Published: 06:00, 27 May 2019
| Updated: 10:20, 27 May 2019
A taxi firm has invested £200,000 in technology in a bid to fight off competition from Uber drivers.
Long established Vokes in Medway, which now incorporates Windmill Taxis and Rainham Cabs, has installed an automated dispatch system accepting bookings by app, web and by phone.
Customers are also able to track their taxi via a smartphone and are made aware of the cabbie’s name and car registration number.
Over the last three years, the international online firm Uber has impacted on independent Medway licensed cabbies, competing for trade and income.
Uber supporters have cited modern technology as the reasons why clients use them.
Mark Robinson, a partner at Vokes, said over the past year it had transformed from a traditional operator to a “high tech service provider”.
Mr Robinson, said: “Our new systems do everything Uber does and very much more - all under the watchful eye of the local authority.
"All our drivers have to meet the very high standards set by Medway Council, all intended to ensure a safe, consistent and reliable service to the general public.”
Uber is not licensed to act as a hackney carriage, a licence issued by the council, within the Towns.
Users simply book their journeys using a smartphone app and the firm is free to operate at will within Medway without breaking the law.
There are thought to be about 200 drivers working for the internet giant. Some come from outside the area with insufficient geographical knowledge.
Medway’s licensed drivers, who are self-employed, have to undergo regular stringent health, safety and driving checks and demonstrate that they know their patch.
Mr Robinson said: “To overcome a licensed taxi or private hire driver in Medway is no easy task.
"Our drivers are really hurting, many claiming that their income is down by as much as 30%.
"To overcome this, they are working longer hours but it’s fair to say that a few have given up the trade and if the situation doesn’t change we expect more to follow.
“Taxi services are an important part of Medway’s transport policy and we need more drivers, not less, entering the trade.”