Union rep pulls no punches over Uber problem of out-of-town drivers flooding the south coast 

Images: Source; Andrew Peters

Since Uber's arrival to the UK, there has been a constant battle with licensing authorities, taxi and private hire unions and of course local taxi drivers, who have questioned the legality of their business model and their code of ethics.

Tens of thousands of men and women signed up to the dream of good working conditions, good pay and a bright future behind the wheel of a Toyota, or a vehicle alike - but not all dreams come true.

Secretary of GMB Brighton and Hove Taxi Section, Andrew Peters, says he has witnessed first hand the devastating impact the ride-sharing app has had on the local taxi and private hire industry, as well as some of those drivers who have chosen the Uber way.

Speaking openly and honestly to Taxipoint, Andrew Peters pulls no punches in his eye opening first hand experience with what he claims is the truth behind the over saturated industry, which is leaving most wondering how long Uber and traditional taxi and private hire services can actually continue to co-exist.

Mr Peters, said: "Since Uber came to the city in 2016 the local trade immediately saw the problem of cars from Wolverhampton, Sefton and such like with lower licensing requirements coming to the city to predominantly work here for the ride-sharing firm.

"In fact Wolverhampton has issued over 6,000 licences to drivers most of which never work in Wolverhampton, so local check-up’s and enforcement never takes place.

"Unfortunately some of these drivers were sleeping in their cars night in and night out on the seafront and in car parks, which is not only no good for their own welfare but also for the safety of the customers. We highlighted this issue to Uber at trade meetings and provided evidence with videos and photos.

“Now we have cars from Southampton, Portsmouth, Havant, Chichester, Fareham, Lewes and elsewhere predominantly working in the city on the Uber platform, where Brighton & Hove City council are unable to instigate enforcement for checkups, although we are pleased to say that via the trades request the council does now have some powers on the Lewes cars working here but this has got to be at financial cost to the local trade in local licensing fees.

"However we are now being flooded with these out of town drivers and have seen a lot of them sleeping in their cars.

"It hasn't helped when authorities remove the knowledge test for PHV drivers. Southampton did this last year which has created a lower licensing requirement and 'soft spots' where drivers get a licence.

"More worrying is that we were recently very alarmed at finding a Southampton Uber driver sleeping not only in the car but actually in the boot. This was in the car park of the Swan Pub by Sussex University in the early hours of the morning.

"We contacted Southampton City Council (and copied in Brighton & Hove City Council) to alert them of this driver and we are hoping that the council have spoken to him and warned him of the dangers of doing this not only for his own wellbeing but also for the safety of the Uber customers with having a driver not properly rested and refreshed to be in a proper state of having the responsibility of driving passengers.

"We even have hackney carriages from Horsham predominantly working here now on Uber.

"And just to make it clear that Uber does not have a Horsham Operator licence and I will explain the anomaly here - whilst local authorities control hackney carriage fares, any hackney can work outside its own licensing area undertaking private hire jobs and charge whatever the driver wants which is how these hackneys work under Uber.

"Because a hackney carriage does not need to work under a separate Operator licence... unlike PHV's... a hackney carriage can work under Uber but not in the same area that Uber holds a respective Operator licence.

"For example Uber holds a Lewes Operator licence. But a Lewes Hackney cannot take any job in Lewes under Uber because of the councils controlled fares. But a Lewes hackney can work full time in Brighton because once it leaves Lewes any rate of charge can be made.

"So just because Uber may not hold an Operator licence in a particular area it doesn’t mean that a hackney carriage in such an area cannot work under Uber in a different area.

"One important factor about Horsham is that it has a limited policy for hackney carriages which means no more licences have been issued for some years, yet drivers of these hackney carriage are leaving Horsham and working here full time instead.

"The main purpose of a hackney carriage is to work the ranks and streets of the area it is licensed in and not work predominantly in another area.

"We have informed Horsham council about this and have strongly suggested that it should impose an 'Intended Use Policy' which can be a condition of licensing for hackneys.

"This policy was introduced by Brighton and Hove Council two years ago so if I use my hackney carriage predominantly in another area I could risk the vehicle licence being revoked. And quite right too!

"We did convince Lewes to have the same policy which was introduced this year but will only apply to each Lewes hackney upon its renewal. But so far this hasn’t stopped those Lewes hackneys with this new condition from predominantly working here such is the appalling lack of enforcement by Lewes DC.

"No doubt the excessive surging system is very attractive for out of town drivers to work here in the city because whilst local councils control hackney carriage rates.. once a hackney leaves its licensing area it can charge the Uber rates.

"This is why not only are we are flooded out of town PHV’s but we are also flooded with Lewes hackneys working here who ironically cannot work under Uber in Lewes.

"Whilst Uber may be considered by some to be the trendy way to get a cab... when Uber destroys the local trade in Brighton & Hove, which has always had fares controlled by the council, those trendy Uber users will eventually end up paying more.

"Uber is just an App and most local cab companies have had their own Apps for some time now with the same facility of cashless transport but using a local cab company doesn’t seem to be hip and trendy.

"Having stated that we are slowly seeing customers returning to use local companies when they are stung by the Uber surge at the fist drop of rain. Unbelievably Uber was on 4x surge during Brighton pride. Some may consider this as profiteering.. but I couldn’t possibly comment!

"Changes to taxi and private hire legislation for cross-border hiring were recommended this year by an all party ‘Task & Finish’ report and the trade was optimistic that this would have been included in the recent Queens Speech but this has been ignored."

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