Revealed: Uber planning to launch in Yorkshire

Black cab and licensed taxi drivers protest at Trafalgar Square, London in June, over the introduction of the Uber phone app which allows customers to book and track vehicles.
Black cab and licensed taxi drivers protest at Trafalgar Square, London in June, over the introduction of the Uber phone app which allows customers to book and track vehicles.
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Uber, the controversial car hire service, is planning to launch in Yorkshire, The Yorkshire Post can reveal.

The UK subsidiary of the Silicon Valley firm has filed an application with Leeds City Council for a private hire vehicle operator’s licence.

It will be the company’s third city in the UK after London and Manchester.

Uber uses a smart phone application to connect passengers and drivers, cutting out the middlemen of the taxi companies.

The on-demand service has been hugely successful with the five-year-old company now operating in 200 cities around the world and doubling in size every six months.

But its phenomenal growth has led to multiple disputes with taxi firms and regulators.

Taxi drivers brought parts of central London to a standstill earlier this year when they quit work in protest against what they saw as a lack of regulation.

Paul Landau of Unite in Leeds said the union was not against new technology but claimed that Uber “is not working within the parameters of what is acceptable within licensing guidelines”.

Uber said that it abides by local regulations.

In London and Manchester, it operates under full private hire licenses granted by Transport for London and Manchester City Taxi Licensing Authority.

Uber declined to elaborate on its plans for this story but said all drivers have to go through DBS checks to get a private hire licence and will be licensed through Leeds City Council’s licensing department. All vehicles will be licensed, added the company.

A spokesman for the council said: “The application by Uber to be a licensed private hire operator in Leeds will be dealt with as per our usual licensing policies and regulations.

“Any decision made will be on the basis of the relevant legislation, compliance to local conditions and the merits of the individual application.

“It would be inappropriate to make any further comment while a legal decision-making process is running.”

Supporters of Uber say it is incredibly safe and provides passengers with the identity of their drivers who are subject to a ratings system by users. Those who score low are removed from the service.

Passengers can track the progress of their journeys via an online map, which is also accessible to friends and family.

The company expects its service to appeal to existing drivers who wish to boost their working day with extra fares and make better use of their cars.

It is estimated that drivers can earn up to £10,000 extra a year through Uber. They keep 80 per cent of the fare with the rest going to the company.

Uber’s earning potential was underlined in a June fundraising which valued the business at $18.2bn, one of the highest valuations ever for a Silicon Valley startup.

The company’s backers include heavyweight investors such as Fidelity, BlackRock, Google and Goldman Sachs.

In an interview published on Sunday, Travis Kalanick, chief executive, responded to criticism of his firm.

He said: “We’re simply connecting riders to licensed mini-cabs so it’s not at all clear what we’re doing wrong.”

Courts in Germany have banned Uber’s ride-sharing service, saying their drivers do not comply with German law for the commercial transport of passengers.

Uber, which is available in 43 countries, has also faced disputes in its home town of San Francisco as well as cities including Paris, Madrid and Vancouver.

Mr Kalanick told The Sunday Times the backlash has come from “imcumbents, who are putting pressure on the city officials to outlaw competition”.

Like its Silicon Valley counterparts, Uber has come under scrutiny over its tax affairs.

The Labour MP Margaret Hodge has accused the company of “opting out of the UK tax regime” but Uber said it complied with “all applicable tax laws”.

In a sign that it is mindful of these challenges, Uber has hired Barack Obama’s campaign manager in 2008, David Plouffe, to head its regulatory team.

The company’s UK operations received a boost in June when Transport for London said that smart phones used by private hire drivers do not constitute the equipping of a vehicle with a ‘taximeter’, but added that it would ask the High Court to rule on the issue, given trade concerns.