Published on March 10th, 2016 | by Shit Things in Reading7
Uber in Reading – Keeping up with Slough
Ah, Reading. A ‘city’ in the heart of the UK’s silicon valley. We should really be a leading light in technological advances, shouldn’t we? Or, at the very least, keeping up with bloody Slough. But in the middle of the biggest revolution in public transport in a generation, your council has taken a rather embarrassing step backwards.
If you fancy the idea of Uber in your town, you can forget it. Reading Borough Council have rejected their application to operate here.
At a recent licensing application meeting, Councillor Marian Livingston laughed off the fact that 22,000 people in Reading opened their Uber app to see if they could use it in the past 90 days. Not only that, she dismissed those app users as ‘phone app junkies who if they don’t have their phone in their hand they think they have had an amputation’. Yep. She actually said that.
Former Mayor Livingston (Marion, not Ken) is, how can we say this politely? A lady of ‘advanced years’. Now, being of a certain age doesn’t necessarily make you a dinosaur, of course. We’re sure there are plenty of pensioners who would download the Uber app in Reading. But Mrs. Livingston’s comments come across like they’re from someone who presumably still uses telegrams and considers fax machines as ‘new fangled’ – and her fellow cronies, won’t have it.
At the meeting, the Uber representative Thomas Elvidge had to explain the Uber model to the council members present. Had they really all pitched up to a licensing committee meeting with no idea as to how the taxi app works? Surely not…
But when you hear that at one point Licensing Officer Jean Champeau ‘raised concerns’ about there not being anywhere for the Uber cars to park if Uber’s office were to be based in Davidson House in The Forbury, you begin to wonder. In ol’ Jean’s mind, the drivers are all parking up their cars at a depot and walking home, aren’t they? Instead of, y’know, driving home and parking their own vehicles in their own parking spots outside their own homes. Like Uber drivers across the world do.
‘Across the world’. That’s right. Even Slough.
During the meeting (or ‘shitshow’ as we should really be calling it…), a Mr. Asif Rashid chimed in to grill Elvidge. Who is Mr. Rashid, you ask? None other than the chairman of the Reading Taxi Association. A man with a vested interest in keeping Uber out of town and not impacting his little monopoly.
At one point Rashid aired his concern that we’d be flooded with Uber drivers coming in from London to take fares in Reading. London. The biggest, busiest city in Europe. LONDON. You know, that place with 8.5 million people in it that’s forty miles away. He said that. And with a straight face, apparently.
The Reading Taxi Association were complaining about a lack of cabs on our roads just last year. And now they’re moaning about too many. So they want more, provided they’re clapped-out old Hackney carriages, not nice clean brand new Toyotas and Audis? Right-o.
Councillor Tony Page – a man not afraid of a terrible decision – said this about us having a choice in our public transport: “Clearly there are people who want to use Hackney Carriage services and Private Hire vehicles in Reading because there are quite a number of companies providing a good service and I am not convinced that there is a demand for any particular Uber type facility.”
22,000 incidents of people in Reading trying to use the Uber app in the past 90 days doesn’t count as far as our old friend Tone is concerned. That backward logic is astounding. Hackney Carriage services and Private Hire vehicles are used so much because those are the only choices in Reading.
Is the Uber model better than ‘normal’ cabs? Are there legitimate criticisms of Uber? It doesn’t really matter. We live in an open market. It should be up to us to decide. Or at least have a say. After all, when were we consulted on any of this?
We’ve no idea why this has riled us up so much, but if you’re annoyed too – if you want your say on it – someone’s set up a petition for you to sign. It’s not going to change the council’s decision but still, it’s something to do, isn’t it?
Something else to do is to head over to Facebook and like our Shit Things in Reading page. We promise it’s not all whining about the council (we also go on about cyclists and stuff too).