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Medway taxi drivers powerless to stop Uber

By Chris Hunter

Independent Medway cabbies fear they cannot to stop international online cab firm Uber from taking their trade.

The budget taxi service is not licensed to act as a hackney carriage within the Towns, but as users simply book their journeys using a smartphone app the firm is free to operate at will within Medway.

Users have already begun to book Uber cabs in the Towns and licensed taxi drivers have reported seeing Uber cabs operating on Medway streets.

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Mike Smith, chairman of Medway Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association
Mike Smith, chairman of Medway Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association

One customer reports booking a cab from Gillingham to Rainham for £8.52 with the firm and local cabbies estimate there are already five drivers in the area. Medway is seen as a potentially lucrative area for Uber which is rapidly spreading outside the capital.

Mike Smith, chairman of Medway Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, said drivers were already concerned about the impact of Uber but feared the internet giant would have an increasing impact on trade.

“Every fare they take is a fare the local taxi drivers don’t get,” he said. “In Medway we have a situation with vehicles operating from Thanet, Tonbridge and Malling and other places. Uber are licensed in London – you can get on their app and if they are in the area they will pick you up and take you to wherever you’re going.

VIDEO: Taxi drivers in Medway fear loss of trade from users switching to the international online cab firm, Uber. Sarah Boast reports

KCC has cancelled the contract with the firm
KCC has cancelled the contract with the firm

“You get a picture of their driver and you’re told how much it is. There’s nothing the licensing authority can do.

“I hate to say it but they’re operating legally.

“People can go on their app now and they will tell them a vehicle is on its way.”

He added: “Taxi drivers are talking about it all the time – ‘do you know there’s an Uber car working there’ – but there’s nothing you can do about it.

“The local authority can’t do anything and the police can’t do anything. The local authority have got no control over it – no licence control over them.

Cllr Jane Chitty
Cllr Jane Chitty

“There’s no proper complaints system.

You can’t recognise an Uber car – they’ve got flash saloons like a normal motorist

“It needs to change.”

Cllr Jane Chitty, Medway Council’s portfolio holder for planning, economic growth and regulation, said: “We’ve looked at it but we’re limited as to what we can do.

“If they’re operating legally with legal licences there’s not a lot we can do.

“I understand what the taxi drivers are saying but it all comes down to the fact that they are legally on the road.”

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