Uber is coming to the city with the world’s worst taxi services. People of Newcastle, you will finally be able to get home at 1am, when that ridiculous lock-out kicks in and there’s nowhere else to go.
Newcastle is only the second city in NSW to have the ride-share service, and the Newcastle Herald is reporting that as of Thursday 10,000 Novocastrians had downloaded the app, and more than 100 people had signed up to be drivers.
Surprisingly, the city’s taxi drivers are calling for regulation of the service.
I say surprisingly not because cabbies are having a whinge about competition – that’s par for the course with Uber, which pisses off the generally lazy, odious and over-priced taxi services of any city it comes to.
Rather, it’s a surprise that there are any cabbies in Newcastle to actually be upset by the competition.
Cabs in Newcastle are like unicorns… Unicorns which take 20 minutes to arrive and then charge you $18 to get from Wickham to Hamilton South (which, for the sake of people who aren’t from Australia’s greatest city, is 2.6 kilometres and takes about five minutes).
Still, the ABC were able to dig up the owner of a cab, Bob Forbes, who was concerned about Uber cutting in.
“If they’re going to target Friday and Saturday nights, for us, Friday and Saturday night is the cream of our industry,” Forbes said.
“Because they’re the only two shifts where we’re struggling to cope with demand, is from about 10pm Friday and 10pm Saturday through to about 3:30 in the morning.
“The rest of the week, we cope comfortably, and Monday to Friday day shifts, we actually struggle to get enough work to keep the cabs viable.”
To be fair to Newcastle’s taxi drivers, getting a cab on Tuesday morning is generally sweet. But that “cream of our industry” time on weekends is the worst (Wednesday night sucks as well – you get all jacked up on vodka coke and raspberry at Customs, then sugar-crash like a fiend waiting for a cab to take you to Kingers).
And that’s when Uber drivers are going to clean up.
Without having paid the crazy money for a taxi license, people looking to make a bit of extra cash can get in on the act a few nights a week and ease the squeeze.
As such, Forbes called for the NSW Government to do a better job regulating the ride-sharing industry, claiming it had already cost him tens of thousands of dollars.
“The last green slip that I bought for my taxi was $6500 and apparently it’s rumoured that the next one will be over $7000,” he said.
“That’s one of the things we’ve been saying to government for a long time.
“You’ve either got to get these people out of the industry because what they’re doing is illegal or you’ve got to legalise it and regulate it, because at the moment the playing field is not fair.”
Tell you what’s not fair Bob, living in a city of half a million people and waiting at the Beaumont street cab rank for 45 minutes as taxis come in dribs and drabs to ferry people home. I mean sure, Oasis kebabs is there to tide you over, but if you’ve already got cold pizza waiting in the fridge at home you don’t need that temptation.
Wait, didn’t this already happen?
Thrifty Newcastle residents may be wondering if they’ll get free rides out of Uber – cos that’s what happened last time the service launched in the city.
Yes, Uber came to Newcastle with great fanfare in April 2015, offering a week of free rides.
Then, the service made like a local taxi and just disappeared.
We contacted Uber for comment, and to confirm that this launch will last longer than seven days, but they just directed us to a blog post that makes no mention of the April 2015 launch.
However it does have a code – NUCASTLE – that gives “all new riders their first ride free up to $20 anywhere within Newcastle and the Central Coast.”