Uber offers £600 for Edinburgh cabbies to swap sides

A CONTROVERSIAL taxi firm sparked a poaching row after offering drivers hundreds of pounds to join it during the Festival.

Friday, 2nd September 2016, 7:08 am
Updated Friday, 2nd September 2016, 8:14 am
The Uber home page is displayed on an iPhone next to the company logo on a computer screen on August 3, 2016 in London, England. Picture; Getty

Uber, which uses a mobile app to connect passengers with cars and pay for their journeys, said business had rocketed during August.

The firm offered new recruits up to £600 to join the company on condition that a certain number of trips were completed in their first few weeks.

Current Uber staff were also offered between £300 and £400 to refer new drivers.

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But Tony Kenmuir of Central Taxis said the cash handout incentives had failed to pay off.

He said: “The public hire taxi trade has been very busy. We’ve had a great Festival, drivers have all done very well and I’m not conscious of Uber having made any impact on our business.

“We thought Uber might get a bit of a boost because during the Festival a lot of people are here from London and a lot of people in London use Uber.

“But the surge pricing means, generally speaking, when there is significant demand, Uber is charging several times the equivalent taxi fare.

“There are reports that Uber worldwide has lost $1.25 billion (£995.7 million) in the first half of this year – and I understand most of that was providing incentives to drivers.”

Uber’s model works on a policy of “surge pricing”, which sees fares increase as demand for vehicles goes up.

Surges of between two and four times standard fares have been known to occur during particularly busy periods.

One city cabbie told the News how £6 return journeys were being charged at more than £10 one-way by Uber during the Festival.

A spokesman for Uber said: “It’s not uncommon to use incentives to increase interest in Uber within the driving community.

“With demand in Edinburgh off the charts as a result of the Fringe, financial incentives can be used to help balance with supply.

“The general manager in Edinburgh is tasked with this role – a constant balancing act – and so he is in charge of deciding the value of incentives.”

Uber hailed its first Festival in Edinburgh as a success, claiming the number of people who downloaded its app rose by 33 per cent.

It said thousands of city residents signed up and that Uber drivers covered more than 400,000 miles during the Festival.

Chris Yiu, general manager of Uber in Scotland, said: “The Edinburgh Festival is one of the highlights of the global calendar, 
and we’re delighted to have helped tens of thousands of people from over 70 countries get from one great show to the next.

“Drivers who partner with Uber have played a huge part in welcoming the world to Edinburgh and we’re looking forward to an even bigger year for the city in 2017.”