London's Uber and Bolt service is in decline
An established taxi ordering service in London is in decline. According to the Licensed Private Hire Car Association, more than 160,000 of the 300,000 private hire drivers have left the industry since the beginning of 2020. Uber estimates that approximately 10,000 British drivers registered on its platform no longer use the app. A number of factors are to blame.
- COVID-19 pandemic. Many Uber and minicab drivers have found other sources of income during the lockdowns, such as delivering food or parcels from Amazon. That said, demand for taxis has now increased - passenger traffic on public transport is no more than 70% of pre-lockdown times.
- Brexit. Along with other workers, Britain has also lost drivers from the European Union. And migrant drivers from other countries were either unable or unwilling to return to the country because of ever-changing international travel rules.
- Fuel crisis. While Uber has denied that the recent fuel shortage situation in the UK has affected the service, drivers have complained that waiting in queues, price rises and temporary restrictions on the amount of fuel they buy have affected their ability to fulfil orders.
- New charges. Last year's increased congestion charge and the time of stay it covers, the 18 times expanded ULEZ (Unhealthy Vehicle Entry Zone) in October this year, the pass-through charge at Heathrow drop-off area all incur additional costs on drivers, reducing the margins of journeys.
- Slowness of government agencies. The DVLA, which issues drivers' licences, had a backlog of 1.4 million applications as of July. As a result, no one is taking the place of drivers who stop working. Uber says it is now short 20,000 drivers to meet British demand. This week, service CEO Dara Khosroshahi personally flew to London for 24 hours to talk to Sadiq Khan about how to solve the problem. As well as raising fares by 10% (and to airports by 25%), Uber has decided to reward drivers with a £500 bonus for bringing friends and acquaintances to work.
And Bolt, which in August 2021 raised 600 million euros in venture capital investment for development in Europe, decided to change the pricing model. Now, the 65,000 drivers who work with Bolt in the UK will be able to set their own prices for rides and passengers will be able to choose from their offers.
What will this lead to? Obviously, it will lead to higher prices for taxi ordering services. Possibly to an increase in the use of public transport, unless, of course, we all get hit with a sudden lockdown like last year. And it is quite unlikely that the current situation will lead to an increase in car sales: although secondary sales of electric cars have increased by 56% since the ULEZ expansion, overall demand for used cars has still not risen to pre-pandemic times.
Perhaps the most unfortunate consequence is that the British capital may be rolling back a decade or more to a time when еthe citizens had to trust in expensive black cabs, unreliable minicabs or their own car.