Taxi trade hots up as Uber makes weekend offer for free £10 rides in Sunderland

Chris Yiu, Uber's general manager in the North East,
Chris Yiu, Uber's general manager in the North East,
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Competition among Sunderland’s taxi trade could intensify this weekend as one firm launches a cut-price offer.

Free trips worth a tenner will be on offer to Wearsiders as Uber offers weekend users bargain prices.

Station Taxis managing director Trevor Hines.

Station Taxis managing director Trevor Hines.

The private hire firm, which sees passengers call a cab through an app, moved into Sunderland in April following on from its launch in Newcastle.

From Friday at 5pm, to midnight on Sunday, the firm will offer anyone using it £10 off their ride, with all those under completely free. Users can take a maximum of 10 free trips in that time period.

However, city taxi bosses warn users should be wary of the offer, claiming it could still see them still stump up a larger sum of cash for the trips than if they used a local service.

Chris Yiu, general manager of Uber in the North East, said: “It’s been fewer than six months and thousands of trips have already been booked through the Uber app.

It can look like an attractive offer for the weekend, but users could end up being victim to surge charging.

Trevor Hines

“We’ve seen that many users in Sunderland have come to depend on Uber for a safe and reliable way to meet with friends, do a weekend shop or get home after a night out.
“This weekend we will be offering free rides, providing people with the chance to try the app at no cost.”

Anyone who wants to use the offer must download the app and create an account to request a car at the touch of a button.

Once the booking is confirmed, the rider can see the driver’s photo, name and car registration so they can be sure who is coming to pick them up.

They can also watch the car arrive in real-time on the app and share the map of their journey with friends and family.

The app notifies riders when the vehicle has arrived.

All drivers who use the Uber app in the UK are fully insured and licensed for private-hire by their local council.

This licence includes an enhanced DBS, the same background check that is required for black cabs and care-workers.

Trevor Hines is managing director of Station Taxis, which has 200 cars and employs around 400 drivers.

It was established in 1901 and also runs its own app, with its bosses saying it has the edge over Uber because bookings can be made in advance and for larger vehicles and wheelchair accessible cars.

It says it also puts drivers through additional training, with its team completing a course on how to spot the signs customers are being sexually exploited, to other sessions ensuring they offer the best customer care.

Mr Hines also highlighted the ‘surge pricing’ approach used by Uber, which comes into play at peak usage times or when there or fewer cars available, with fares increased to reflect demand.

He added: “It can look like an attractive offer for the weekend, but users could end up being victim to surge charging.

“Sometimes that means they twice or three times the amount for the same fare.

“We all like competition, it gets people’s attention and it keeps us on our toes, and it helps to offer small incentives.

“But with Uber, people have to be careful with this pricing.”