IT’S been nearly 10 months since controversial taxi firm Uber first announced that it had its sights set on expanding into Portsmouth and now the app has finally gone live.
The company launched in the city yesterday at 4pm and its bosses say they have already been overwhelmed with interest from both potential passengers and drivers.
General manager for Uber South and South West Fred Jones said the company had received more than 600 applications from people wanting to drive for them.
He also said that more than 20,000 people in Portsmouth had already downloaded the app this year, despite the company doing no marketing.
Mr Jones said: ‘We’ve been overwhelmed at how positive the response has been.’
Uber, which is a global company, has operations in many UK cities, including London, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and Bristol.
It is a technology platform that connects passengers to licensed private hire drivers through a smartphone app.
The company attracted criticism in some countries for using unlicensed drivers, but this does not apply in the UK as all drivers have to be licensed by the council and are subjected to enhanced background and vehicle checks.
The app allows customers to see who their driver will be, where the available cars are and the cost will be cheaper if there is a low demand for taxis at that moment in time.
No cash in exchanged, with all transactions happening digitally, so the company says it is safer for the driver and easier for the passenger.
Mr Jones said: ‘Uber has been transforming the way people get about their cities all over the UK. At the push of a button people can get a ride which is convenient, safe and affordable.
‘We’re delighted to bring the service to our first city on the south coast.
‘Uber is not only incredibly convenient for riders, it also enables professional drivers the opportunity to partner with us and become their own bosses – choosing when and where they work.’
Uber will run its operations centre from offices at 1000 Lakeside, North Harbour, as well as a support centre in Trafalgar House, Southampton Road, Portchester.
Each site will employ three people, with other support coming from Uber’s main offices in London, San Francisco and Amsterdam.
People can try the service by getting £15 free the first time they use the app.