Minicab app firm Uber set to launch in Birmingham

A controversial minicab company which brought London to a standstill this summer is heading to Birmingham.

Uber is planning to set up in Birmingham and is advertising for a manager to run the operation – from London.

In June Hackney Carriage drivers staged a mass protest in central London because they claim the Californian company was threatening their business.

Uber works by allowing customers to order one of its private cabs using a smart phone app and getting exact details of how long they will have to wait and what the fare will be.

Although a number of taxi and cab firms currently allow online and smartphone bookings, the San Francisco-based firm is unique in that it is purely app-based and does not take orders over the phone.

The service launched in London in 2012 and in Manchester in May.

But it has had a temporary injunction stopping it from operating in Frankfurt because the German authorities are not satisfied its cabs have the necessary licences.

In Birmingham, Black Cab drivers are not planning a protest.

Mohammed Taj, from the Birmingham Black Cab Drivers’ Association, said they were not worried by Uber’s imminent arrival, but were concerned its drivers would not have to undergo the same strict vetting its members did.

“These kind of app-only companies haven’t been very successful in Birmingham and several have tried to operate here and failed,” he said.

“We already have several black cab companies who operate using apps so Birmingham people are well used to them.

“What does concern us is that because it’s an app-based company, will they have to go through all the scrutiny and checks we do, like enhanced CRB checks and doing ‘the knowledge’ like our drivers do?”

A spokesman for Birmingham City Council said until Uber started operating in Birmingham they could not comment on the licensing arrangement.

“Until they start we don’t know if we treat them as Hackney Carriage or private hire drivers as it seems they fall between the two,” he said.

“Because they operate on a meter system that makes them Hackney Carriages, but if they have to be pre-booked and cannot be hailed in the street, that means they are private hire.”

A spokeswoman for Uber said it was too early to discuss its Birmingham operation.

“We are currently operating in London and Manchester in the UK but are looking to expand to other UK cities in the near future but can’t give specific details on our launch plans at the moment,” she said.

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