Uber stays cool over taxi shortage reports
BELFAST'S new taxi-booking company has admitted it is "still building supply" amid reports there was a shortage of cars in the city during its first weekend of operation.
The US-firm Uber, which launched in Belfast last Friday, dealt with complaints from some new customers faced with the message that there were "no cars available" when they attempted to order a cab using a specially designed mobile phone app.
Kieran Harte, general manager of Uber Belfast, last night said they have "hundreds of drivers in the pipeline who will be hitting the road in the coming days and weeks".
The company allows passengers to locate the nearest cab with the app. Users sign up on iPhone and Android apps using a credit card, which is charged on arrival at their destination.
The nearest taxi is dispatched using GPS and the technology allows a fare to be calculated.
However, the firm - which already operates in Britain and the Republic with around a 20 per cent share of the market - has faced criticism from passengers in Belfast.
Many people used social media to vent their frustration at their difficulties in securing an Uber cab in the city.
One man wrote on Twitter: "Still no @uber_ni cars available. Not looking good for closing time rush. Belfast Uber #fail".
Another man also said that "Uber is a failure and can't compete with real taxis in Belfast"
But despite the criticism, Mr Harte last night said they had been "blown away" by the response from customers in Belfast.
"Uber's launch on Friday was for both riders and partner-drivers, as such we're still building supply, however we have hundreds of drivers in the pipeline who will be hitting the road in the coming days and weeks," he said.
"Whenever we launch in a new city it takes a bit of time to match the supply of partners with public demand and we have been blown away with the response we have seen in Belfast.
"The way the app operates means that a customer can only see a car when it is available to be requested.
"The lack of cars available shows just how busy the drivers were and how little downtime between jobs they had."
Uber, which operates across almost 70 other countries, was granted a license by the Department of the Environment, meaning more competition for Belfast's black taxis and big two firms, FonaCab and Value Cabs.