Uber rivals in drive to capture London market share
MyTaxi cuts prices as cab operators react to impending licence loss by ride-sharing firm
Transport for London decided not to renew Uber’s licence when it expires at the end of the month, saying it was not a “fit and proper” operator. Photograph: Will Oliver/EPA
Rivals to Uber are preparing to capitalise on the company’s potential banning in London to gain customers and take more share of the growing market for online car booking.
MyTaxi, one of the largest operators of black cab bookings, has cut prices by 30 per cent while other competitors have seen downloads of their apps spike since Friday’s ruling by Transport for London not to renew Uber’s licence when it expires at the end of the month.
TfL said Uber was not a “fit and proper” operator, partly due to its safety record and a failure to report “serious criminal offences” by its fleet of unlicensed drivers appropriately.
There are few companies that have a network of self-employed drivers akin to Uber. Lyft, its most high-profile US rival, has not launched in the UK.
But several other operators provide apps that allow consumers to book licensed black cabs and pay electronically while receiving a discount, one of the key attractions of the service.
Gett, one such black taxi booking service that counts Volkswagen as a major investor, has seen a 250 per cent bump in its daily UK downloads since the Uber decision.
Shahar Waiser, founder and chief executive of Gett, said the issue of driver quality and safety becomes more important than price for most customers.
“We keep being laser focused on quality and the best-rated drivers. It’s always been loved by those quality-conscious Londoners who prefer speed and safety.”
He claimed that black cabs run about a third more quickly than Uber cars because they are permitted to use bus lanes.
The more frequently you use a service, he said, the more important the quality of drivers becomes – particularly if people use ride-booking apps as an alternative to owning a car in a city centre.
He said: “The industry is moving from owning the car into transportation as a service. When you start using on-demand services tens of times a month, then you should be certain about your safety and drivers’ professionalism.”
He said Gett, which operates a £5 fixed fare for some routes, would not be cutting prices initially.
“A year ago we were the first to introduce fixed prices for a black cab. Today, most of the rides are fixed price,” he said.
“We want to encourage Uber passengers back to black cabs,” the company said, adding it provided “the same convenience of app hailing and a higher standard of service”.
It accused Uber of trying to gain dominance by offering low prices, before raising its rates once it had established a monopoly.
New accounts registered with MyTaxi in the UK were 56 per cent higher on Friday than the day before, the company said, adding that its own offer of a 30 per cent discount extended only until the end of September.
Other companies have also been preparing to ramp up their presence in the market.
Taxiapp, a co-operative taxi booking service run by a group of taxi drivers, said it was preparing to launch a new app in October.
“This a crucial time for tech starts-up like Taxiapp,” said founding member Sean Paul Day.
Taxify, a ride-booking service similar to Uber because it relies on unlicensed drivers, attempted to enter the London market last month but was banned because it had not applied for a private-hire licence.
The company is backed by Didi, the Chinese rival to Uber that has been taking stakes in Uber’s competitors all over the world. – (Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017)