It’s a big deal for the people of Brum – so much so that the city’s local paper is actually live blogging the roll-out.
Here’s reporter Sophie Jamieson wearing a head-mounted camera in readiness:
Uber announced its Birmingham launch in a blog post on Wednesday. “As a special hello to the good people of Brum, we’re giving you your first ride free!”
The San Francisco-based company also listed a few example fares. A trip from the Bullring (a major shopping mall) to Edgbaston (a suburb), will cost between £4-6. Travelling from the city centre to the Birmingham airport will only set you back around £17.
Most people seem pretty excited about Uber’s arrival:
The Birmingham Post reports that Uber’s general manager for Birmingham, Fouzan Ali, said 20,000 people in the city opened the app before it even launched. Birmingham’s TOA Taxis – the equivalent to the London’s black cabs – don’t seemed to be fussed by the app’s arrival either.
“We are not particularly bothered about Uber coming to Birmingham,” Mohammed Taj, a member of Birmingham’s Black Cab Drivers’ Association (BBCD), told the Mail. “Other apps have been and gone and from TOA’s point of view and from my own person experience, TOA would welcome competition, providing it’s competition on a level playing ground,” he added.
This is different to the situation in London, where a dispute between Uber and drivers of the classic black cabs is ongoing.
In November, Business Insider reported that London’s cab drivers had “gone undercover” to pose as Uber customers in a bid to dig up dirt on the company. In a court case, the London Taxi Driver Association (LTDA) claimed Uber’s fare calculator is the same as a taxi metre, which is only legal in licensed black cabs.
Uber says its Birmingham service complies with all safety regulations and licensing rules, according to the Birmingham Mail.
The relaxed attitude of the Brummie cabbies could be because a competitor of Uber, called GetTaxi, is launching there this week too. GetTaxi is an app that works with black cab drivers to help passengers flag one down.
However, the arrival of Uber and GetTaxi could eventually spark a transport war in the city as “it puts black cabs and private hire cars directly in competition with each other,” writes the Birmingham Post.