Uber will launch in Newcastle, its sixth UK city, at 4 p.m. GMT today. The company confirmed the news via email after teasing on Twitter late last night.
Initially, the US ride sharing app is only going to release its most affordable service UberX. Although it’s likely the higher-end travel options will follow.
Uber is quickly establishing itself across the UK and taking business from other taxi firms at an “unprecedented rate,” the CEO of expense management system provider Certify told the Associated Press.
Uber has already arrived in London, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and Wakefield, and will now set up in the North East, the most northerly point of its expansion so far.
Uber has calculated some example journeys to showcase the cost of the transport service in Newscastle. A journey from Newcastle Station to Newcastle Airport, for instance, will cost approximately £12.80. A trip from Newcastle University to the Quayside will cost approximately £4.30. People often get pretty excited when Uber rolls into a new town.
The app, which lets passengers order a private hire car through their smartphone, has already been downloaded more than 30,000 times by Newcastle residents. The people of Newcastle will be given their first ride free.
Traditionally, taxi drivers and some local councils have been opposed to the the app operating in cities due to complications with licensing. In India, there’s been controversy over the screening of drivers to check criminal records, while the app has recently been banned across Germany.
The service continues to say that safety is its number one priority. “Drivers in the UK have passed an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, are licensed by Newcastle City Council and fully insured as private hire drivers,” Uber said in an emailed statement.
Business Insider predicted earlier this week that Uber would launch next in Newcastle.
The local paper, Chronicle Live, reported that the firm had been granted its licence application by Newcastle City Council. There was no launch date — Uber tends to spring news spontaneously.
Every city speculates how Uber’s arrival will impact local businesses. In Newcastle, the National Taxi Associations North East director, Chris Chandler, told Chronicle Live he would be “interested to see whether passengers would use the service.”
Chandler makes the point that Newcastle isn’t as big as Manchester or Birmingham and questioned whether it “will survive in the economic climate of the North East.”
However, Uber doesn’t appear concerned.
In a statement, Tom Elvidge, General Manager for Uber Yorkshire and the North East, said:
Uber has been embraced by riders and drivers in every city it has opened in, and we’re sure Newcastle will be no different. Uber not only helps our passengers get where they need to go seamlessly, it provides unprecedented flexibility and ease to drivers. We’re really looking forward to providing a first-class Uber service in the North East!