Sunderland set for taxi-trade battle as Uber launches in the city

Chris Yiu, Uber's general manager.
Chris Yiu, Uber's general manager.
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Fare fights could break out with Wearside’s taxi customers as Uber launches today.

The service is moving into Sunderland as it builds on its trade in the UK.

Managing director of Station Taxis, Trevor Hines, with the smartphone app run by his company.

Managing director of Station Taxis, Trevor Hines, with the smartphone app run by his company.

It is pledging to offer its “most affordable” version of the service with uberX, which is said to be its “low-cost” option and already runs in Newcastle.

A fully-licensed private hire driver can be booked through the cashless app, with a sample fare of £3.50 from Park Lane to the Stadium of Light.

They can see the driver’s photo, name and car reg and watch their four-seater car arrive in real-time.

The company says drivers are licensed through Sunderland City Council and have passed an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

I think the people of Sunderland are very savvy and know enough when it comes to these surge prices.

Trevor Hines

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But city firms say while customers like a bargain, Uber’s dynamic pricing – a surge in charges when demand is high – will not find favour.

The council does not have the power to set private hire tariffs.

Trevor Hines is managing director of Station Taxis, which runs 200 cars, a round-the-clock call centre, has 400 self-employed drivers and 34 staff.

Speaking about the competition, he said: “With Uber, its app is pretty basic, and fine if you have no more than four passengers.

“Our app is far better than that because you can book as far as a year ahead, you can pick a four-seater, seven-seater or a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.

“It will tell you who your driver is, reg, model of car and even colour.

“We work with Northumbria Police and its Operation Sanctuary, we’ve been here since 1901, all our drivers are experienced and fully DBS checked and we have that customer care.

“I’m not going to say that Uber won’t affect us.

“I think the people of Sunderland are very savvy and know enough when it comes to these surge prices.

“They might get a fare for £1 one day, but they might see that goes up to £6 or £7 next time, and I think if they find that once, they won’t want to again.”

Uber is following in the footsteps of firms with its support for charity, with a promotion with Grace House, with £15 off their first trip and £5 donation.

Chris Yiu, Uber’s general manager, said: “We’re really excited to be launching in Sunderland today.

“Nearly 10,000 people in the city have opened the app in the last 90 days, so we know there is real demand for the service here.”