The national press has given some coverage to the legal ramifications of the way Uber operates. Concerns are growing alongside the phenomenal growth of the company in this country, particularity London.
What you may not be so aware of is the extensive amount of column space given to the matter in industry publications. It has been argued that the way in which Uber works means their should be classified as Hackney Carriages, (or black cabs). The body responsible for policing the regulations relating to Hackney Carriages and Private Hire Cars in London is the Public Carriage Office (PCO). They have not shown any real appetite for tackling the issue properly and have fudged around to avoid an expensive legal battle.
You probably know that Hackney Carriages can be hired from a taxi rank, (when the driver may not refuse to take you to a destination within the PCO area), or flagged down in the street. They must use a taximeter to determine the fare. Private Hire vehicles, (or minicabs as they are sometimes called), must be booked in advance. The Uber app, it is said, is just like hailing the nearest available Uber car. So, it has been suggested, that and acceptable solution is that the driver must wait five minutes before responding - I call that a fudge!
The problems get considerably worse in the Heathrow area. The app provides a "virtual taxi rank" for Uber drivers, who lurk, in large numbers, around the airport waiting for a fare. As they do no wish to pay for parking, they are very poorly paid, they clog up local residential areas, even parking on people's driveways! They leave huge quantities of rubbish on the street and have been known to use gardens as lavatories.
This has a knock effect for us other drivers who need to wait in the Heathrow area when meeting a flight. I, and all of the drivers I work with, try to act responsibly by finding somewhere to wait that will not cause disruption or inconvenience to others and where there are proper facilities for refreshments etc.However, measures put in place to keep out the Uber force also limits our options.
Now, Heathrow is to open a little publicised private hire waiting area. No details have been released, particularly whether there will be a charge, will drivers be allowed to use it without a booking, what facilities will be available, etc. I can make my guess that it will not be cheap to use and facilities will be inadequate. Cynical, perhaps, but a cynicism borne out of experience.
My view is that Uber is not good for anyone, except the massive corporation behind it. The drivers are poorly paid, poorly trained and overworked. Passengers may benefit from lower fares, but in the long term, as Uber grow, and this has been seen elsewhere where Uber having been operating for rather longer, they drive out much of their competition and then exploit their market dominance.
So far, Uber have only a tiny presence in Cambridge. I urge you not to give them your business. If they are allowed to grow, it would not be long before prime sites are clogged by waiting Uber drivers, and their rubbish - around the train station, Science Park, business parks and the city centre. You can be sure that, if the PCO is reluctant to enter into legal fisticuffs with Uber, then The Cambridge City Council will simply roll over.