The launch of controversial taxi service Uber could be delayed into 2016, the firm has admitted – more than a year after it announced plans to expand north of the Border.
The American app-based service, which matches customers up with the closest driver using their smartphones, applied for a licence to operate in Edinburgh last November and established an office in George Street.
The people we are looking for are ex-banking, ex-management consultancyHarry Porter
Three months later, it also unveiled plans to launch in Glasgow.
But a spokesman told the Evening News that the need to find “the right people” to run its office operation has meant that Uber cars may not hit the streets in Scotland’s two biggest cities until into next year.
A spokesman for the firm said it was looking for people who had previously worked in jobs such as banking and management consultancy.
The multi-billion-pound US company connects passengers to a background-checked driver via a smartphone app, with the firm taking a 20 per cent cut of the fare. It claims that speed in connecting drivers and passengers allows it to keep fares low.
Harry Porter, UK spokesman for Uber, said he was doubtful that a launch would occur by the end of this year.
“That would be nice,” he said. “But we are currently looking for the right people to run things on the ground. We have got a licence for both Edinburgh and Glasgow and we want to do it as soon as possible.
“The people we are looking for are ex-banking, ex-management consultancy. That’s the general kind of person we need. It is a very analytical job around supply and demand.”
The company is currently advertising for a general manager of Scotland on its website. It is believed that around three staff would initially be recruited in Glasgow and Edinburgh, while Uber employs up to 50 people in London.
“We do always look for someone from the local area who knows the city,” added Mr Porter. “We have had a lot of CVs in, we are just looking through them.”
Uber’s plans were said to have been responsible for a rush of potential drivers signing up for private hire permits in Edinburgh after costs were slashed by two-thirds.
Earlier this week, court papers filed in California accused Uber of not doing enough to check the backgrounds of drivers it employs in the US. Papers filed by attorneys in the state claim that former murderers, sexual offenders and thieves have all been Uber drivers.
However, Uber’s UK division, which is already in operation in seven British cities including London, Birmingham and Leeds, does not include UberPOP – the peer-to-peer taxi service it runs in some other countries including the US, which matches customers up with other members of the public who act as casual drivers for the company.
Instead, UK Uber drivers have to have already passed any checks necessary to become a private hire driver in the city in which they are operating.