Taxi Drivers’ Uber Protest Backfires As Downloads Surge

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European capital cities faced gridlocked traffic conditions yesterday after taxi protest at smartphone app

A smartphone app brought travel chaos to many European cities yesterday, as protesting taxi drivers vented their frustration at Uber.

But the protest against the taxi-booking mobile app seems to have backfired, after the company Uber said it had experienced an 850 percent increase in new users yesterday during the protest.

Traffic Chaos

Uber is available in 37 countries and 70 cities around the world. Once downloaded and registered, the app allows  users to track private taxis and book them.

However, taxi firms are up in arms because they say the Uber system, which works out the price for the taxi journey, is tantamount to a taxi meter. A taxi meter in London can only be legally used by the capital’s famous black cabs after the driver has undergone between four and seven years of training.

EE launches the UK’s first ever fleet of superfast 4G taxis in London and BirminghamAnd drivers’ unions are also concerned that apps like Uber means that more and more people are contacting unlicensed drivers from private firms, who may not have had the necessary checks and training. Black cab drivers are also upset that they have to jump through a lot of regulatory red tape to become a taxi driver, and apps like Uber are undermining this.

At 2pm Wednesday, up to an estimated 12,000 drivers took part in the “go-slow” demonstration, which resulted in disruption and gridlock on some of the capital’s road network. Similar protests took place in other European cities such as Madrid, Milan, Rome, Berlin and Paris.

But Uber has hit back at the taxi firms and their unions.

It said that the union representing black cab drivers, the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA), was “stuck in the dark ages”. It also accused it of “holding London to ransom” with an economic impact of £125 million.

“Londoners are voting with their fingers, tapping the app in support of new and innovative services as we see our biggest day of sign-ups in London today since launch two years ago,” Uber’s UK and Ireland general manager Jo Bertram told the Independent newspaper.

“In fact, today we’re seeing an 850 per cent increase in sign-ups compared to last Wednesday. The results are clear: London wants Uber in a big way,” Bertram was quoted as saying. “We passed TfL’s most stringent and comprehensive audit of a Private Hire Vehicle operator to date, passing with flying colours.”

“We are proud to be to be in London, we are proud to serve London, and we are here to stay. Uber on London,” concluded Bertram.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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