Advent Calendar Day 14: Bennett Winch Briefcase
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Style — 5 days
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Travel — 3 days
Last month, Transport for London dropped the bombshell that Uber would no longer be licensed to operate in the capital, due to the handy transport app not being “fit and proper to hold a private operator licence”.
It was an announcement that hit harder than many thought it probably would. After launching in London just 5 years ago, Uber was hailed as the next big thing in easy transport – private hire at the touch of a smartphone button. But, after a string of bad publicity – most stemming from former Uber CEO and human PR disaster Travis Kalanick – London decided to let the air out of Uber’s wheels and clamp the cars permanently off our streets.
But don’t go whistling for a black cab just yet. As is often the case with popular inventions, many spins and twists on Uber have cropped up in the last half-decade, and many of them weren’t found guilt of the rampant harassment reported at Uber. As such, now is the time for those who followed in the innovative tyre tracks of Uber to drive on through and pick up the customers left, quite literally, at the side of the road. Here’s the best transport apps to download to fill that Uber-shaped hole on your home screen.
Probably the other private hire service you’ve heard off, and seen trundling around London’s streets, Gett works in a very similar way to the ill-fated Uber. Founded in Israel, but now operating in Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool and 20 other UK cities, on paper Gett actually looks much better than Uber.
Benefits include the option to pay in cash, no minimum fares, and a fixed rate, flat pricing scheme – that means you won’t end up ambushed by hefty surge charges during rush hour and other busy periods a la Uber. You’re afforded two minutes waiting time before the meter starts, and a three minute cancellation window – with a tipping feature on the app allowing you to reward your driver should they get you to your destination ahead of schedule.
Former recently – during an odd merger between Hailo and car manufacturer Daimler’s own app – myTaxi immediately slashed their rates by 50 per cent when the news of Uber’s revoked license broke. The app sets its fares using local regulators, which means that London fares are the same as those offered by TfL, but there are considerably more offer windows, discounts and codes offered – not to mention flash sales that are bound to brighten your commute.
“We believe Londoners deserve the highest standards in safety, accessibility with a premium service that’s second to none,” said myTaxi last month. “As a result of this, we want to encourage Uber passengers back to black cabs – until the end of the month myTaxi will undercut UberX prices by subsidising passengers with a minimum 30 per cent discount off the meter fare, while offering the same convenience of app hailing and a higher standard of service.”
Less a direct alternative to Uber, and more a tool to help you navigate the alternatives we’ve been left with, MiniCabit is a taxi comparison app, which lets you choose and book from a range of private hire companies, setting your preferred route and choosing the firm with the best reputation or price.
Operating around the country, the prices obviously vary, as does the service. But this is a good way to book – with executive car mini-cabs, hybrid mini-cabs as well as taxis for up to 8 passengers on offer – and the benefit that you don’t have to call around various local taxi firms before choosing who you want to ride with.
If you want the premium experience, then Addison Lee is for you. For those of you having withdrawal from UberLux, Addison Lee offers fixed fares and, like Gett, has no extra charges when it comes to busy times of the day. With a £7.50 minimum fare, you can get £10 off your first ride, and choose from vehicles including standard, executive, large and cycle-friendly.
And, once you’re inside, you’ll never go back to an Uber – even if their license is reinstated. For, inside an Addison Lee, you get free in-car Wi-Fi and phone chargers and, if the driver’s feeling particularly generous, bottled water and mints. It’s the gold standard service, and the perfect alternative to those high-end Ubers you can no longer treat yourself too.
Launched specifically to challenge Uber, this Estonian company has had its own problems with Transport for London. In September, just three days after launching, TfL forced the company to stop operating when it came to light that they didn’t themselves have the correct licenses to operate. The ink is still drying on the deal but, with a successful launch in Paris, this looks a good bet to replace Uber in the long term.
Taxify is especially good as it offers a business account – much like Addison Lee. With this capability, companies can sign up to use any services (from affordable to lux) and then get one monthly bill with all the details. As such, this means no more expense reports or reimbursements – and the boss can get the data and map for every ride taken.
Actually launched a month before Uber hit London, Lyft is driving into the space vacated by Uber with its hot pink branding and a global value of $7.5 billion. In much the same way as Uber, users must download the app, add a valid phone number and form of payment, and then request a ride from a nearby rider.
Four types of rides are available, Lyft Line (which is basically UberPool), Lyft PLus, Lyft Premier and Lyft Lux. Another benefit of Lyft – one heavily marketed after the sexual harassment allegations levelled against some Uber drivers – is the screening process their drivers go through, including in-person interviews, a minimum age of 21, criminal background checks (going seven years back), and zero tolerance policy towards both drugs and alcohol.
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