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UBER UPDATE


UBER CUSTOMERS COMPLAIN OF LACK OF CARS AND CANCELLATIONS IN LONDON


Uber customers in London are reporting an increase in drivers cancelling bookings, leaving them strand- ed and leading to significantly delayed journeys. According to The Independent, passen- gers complained on social media of long waits for cars and repeatedly having bookings cancelled after their journey had been accepted. Amanda O’Shaughnessy, senior network and communications manager for communications agency M&C Saatchi Talk, reported being kept waiting by an Uber driver for 30 minutes at 3am in south London last month. “The driver insisted he was nearby but I was on an empty street by myself in Earlsfield and I hadn’t seen a single car pass,” she said. “He kept asking me where I was and I’d explain, only to have him say he’d find me, and he never did.” Ms O’Shaughnessy was able to make a new booking with a different driver who picked her up a few minutes after the first finally cancelled. She had always felt safe using Uber in the past but this recent incident has left her “feeling really wary.” “I was running low on phone battery at the time, so it got me feeling very vulnerable and fearing I might be left stranded altogether.” Other Londoners have reported similar situations, as well as turning on the app to find no drivers available. Author and podcast host Pandora Sykes tweeted: “Is some- thing big going on with Uber in London that I don’t know about? I’ve tried to get one twice in the last ten days and it’s taken 15 mins and then cancelled on me - ditto for both people I was with? “It’s fine if this is the end, but I just can’t seem to figure out why it’s happening.” A Twitter user called Uber Ramblings with the profile “Driver, whistle blowing ex-banker collecting additional chapters for my book”, claimed the spate of cancellations was down to competition from other ride-hailing apps. They tweeted: “It’s due to the bonuses offered by Free Now and others to complete a set of six rides. Many drivers use two or more apps at the same time, so if a job comes in on those, and it counts towards the bonus payment, then the Uber ride is cancelled.” The congestion charge is also a factor, they claimed, with drivers unable to tell whether the route to a customer’s


SEPTEMBER 2021


destination goes through the congestion zone until accepting the booking. Unwilling to pay the charge, they cancel the booking, leaving the customer high and dry, said the anonymous driver. A spokesperson for Uber said: “As cities open up and people start moving again, we are encouraging 20,000 new drivers to sign up in order to meet rider demand. “We are proud to offer every driver the rights and protections they deserve - a guaranteed wage, holiday pay and a pension - but we’re not the only player in town. Drivers work with multiple operators and deserve the same standard of work on every trip.”


PLEA TO BRING UBER TO SOUTHEND TO TACKLE COWBOY TAXIS


Uber should be introduced in Southend to tackle cowboy taxi drivers and combat a shortage of local cabbies, senior councillors believe. The Echo reports that taxi firm AC Taxis is struggling to keep up with demand at peak times as Covid restrictions ease, allowing “fake drivers” to pick up party-goers for a cheaper fare. The struggles stem from a shortage of taxi drivers in the wake of the pandemic, with older drivers unwilling to “put themselves at risk.” Now, Martin Terry, councillor in charge of community safety, is touting the prospect of bringing Uber to Southend. He said: “There are difficulties at the moment with AC Taxis, they’ve admitted that themselves. They’ve got a shortage of drivers. Those issues need to be resolved. “This isn’t about booting AC Taxis out of Southend, it’s about having a rival to bring competition. “Uber will be able to help out where there is a shortage.” The idea of bringing Uber to Southend was rejected by Southend Council in 2018, with fears over the safety of the operation in the town. Recently the Echo reported how cowboy taxi drivers have been waiting in Southend hotspots to pick up passengers who are struggling to book a ride with AC Taxis. A taxi driver, from AC Taxis, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “We have no issues with Uber here, as long as they’re properly licensed. “If they’re not licensed, it would damage the reputation of the taxi trade in Southend. “Uber won’t help resolve the shortage, it’s a national problem. Uber has a shortage too.” Mr Terry believes Southend Council should have an open mind about bringing Uber to the town. He added: “The legal issues have all been resolved now. “It’s a different playing field now. We can’t be closed off to the idea. Taxis are a form of public transport, and a lot of the cars are green. “If we want a green way of getting around by car, this is something that should be considered.”


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