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Uber may pull out of Belfast if taxi changes brought in


Uber drivers are fully licenced and work as partners with the firm

Uber drivers are fully licenced and work as partners with the firm

Uber drivers are fully licenced and work as partners with the firm

Global taxi operator Uber has said it would have to "re-evaluate its business" in Belfast if new laws on taxi regulation were to be introduced.

The Assembly is considering introducing six new rules for owning and operating taxis in Northern Ireland.

Among the changes will be the introduction of taxi meters and printers in all vehicles, which would be inspected, tested and sealed by Department of the Environment (DoE) officials.

If passed, the measures will come into force in May.

Kieran Harte, general manager for Uber Belfast, said: "Since launching in Belfast just over a month ago, we have been overwhelmed by the reaction of both riders and professional drivers wanting to sign up.

"Uber has brought a seamless transport option to Belfast, enabling people to get where they need to go more efficiently than ever before.

"The new rules, if introduced, would be a huge step backwards and would force us to re-evaluate our business in the city.

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"Forcing drivers to install unnecessary technology - like taxi meters and receipt printers - stop the sector creating new jobs and increase prices for consumers."

When asked if the changes would mean Uber, which has only operated in Belfast for a month, would pull out of the market here, a spokesman added: "We would like to stay, but we would have to make sure we could have a viable business with the new rules."

The new changes will also allow private hire vehicles to ply for trade off the street at certain times - something which they are currently prohibited from doing.

Uber has taken the world by storm with its ground-breaking app which allows people to hire, pay and give feedback on their taxi journey.

The mobile phone app, available on both Android and iPhones, works on a cashless system - with users signing up with a bank card - charged for each journey automatically on arrival at their destination.

They also receive a picture of their driver, their car and details before its arrival.

Uber launched in 2009 and has rapidly expanded across the world and is now available in over 300 cities across 67 countries.

Since then, it has gone from small beginnings to become a multi-billion dollar business.

Drivers, who are fully licenced, are not directly employed by Uber but are instead partners, deciding when they want to work, with the operator taking 25% of all their fare.