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Uber demand surge amid tube strike allows firm to triple prices

4 min read

09 July 2015

The 24-hour tube strike has caused misery for commuters trying to find alternative routes into work, along with heaving buses and trains. While most have been having difficulty, taxi firm Uber has been reaping the rewards.

During busier times, the app alerts users to higher demand meaning increased prices, but the surge during commuter chaos has meant fares have risen around three times the normal amount.

Users took to Twitter in dismay to complain about the development, though the company has also encouraged Londoners to share the journey, split the fare and free up a car for another commuter left astray using the #KeepLondonMoving hashtag.

It has been at least 2.9x the normal fare, meaning a minimum was around £14.50 – with the app displaying the message: “Demand is off the charts! Fares have increased to get more Ubers on the road.”

Meanwhile, competitor Hailo, which allows black cabs to take bookings through a mobile app, has reported a 500 per cent increase in pre-booked Hailo taxis. The company revealed demand is more than double last New Year’s Eve, with the amount of drivers it has on the road up by 108 per cent in comparison to that one night.

Hailo CMO Gary Bramall commented:” As with previous strikes, we are experiencing higher demand for cabs – more than that of New Year’s Eve. We’re doing our best to ensure our fleet of 15,000 trusted black cab drivers are available to help our customers navigate around London.”


London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, who has been a vocal critic of the strike, told LBC that he hoped London’s black cab drivers “take advantage of this and get additional fares today to help Londoners out”.

There has been repeated criticism of Transport for London’s lack of regulation on Uber drivers. Johnson has also said Uber drivers should undergo a similar test to prospective cab drivers as the current rules weren’t fair.

Labour MP John Mann tweeted that it reflected the important place black cabs have in the capital.

It may be unsurprising that Uber is maximising profit on one of the busiest days of business for the company, though some customers were noticeably unimpressed –warning it could lead to them using the service less.

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The surge pricing model is triggered automatically by the firm’s algorithm, though this has caused problems in the past. During the Australian hostage crisis in Sydney, drivers were charging four times the usual price for passengers to get out of the city. 

It later offered people free rides, saying it was “truly sorry” for the automated mishap.

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