Standing outside his Micklegate nightclub, Andrew Whitney saw several Uber drivers picking up fares – but none of the cars was registered in York.
It prompted Andrew to livestream an impassioned plea for residents to boycott US-based Uber and use the city’s long-established taxi firms.
And that Facebook video has clocked up nearly 6,000 views and won praise from many York people concerned about the impact of Uber on taxis in York.
Andrew, who owns the Mansion club on Micklegate, as well as the Whippet Inn restaurant on North Street, told YorkMix: “The taxi system in York has never failed us. It didn’t fail us during Royal Ascot at York. It didn’t fail us during the Tour de France.
“The Uber drivers are only appearing en masse on a Friday or Saturday night. All they’re doing is coming over and taking the cream from the people that support us seven nights a week.”
‘Doing my head in’
On the video Andrew says:
But as there’s no drivers being signed up in York to Uber, what’s happening is you’re getting drivers that are coming from Huddersfield, Wakefield, Leeds… all sorts of places.
But what’s doing my head in is you’ve got really popular taxi companies in York and they do a great job, and they’ve been looking after us for so long.
They’re licensed by the local council, they’ve got the local knowledge and as far as I’m concerned they’ve never done anything wrong.
But all of a sudden Uber’s launched in York and people are using it, and I don’t know what’s the benefit.
Andrew said if people use Uber it’ll lead to taxi firms laying off call takers as well as drivers. “Half the people who view the video will probably know a taxi driver who lives on their street.
“All you’re doing is taking something straight out of their pocket.”
Meanwhile the Uber drivers from out of town don’t have the local knowledge: in the comments under Andrew’s video people reported seeing drivers going the wrong way down one-way streets.
Andrew claimed that £3 of every £10 Uber fare goes to the global company and the rest is going out of York to the drivers from other cities.
His video sparked a debate, with some residents saying they found Uber convenient and cost-effective. But others agreed with him.
Steve Sholder posted: “Answer this, would you rather your daughter got a local York taxi home or get a uber car where the driver lives 60 miles away and hasn’t got a clue where he is in York?”
Bending the rules
We asked York taxi drivers – with both Hackney Carriage licences allowing them to wait on ranks and private hire licences – what they thought of Uber. Here is a selection of their observations.
All they had to do was pay proper, sustainable rates of pay and they would permanently dominate any market they entered. But they made a conscious decision to go about it the wrong way.
Most fundamentally the problem is that they decided to bend the rules as much as possible – they are not private hire as they can’t be pre-booked, and they are not hackney carriage as they can’t be hailed off the street or use ranks.
It simply isn’t possible for a driver to earn a living at the rates they charge – I would need to transport twice as many customers to compensate for their expensive commission and lower fares, and during the week I’m lucky if I average 1.5 jobs per hour.
– Nick Gordon, Driver at York Cars
Kelly Bass (manager, York Cars): “Not needed or wanted. We already provide a safe service with fully regulated drivers and vehicles.”
Darral Alexander (driver, 659 Taxis): “We give a good service in York whether private hire or Hackney. We don’t need or want out-of-town drivers.”
Ady Holland (driver, Fleetways): “It cannot be fair if York council impose rules which cost us (York licensed drivers) money, like removing privacy glass or having to have cars to certain Euro standards. Then they allow cars which do not meet York’s high standards to trade here freely.”
David Healy (Hackney Carriage licence holder: “If this takes away from Saturdays how am I going to make a living doing this job? Weekdays are dead anyways now the student buses run through the night.”
We have asked Uber for a comment and are waiting for them to come back to us