Uber has Taken the UK Taxi Market by Storm


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Since Ubers Launch in London in 2010 it’s been Hailed as a Success – but what about the rest of the UK?

Launched in San Francisco on May 31st 2010, Uber has now reached around 400 cities in the world. The beauty of the app is in its simplicity. You come out of a hotel and are looking for a cab. You open the Uber app and see the city streets near you. There are grey cars drifting by, you choose the nearest one and within minutes, the car will be with you.

For its launch in London, it was set up by Richard Howard who had then been laid off from HSBC owing to the financial crisis, he decided that he wanted to work in the tech industry. Howard found out about a fundraising round of a new start-up called Uber, he immediately contacted the company and applied to join the team.

London was the 11th city that Uber was entering into at the time but the challenge was like none faced before. The city already had the services of the black cabs – one of world’s oldest and well run taxi fleets. There were around 3,000 licensed ‘private hire’ operators. One of these was Addison Lee which had around 4,500 cars at their disposal. Furthermore, there was Hailo, the ride-hailing app which was signed by around 9,000 black cab drivers. The competition was huge and Uber would really have to differentiate itself in this landscape. It took almost two years for them to come up with a strategy.

They key to the success for the London start-up was that Howard was great at selling Uber to the drivers, he gave them a free iPhone and offered £25 an hour whether they got any job or not. With such a good offer, there was no reason any driver would not accept it. On Uber’s very first day in London, Howard managed to get 50 drivers on the platform. The whole day saw only 30 trips but there was this incredible moment when seven rides were simultaneously on their way to pick up passengers. Slowly but surely, Ubers market share started to grow in London.

Towards the end of 2015, the number of Uber drivers exceeded the number of black cab drivers. Today, there are around 25,000 drivers and Uber claim that every week, 30,000 people download the app and use the service for the first time. The company quickly spread to 15 different cities of the UK and now has a staff of around 100 people.

However, reports back from our clients suggest that Uber hasn’t taken the whole of the UK by storm.   Outside London, they have struggled to sign up drivers, with a particular shortage in Scotland.

As a TMC, we do not actively encourage our clients to use Uber or similar services, only when we can help travel policies account for less regulated modes of transport can we fully endorse them.