Thousands flock to download Uber but rivals remain confident

Uber has launched in Portsmouth
Uber has launched in Portsmouth
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TAXI app Uber says it has seen one of its fastest and most successful launches ever after it started its service in Portsmouth.

The app, which allows people to book taxis from their smartphones, launched in the city last month.

The global business already had operations in many UK cities, including London, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and Bristol.

Fred Jones, general manager for Uber South and South West, said: ‘It has been an incredible start for us here in Portsmouth – it is certainly feeling like home already for Uber.

‘Since the launch, Portsmouth has been one of the fastest-growing cities in England in 2015 and is exceeding our initial expectations, which is great.

‘The initial interest from drivers has turned into a great number signing up.

‘They have loved the freedom, security and ease of the platform.’

Mr Jones said that more than 1,000 drivers were now registered with the company.

He said the app had been received well by customers, and that it had been downloaded more than 6,000 times in Portsmouth since its launch.

Uber’s opening, announced 11 months ago, was met with apprehension from taxi drivers and companies, who raised concerns about licensing and how it would impact on their livelihoods.

Uber reassured residents that all its drivers were licenced by the council and said that it brought a fairer way to operate, with the introduction of its surge pricing – which means taxi prices go up at times of high demand to attract more drivers to the roads. The prices then go down in line with demand.

But general manager of rival firm Aqua Cars, Bruce Hall, said that Uber’s opening had brought competition to the industry.

Although he admitted that the Portsmouth private hire company had lost some drivers, he said that some had already returned.

Mr Hall said: ‘We were inevitably going to lose some drivers. It is new and it was a case of the grass is always greener on the other side.

‘Humans being humans will look to see what is going on, but once they have, and heard all the stories, then they will come back. We have been doing this since 1990 and we will carry on.

‘We’ll be launching another app, where you can just pay by card, to keep up with the latest innovations.’

He said that Uber had started an ‘aggressive’ marketing campaign, offering money to drivers to sign up and giving free rides to customers.

‘It will be interesting to see what happens when this pool of money runs out,’ he said.