ONLINE private hire firm Uber starts operating in Bradford today and says "tens of thousands'' of people have downloaded its smartphone app in readiness for the new service.

The company said its most affordable product uberX will go live from 4pm today in central Bradford and will be a 24-hour, seven days a week operation.

Uber's regional general manager Tom Elvidge said an undisclosed pool of self employed private hire drivers had signed up to operate its services and its range would widen as the demand grew and more drivers signed up.

Uber is a technology platform that connects passengers and licensed private hire drivers in real time through a GPS-enabled smartphone app, which enables customers to track a car on screen as it approaches to pick them up. Once requested, the passenger sees the driver’s photo, name and car registration and the transaction is cashless.


Mr Elvidge said Uber offered cheaper fares and more convenience, citing a journey from Bradford Cathedral to Horton Bank Country Park for a fare of around £7.55 and Bradford Interchange to Leeds Bradford Airport for around £13.50.

Mr Elvidge stressed that Uber had to meet more stringent standards in gaining its operating licence from Bradford Council and did not use drivers with cars older than 2007 models.

All Uber drivers have passed an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check, are licensed by the local authority and insured as private hire drivers.

"We set the bar higher in terms of what we require to provide a safe and reliable service at a lower price. Rather than having to pay a weekly rent, our drivers pay Uber a commission which means they are earning, however many trips they do.Their working arrangements are also more flexible and they are not tied into specific shifts, " he said.

Bradford is Uber's third operation in West Yorkshire after Leeds and Wakefield., It also operates in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle.

Tom Elvidge said: “We’re delighted to be bringing uberX to our third city in Yorkshire. From the growth we have seen in the region we know the people love Uber, so much so that over ten thousand people have downloaded and opened the app in Bradford in the last month alone.”

Khurram Shehzad, chairman of Bradford Private Hire Liaison Service, said the city's existing private hire companies have written to the Council to make sure officers closely monitor the service.

He said the lack a traditional management system raised some concerns, such as condition of vehicles and hours worked by drivers. He said: "It is a good idea for certain customers who don't like cash.

"However, I don't think it is a good idea, there is no one overseeing these drivers. There are no managers.

"These drivers can log on when they want, and could work 18 hours if they wanted."