Two phone apps were launched in Birmingham today (12 February 2015) which will enable people to book private hire vehicles or Hackney Carriages via their smart phones.
This factsheet sets out answers to the most common questions on what this will mean for existing mini cab and taxi firms operating in the city.
1. What is the difference between Uber and Get Taxi?
Uber is licensed as a private hire vehicle operator. Private hire vehicles must be pre-booked. Get Taxi only operate Hackney Carriages, which are allowed to pick up fares on the street â€“ and can also be pre-booked.
Hackney Carriages are black cabs that can be flagged down on the street, at an authorised rank or be pre-booked.Â They charge metered fares (which are regulated by the council), display white rear taxi licence plates and are wheelchair accessible.
Private Hire Vehicles are saloon cars or minibuses which display yellow front and rear private hire licence plates and charge fares set by private hire firms.Â These can only take passengers on pre-booked journeys. Private hire drivers are not insured to carry passengers unless they have been pre-booked.
2. Are Uber and Get Taxi drivers and vehicles checked before they are licensed?
Yes. Birmingham has around 1,300 Hackney Carriage and 4,500 private hire drivers and vehicles â€“ and they must adhere to the high standards we set for them.
All drivers will be required to pass the same tests and pre-licensing requirements as any other private hire or Hackney Carriage driver, including medical and Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks. The same applies to the vehicles in terms of MOT testing and safety checks.
3. Can anyone become a driver for Uber or Get Taxi?
Uber and Get Taxi will only be permitted to use licensed private hire or hackney carriage drivers.
4. Will these apps improve peopleâ€™s safety?
Taxi and private hire safety is a priority for our licensing department. Many established private hire firms operating in Birmingham already offer a text or call service to let passengers know their vehicle has arrived and they already have permission to advertise alternative means of payment via apps where offered.
The operating model Uber are proposing to use in Birmingham will not be vastly different from any other operator, except they will not accept a booking by any other means than the app.
The best way to avoid using an unlicensed private hire vehicle is to call a legitimately licensed company and pre-book your journey. The most dangerous thing a passenger can do is to flag down a private hire vehicle in the street.
Only licensed Hackney Carriages (black cabs) can be hailed on the street, so even legitimately licensed private hire vehicles should not be flagged down.
If any of our licensed drivers or vehicles fall short of the stringent standards that have to be met in order to comply with the conditions of their licence, we will take relevant legal steps to protect the public who use their services.
5. Will this put other taxi drivers in the city out of work?
The drivers Uber and Get Taxi recruit will be from an existing pool of licensed private hire and Hackney Carriage drivers
Uber are licensed as a private hire operator, and therefore will be bound by the rules and regulations applicable to their licence.Â The arrival of Uber in Birmingham has not created a new type of driver â€“ they are not allowed to use unlicensed drivers.Â They are offering existing licensed drivers another licensed operator for whom they can work.
6. Is Birmingham City Council supporting these apps?
Uber has been granted a licence to operate private hire vehicles in Birmingham and they will be expected to abide by the conditions of their licence and applicable legislation.
Birmingham City Council is pleased Uber opted to apply for a licence and operate legitimately in the city, as it already does in Leeds and Manchester.