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Uber Belfast: US taxi app giant to launch Friday December 11

Exclusive: Firm posts invitation to Northern Ireland taxi drivers

By Gary Fennelly

Published 03/12/2015

Uber is a taxi-booking app for mobile phones
Uber is a taxi-booking app for mobile phones
Great Victoria Street in Belfast city centre teems with taxis serving the night-time economy

Uber will launch in Belfast next Friday.

The US taxi-booking app giant has posted an online invitation to Northern Ireland's taxi drivers to attend an 'information session' on Friday and confirmed it would launch on December 11.

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

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

Drivers for the firm will have to hold a valid Private Hire Driver's Licence from the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA).

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."

The company is likely to face stiff competition from Northern Ireland's two big taxi firms - Value Cabs and FonaCab.

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

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

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 launches in Belfast on December 11
Uber launches in Belfast on December 11

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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.

Uber works on a cashless system - with its users signing up with a credit card - charged for each journey automatically on arrival at their destination.

There has been opposition to Uber's use of its own metering technology, arguing that government-regulated taxi meters are the only appropriate method of calculating fairs. But the taxi regulator in the Republic has ruled out similar concerns.

Uber carried out a soft launch in Dublin back in January 2014, and now claims to have tens of thousands of users registered to use the service across iPhone and Android platforms.

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

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