TAXI wars are set to take hold of Brighton and Hove as Uber hits the city today.

The controversial taxi-hailing app will launch in the city at 4pm today.

It comes as Southern Taxis - which runs Brighton and Hove cab company City Cabs - launches its own mobile phone app also enabling passengers to hail cabs with a click from their phone.

It is set to spark a price cutting war between the two firms as Uber drivers set their own prices and can undercut competing Hackney Carriage cabs.

Both apps will enable customers to pay by card and track their vehicles' arrivals on a map.

Uber was given the green light to roll out across the city last October after four days of deliberation by Brighton and Hove City Council.

Uber's private hire vehicles are distinct from hackney carriages in that they must be booked in advance. They cannot ply for hire in the street, wait at cab ranks or be hailed by passers-by.

But that means they can set their own prices.

The introduction of Uber is set to spark a price war amongst the city's taxis. Whilst Hackney Carriage cabs have to charge a set tariff of prices ranging from £2.80 to £5.60 for the first 320 yards and any subsequent 160 yards.

Most of the city's existing private hire cabs also charge the same rates - meaning Uber could bring in stiff competition.

Fred Jones, Uber’s general manager in Brighton, said: "We are a smart phone app through which you can book licensed private hire vehicles.

"There are lots of cool features to improve safety. You can see a picture of the man or woman coming to pick you up and the make and model of the car and the registration details so you can be 100 per cent sure they are background checked.

"In Brighton the private hire companies run off the Hackney Carriage fares. This is one of the only places where private hire rates aren't cheaper so it's really exciting to be introducing that level of competition.

The company was only granted its licence by the council's licensing committee on the grounds that they abide by all the conditions in the Blue Book – a set of guidelines for the local cab trade.

All Uber drivers will have to hold the same licence as any other private hire driver, which includes a check by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), successor to the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).

Uber has always stated they want to be treated the same as every other operator in the city and they will only be allowed to send Brighton and Hove-registered drivers to pick up customers.

The launch of the app also means that licensed drivers already working in the city will be able to move over to working for Uber.

Neither of the city's two biggest existing taxi companies City Cabs or Streamline wished to comment on the launch of Uber.

In relation to their new rival app Andy Cheesman, managing director of Southern Taxis, said: “As a local, independent company, we are delighted to launch this new app which means our customers can now pay for their journey by debit or credit card while also taking cash and account bookings.

“In addition it also means they can see the exact whereabouts of their taxi so this will improve waiting times. "Finally, and most importantly, when they use the app to book a taxi, they can do so in the knowledge that all our drivers are DBS checked and all our taxis have state-of-the-art CCTV.”


What is the difference between the two new taxi apps Uber and Southern Brighton Taxis?

Very little. Both will offer the ability to call a private hire vehicle from your smart phone to your exact location and pay on a card.

Will Uber drivers be licensed?

Yes. Every driver will have to be licensed by Brighton and Hove City Council. In addition Uber as a company is licensed to operate private hire vehicles and every car will be licensed.

Will Uber drivers have to comply with the same rules as hackney carriage drivers?

Yes. They will operate according to all the same Blue Book rules.

Will Uber drivers’ criminal records be checked?

Yes. All Uber drivers will have to have enhanced DBS checks – the same level as care workers and all taxi drivers.

Will Uber cars be of lesser quality to standard taxis?

Uber cars will have to comply with a set of criteria governing the age of the vehicle and certain makes and models.

Will Ubers be accessible to disabled passengers?

The council’s Blue Book – which sets out the guidelines and provisions for taxis in the city – states that 20 per cent of cars must be wheelchair accessible when the operator has more than 100 cars. Initially Uber will not meet that level but if it grows it will have to.

Will Uber cabs be cheaper?

Most likely. Uber drivers set their own fares.

They do not have to comply with charges set by the council – but neither do other private hire cabs – although those in Brighton have largely charged the same hackney carriage fees until now.

How can Uber drivers afford to charge less?

The app enables drivers to minimise the wasted return journeys that traditional cabbies have to account for.

They can minimise their waiting times and pick and choose jobs near their destination so they can afford to charge less.

Why has it taken so long to launch?

Uber was granted its licence by the council last October – but has been gathering a team of licensed drivers in preparation for the launch.

How many Uber cars will be operating in Brighton and Hove?

750 drivers have registered an interest in working with the company in Brighton and Hove. Some of those are already registered Brighton and Hove taxi drivers but others will still need to register before they can take passengers.

What issues could Uber face?

Some 37,000 people have already looked on the Uber app for a cab in Brighton and Hove – meaning there could initially be a shortage of available cars leading to frustrations.


Opinion by Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA)

The LTDA’s experience of Uber in London is that increased use of their vehicles has seen an increase in the number of accidents involving private hire vehicles, heightened congestion and poor treatment of its drivers.

We are concerned that Brighton will face similar issues, following the introduction of Uber to the city.

London has witnessed an unprecedented surge in the number of private hire vehicles, driven by the rise of Uber.

The total is currently more than 110,000 – an increase of more than 40,000 in the last year alone.

This huge rise in the number of vehicles on London’s roads has led to a congestion crisis – acknowledged by deputy mayor for transport Val Shawcross – and is damaging the environment and London’s reputation as a place to do business.

Safety is a huge concern with Uber. The LTDA estimates that at least one in 10 private hire vehicles currently operating in London are uninsured, putting passengers and other road users at risk.

Without operator insurance there is no guarantee that all private hire vehicles have the correct insurance.

Addison Lee – the second-largest private hire vehicle operator in London and the largest in Europe – already holds operator insurance.

Yet Uber has yet to implement such a policy. Better regulation is urgently needed to ensure that the benefits Uber brings to passengers are not outweighed by the costs.

Finally, we believe that companies that operate and earn profit in the UK should pay the appropriate level of tax. As Uber is domiciled in Holland, it uses a tax loophole and does not pay its fair share of tax.

This damages the entire taxi and private hire markets as Uber’s tax practices allow it to undercut the competition.


Opinion by Fred Jones, Uber general manager, Brighton

WHAT if you could tap a button on your phone and have a car come to wherever you are within just a few minutes? That was the simple idea behind the Uber app, which we’re delighted to be launching here.

Now in more than 20 towns and cities across the UK, our app means people can get a convenient, safe and affordable ride from A to B.

When you order a car you’re sent the name and photo of your driver as well as the registration number and make of their vehicle.

All drivers are licensed by the local council – which includes going through the same enhanced DBS check as care workers, teachers and black cab drivers.

With Uber, you’re always on the map because every trip is tracked with GPS technology.

You can see your car arrive in the app and share a live map of your journey with friends and family. Cashless payment means when your journey is done, you can just hop out.

Uber is great for drivers who partner with us too. The overwhelming reason why drivers sign up with us is the freedom to be their own boss as with Uber they can choose their own hours and drive whenever they want.

Our app is good for cities too. Uber serves the parts of the cities where public transport is limited and you can’t easily get a cab. In London around 60 per cent of journey miles are now in hybrid cars which produce lower emissions. And over time we’re becoming an alternative to needing your own car.

Today’s launch is just the start and we’ll be adding more drivers in the coming weeks. But with more than 30,000 people in the city opening our app in the last few months alone, we’re really excited about our future in Brighton and Hove.