Uber users say they have been hit with surging prices for their usual rides, after the number of private hire drivers was decimated during the peak of the pandemic. Some riders have complained of fare prices more than doubling in some cases and a lack of available drivers in the area since the lockdown. According to the Daily Mail, industry experts have warned that this may be the tip of the iceberg, and that there has ‘never been a worse time’ to be an Uber driver after price model changes. Denise Beighton took to Twitter saying how a £10-15 four-mile trip unexpectedly ended up costing her £47. She wrote: “I complained to customer services and they’ve offered me a £10 credit note.” For another regular customer, her daily trip from Marylebone to Kensington High Street has more than doubled in price, from £7 to over £18 in recent weeks. On the Uber app, it informs her that prices have risen because of ‘increased demand’. She said: “I tried to book three times, saw how much it was going to cost me, and then gave up and hailed a black cab. It was six quid cheaper and I didn’t have to wait eight minutes for it.” Last month, Londoners hit out at Uber for ‘costing more than a black cab’ - but the company insists it has not raised prices in two years. The national shortage in private hire and taxi drivers could have lasting implications. Although taxi and private hire firms are seeing increased levels of demand, there has been a widely reported 40 per cent drop in the number of drivers across the UK. Many gave up on the industry when lockdown restrictions cut all journeys that were ‘non-essential’ and instead turned to delivery driving. While the pandemic crippled the financial returns of hundreds of thousands of businesses, Uber was no different. Its revenue from its taxi business almost halved, reports the Telegraph, from approximately $10.7billion (£7.7bn) to $6.1bn (£4.4bn). With draconian restrictions easing, passengers have been returning to big cities and looking for familiarly cheap fares from Uber. James Farrar, a representative at App Drivers and Couriers Union, says there are multiple reasons why drivers left the industry and won’t be returning any time soon. He said: “The pandemic had a crippling psychological effect on drivers, meaning many turned away from the profession and simply haven’t returned. “Look at private hire and taxi drivers’ death rates, they were among the highest. The 80 per cent pay they received when they had no work didn’t help with the fixed costs of


paying for their vehicles, meaning many had to sell up or face huge debts.” He also criticised Uber for changing its pricing model last October from a time and distance-based fare, to a fixed- price fare.


Didi, the Chinese taxi hailing app, is to launch in Britain within weeks as it takes on US rival Uber in a battle for supremacy played out across the country’s roads. The Telegraph reports that the Beijing-headquartered business has secured its first licences in Salford and Sheffield and is stepping up preparations to start carrying customers. It comes as Didi faced a crackdown in China which has led to its forced removal from the nation’s app stores, preventing it from signing up new users and triggering a cybersecurity review. Didi completed a £49bn US listing recently but Beijing’s intervention has since caused its shares to sink. The company’s arrival in the UK creates a new challenger for Uber, alongside the likes of Bolt and Ola. Didi has been rapidly hiring across Britain, appointing staff in its London office and opening a base in Manchester. Didi, China’s biggest taxi-hailing app, drove Uber out of the country in 2016, when the US firm sold its operations to the company after a bruising price war. Uber has a 12.8pc stake in Didi and both are backed by SoftBank’s Vision Fund. Didi operates in 15 countries, mostly in Asia and central America. It launched in Russia last year and is also planning to start services in European countries such as France and Germany as part of a global expansion drive. The business’s first operations in the UK are likely to be followed by licence applications in cities such as London in the coming months. The company has been granted a one-year licence in Salford and a five-year permit in Sheffield, according to recent filings. Didi is believed to have outlined plans to begin its services in around three weeks. However, it is unclear if pressure on the company from the Chinese regulators will delay the launch. Shares in Didi closed down 20pc on Tuesday 6 July and fell by a further 5pc on Wednesday. Beijing is considering tightening restrictions on overseas listings, pointing to fears of sensitive data being exposed. It recently ordered Didi to remove its app from download stores, claiming the company had violated privacy laws. Didi did not respond to a request for comment.


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