Whatever you think of Uber and how it operates, there are a great many people, both drivers and passengers, who rely upon it.
If you live in London, what alternatives to Uber are available if the ride-hailing service is banned? We round them up, from Kapten to Gett – not forgetting the good old-fashioned black cab.
Kapten is second only to Uber for popularity in London, and thus stands to benefit most from the ban (currently under appeal). “London doesn’t need Uber,” was Kapten’s response to the news.
“Customers and drivers need to ask themselves if they should use an app under the shadow of repeating safety issues, dodging regulations and toxic corporate culture,” said Kapten UK general manager, Mariusz Zabrocki.
“At Kapten, our main aim at this point is to make sure all drivers and riders affected by the potential ban know that the future needn’t look so bleak, as Kapten will be available.”
Kapten is originally a French firm, now joint-owned by Daimler and BMW. It’s a new player, having launched earlier this year. A ‘points’ system allows loyal users to accrue credit and use it for free rides.
Bolt is another ride-sharing app that operates in the capital, launched earlier in 2019. It claims to cover the bases that Uber doesn’t.
“Recent events highlight the critical importance to public safety of, not just checking, but knowing who those drivers are and taking a deep interest in their overall wellbeing,” said a Bolt spokesperson.
“We spent a year working with Transport for London (TfL) on our successful London licence application and we continue to pay the utmost attention to the credentials of drivers we permit to use our platform. With more than 30,000 drivers carefully onboarded onto the platform, we have quickly become a trusted player in the capital.”
Bolt claims its rates are fairer to drivers and that its service is more reliable and safe for customers. There’s also the added bonus that all rides are offset to be carbon neutral.
The company had its own licensing controversies, however, with a stuttering attempted launch in 2017. Bolt drivers are also in the process of demanding a per-mile base rate of £2, up from the current £1.25.
Israeli-owned Gett is a comparatively long-standing operation in London. It launched in 2011 as straight alternative to the traditional black cab, to cut waiting times and allow advance ordering.
Like a cab, however, it is metered, with no minimum fares. It also works with existing licensed taxi drivers, including in areas outside London.
The true new kid on the block will be Ola. We say ‘will be’ because it launches in London in January 2020. It secured an operating licence over the summer after a limited launch in 2018.
“Today, we are inviting the tens of thousands of drivers across London to register themselves on the Ola platform, as we prepare to launch in the city in the coming weeks,” said Simon Smith, international lead at Ola. Watch this space.
Slightly different to the above services is Kabbee. Think of it as a Just Eat, CompareTheMarket or MoneySuperMarket of cab services. Seventy providers are listed, with around 10,000 London cabs on its books.
It also pitches itself as the much cheaper alternative to a traditional flag-down cab, and only keeps highly-rated services listed. On its website, it says you can ‘earn miles to enjoy credits, upgrades and other treats’.
Free Now is a pan-European ride-hailing company that has more than 100,000 drivers on its books across 100 European cities. If you’re London-based, it has 17,000 black cabs on its books in the capital.
Like Uber, you tap to order and your ride should arrive shortly. The only difference is that pricing is generally fixed for these fully-licensed drivers, and doesn’t peak and trough with demand.
Pricier alternatives to Uber
If your budget is higher, Wheely and Addison Lee bother offer a more premium taxi experience.
The former will chauffeur you in a Mercedes, while the latter is popular with corporate customers.
London public transport
Of course, when in a real pinch (like if your phone battery has died), a black cab is always available. As is the underground and bus network. It’s always worth looking at prices and routes, to see if a tube or bus could work for you.
London buses have fixed pricing, and the tube network can easily get you further for less. So, even if Uber does leave London, you won’t be left stranded.