Uber fares skyrocket on Hogmanay

Uber's arrival in the Capital has been controversial amongst cabbies. Picture: Getty
Uber's arrival in the Capital has been controversial amongst cabbies. Picture: Getty
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CONTROVERSIAL taxi app Uber has come under fire after passengers were charged more than four times a normal cab fare over Hogmanay.

Revellers found themselves facing sky-high prices of more than £100 when they booked simple journeys across the Capital.

A ride from Warrender Park Road to Drum Brae North was estimated by the app to cost between £84 and £109 – up to £90 more than punters could expect to pay in a black cab on Hogmanay.

And one visitor from London was charged a £74 fare after travelling from George Street to Newhaven, a journey that would usually cost just £10 in a black cab – or £15 on Hogmanay.

Grace Hastie, 28, was visiting friends in Edinburgh when she ordered the Uber cab at around 3am. The office manager said: “I had never used it before. It was more than the cost of my flight up.”

Uber said the New Year price hike was down to its policy of “dynamic pricing”, which sees fares increase when the number of people booking a taxi is greater than the number of cars available. The policy aims to encourage more drivers to flock to areas of high demand.

Given that the black cab trade had to fight to save rate four – which increases fares by 1.5 times [over New Year] – to watch Uber charging this much leaves a very bad taste.

Richard Jolliffe

And they added that customers were notified “multiple times” of the amount they would be charged – and could choose not to go ahead with the booking.

But Richard Jolliffe, who has driven a black cab in the Capital for ten years, branded the prices “shocking” and said “the people of Edinburgh deserve better”.

He said: “Given that the black cab trade had to fight to save rate four – which increases fares by 1.5 times [over New Year] – to watch Uber charging this much leaves a very bad taste.”

Les McVay, company secretary of City Cabs – Edinburgh’s oldest taxi company – said: “It’s frustrating, but we have to sit back in the trade and let the public decide.”

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Uber declined to reveal the number of drivers it has operating across the city, but it is believed between 25 and 30 vehicles are currently signed up to the service. It is understood the popular app’s price surging on a busy Friday or Saturday night can normally reach up to 3.4 times a standard Uber fare, which can be a third cheaper than a black cab.

The company has previously been praised for its cheap prices and competitive impact on the taxi industry, with one study even suggesting cab drivers are becoming nicer to passengers as a result of the rivalry.

An Uber spokeswoman said: “In Edinburgh, we saw exceptionally high demand on Hogmanay with over 75,000 people in the city centre, but dynamic pricing is fully transparent and riders are notified multiple times before confirming.

“We emailed all riders before New Year’s eve with information on pricing and notify them in the app before they are required to confirm. Even when dynamic pricing is active, riders can still use the ‘fare estimate’ button to see an estimate of the total fare.

“With dynamic pricing we can make more cars available in a time of high demand. However, riders can chose not to accept the new price and select ‘notify me when surge ends’ and will be sent a text when the price returns to normal.”

alistair.grant@edinburghnews.com