK and that the smartphone app is creating thousands of new business owners while new platforms are emerging in the marketplace and the world is changing. He argues that Uber would bring an economic boost to Brighton and Hove: “The council would be out of their minds to consider banning it. We are an entrepreneurial, dot com-savvy city.”
Founded initially under the name “UberCab”, Uber is a mobile app which enables people to order a taxi directly through their smartphone. The American-based company aims to “connect riders to drivers” through GPS technology which locates and matches available taxis to customers. Uber now operates in 58 countries and 300 cities worldwide, and has been seeking to spread its acclaimed successes across the country, with Brighton being its next target. Functioning under a ‘cash-less’ system, the taxi fare is automatically paid through the customer’s credit card at the end of the journey.
JJ Thomas, a Law student at Sussex, commented; “I love Uber. I’ve used it across the country: in London, Manchester, Leeds, and Sheffield. I love the fact that I never have to worry about having the right amount of cash on me – it just gets taken straight out of my bank account.”