Business Technology

The definitive business advent calendar: 20 December – Dashing through the snow in... Uber?

3 min read

20 December 2015

Former deputy editor

Dashing through the snow via an on-demand car service. Alright, it's not exactly as catchy as the traditional Jingle Bells lyrics, but Uber is seemingly out to clock up as much travel time from its British users as Father Christmas' sleigh.

If it’s one word that will ruin the day of a London taxi driver, it’s “Uber”.

Although the on-demand car operation is working wonders for Brits looking for convenience and quick transport, perhaps when tube strikes and body odours become too much to tolerate, it is damaging the trade of traditional black cab drivers.

Comedian turned actor Russell Brand, for example, has campaigned against the San Francisco-cum-London operation, which launched in the UK in June 2012.

He said: “When you look at it, Uber is just another tax-evading company like Amazon, Starbucks or Tesco. Of course we all use Tesco, Amazon and Starbucks, they’re unavoidable and we’re just human beings.

“It’s more money being siphoned out of our country. If you get a black cab that money stays in our country, stays in our economy. That’s one clear advantage.”

His words came just after the business, which has been accused of unfair antics like tripling prices when travellers needed it most and threatening journalists, celebrated its third anniversary in the UK.

The service launch in London and some 20m trips across the city were racked up over the three-year period, generating some 100m miles.

The capital was followed by Manchester and Leeds in 2014 and 14 additional cities in 2015, including Newcastle, Bristol, Sheffield, Birmingham, Windsor and Maidenhead.

With North Britain in mind, Manchester clocked up 1,000 trips in 20 days – according to Uber, that many trips were taken every few hours, a number which has likely grown somewhat over the past six months.

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The company said: “One in five Brits lives within an average ETA of 5 minutes to an available ride. Of course, there have been challenges and challengers. But overwhelmingly, the vote has been in favour of flexible, affordable transportation.”

Seemingly the comment was a dig at traditional taxi drivers, who were delivered a further blow in October when the High Court ruled Uber’s app-based meter system does not break any laws, allowing the business to continue scaling.

Reflecting on the successful start to the year, the firm said: “At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s eve, over 100,000 around the world people began 2015 in an Uber.”

With New Year’s Eve 2015 approaching, it will be interesting to see what booking stats the firm churns out in 2016 following a year of expansion.