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Uber Belfast: New taxi operator a 'big threat' says FonaCab owner

Published 04/12/2015

Uber is a taxi-booking app for mobile phones
Uber is a taxi-booking app for mobile phones

One of the biggest taxi operators in Northern Ireland has described the launch of Uber in Belfast as a "big threat".

Uber is a taxi-booking app for mobile phones which allows customers to locate the nearest cab using GPS, before dispatching it.

As reported exclusively on this website on Thursday Uber will launch in the city next Friday (December 11).

The company says drivers have the chance to 'be their own boss' and is offering 'once-in-a-lifetime incentives'.

William McCausland, who operates FonaCab in Belfast, described the company's decision to enter the local market as a "big threat".

He told the BBC's Stephen Nolan show: "This is a big threat to my business, it's not a wonderful thing people seen to think it as.

"You'd be very naive not to take it seriously."

He added: "It certainly is a threat, it's not the biggest one we have faced - we went through the Troubles after all - but it is one I am prepared for and ready for.

"Our customers know we offer a great service.

"There is nothing Uber offer, that our own app hasn't offered for some time. We are probably the most innovative company on the island of Ireland.

"Plus we have the advantage of having a human face and voice behind us, something that Uber does not."

He also said Uber's move into Northern Ireland did not benefit the country as he claimed its profits would be funneled through to other countries.

And that he would not be reducing fares to compete.

"If anything," he added, "we could put more drivers on the road given demand."

Drivers for Uber will have to hold a valid Private Hire Driver's Licence from the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA), just like any other taxi operator.

Customers will also have to register their details with the firm and give their credit card details. Taxi drivers have said that, combined with the cashless aspect of the service added to their safety.

A DOE spokesperson said: "The department can confirm that Uber has been granted a Taxi Operator Licence. Uber will be required to fulfull all normal conditions that apply to this licensing agreement."

Reacting to the news last night, FonaCab tweeted: "Their prices won't be any cheaper, most likely more expensive due to drivers losing a service fe (sic)."

It has since been removed.

A Twitter user Neil Harrison replied: "Never had an uber yet thats been more expensive than a regular taxi."

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Uber already operates in Dublin and across the UK with drivers fully licensed under each individual area's laws. The firm takes around 20% of the total fare.

Uber's expansion into Europe caused some controversy - prompting large protests from taxi drivers in cities such as London and Milan, as well as legal tussles in some areas.

The company was founded by Garrett Camp, the founder of StumbleUpon, and Travis Kalanick in 2009. The company is now valued at $62billion, according to Bloomberg News.

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