A LEADING ‘ridesharing’ service has its eyes on the Capital’s taxi market as it bids to open its first Scottish branch.
Multi-billion pound American company Uber connects passengers to a background-checked driver via a smartphone app, with the firm taking a 20 per cent cut of the fare.
The firm – which has applied for a booking office licence from the council for an address in George Street – has come under fire from established taxi and private hire companies across the world.
Complaints include concerns at the lack of regulation for drivers and vehicles, which allows them to offer a cheaper service than private-hire firms and black cabs.
Tony Kenmuir, director of Central Taxis in Bruntsfield, said: “Anyone who subscribes to the app and has a private car, and isn’t doing anything at that moment can pick someone up. Of course they can undercut us.”
The city is already “well-served” for taxis, he said, unlike larger cities where Uber has been successful.
Mr Kenmuir, who has 470 taxis in his fleet, added: “We are not against competition. But we are counting on the licensing authority, the police and the public to make sensible decisions about their safety.
“They don’t train their drivers, or test their vehicles. They only provide an app. I just think, why would you?”
Stephen Hill, non-executive chairman of Dalry-based private hire firm Capital Cars, raised concerns for the safety of passengers and called for the service to be subject to the same regulation as taxis and private hire firms.
An Uber spokesperson said: “Uber’s ambition is to be in every major city in the UK. Edinburgh is, of course, one of these cities. At this stage we don’t have a fixed timeline, but are really excited about the prospect of bringing our on-demand service to Scotland.”
The Evening News understands the application is likely to be ruled on in March.
A city spokesperson said: “We can confirm that Uber has lodged an application with the council for a booking office in central Edinburgh. As with all applications, both the applicant and any objectors will have the chance to present their case to the committee before a decision is made.”
Boss steers into trouble
A SENIOR executive at Uber was forced to apologise this week after suggesting the firm should hire investigators to dig up dirt on journalists who had written negative stories about it.
Emil Michael, pictured, senior vice-president of Uber, made the off-the-cuff remarks during a private dinner on Tuesday, in reference to American journalist Sarah Lacy who criticised the firm for sexism after it ran a French promotion promising users “hot chick” drivers.