Uber surge pricing on New Year's Eve opens new front in war with taxis

Where you ring in the new year may prove less important than how you get there, and get home, as the bitter conflict between Uber and taxis continues.

With New Year’s Eve the busiest night of the year for Uber, fares are expected to surge with increased demand – a strategy to offer an incentive to drivers that the head of Australia’s taxi industry has condemned as “plain greedy”.

In a statement the Australian Taxi Industry chief executive, Blair Davies, accused Uber of exploitation, arguing surge pricing meant Uber passengers risked spending as much as three times the price of a taxi fare for the same trip.

“That may not seem much of a problem for rich people desperate enough to pay a lot more to jump the queue, but for average Australians, this type of price gouging just looks plain greedy.”

With taxis’ regulated fares meaning “no bill shock” for customers, Davies said “grabbing a cab makes sense” for revellers wondering how to get to and from their destination.

Uber spokesman Caspar Nixon said surge pricing – designed to encourage drivers to come on to the platform during times of peak demand – solved “the perennial challenge of never being able to get a ride on New Year’s Eve”.

When demand falls or supply increases, prices quickly return to normal – and passengers are able to get an estimate on the app before accepting a higher fare.

The company continues to recruit new “driver-partners” in capital cities, with 5,500 active in Sydney, 6,500 in Melbourne, 2,200 in Perth and 4,500 in Brisbane.

Nixon said Uber would make millions of trips around the world on New Year’s Eve, adding 12.30am to 4.30am was expected to be the busiest time, with the highest prices.

“For the most affordable ride, riders should request right when the ball drops, or wait until later for prices to return to normal.”

Those for whom price trumps all are encouraged to allow plenty of time to get to and home from celebrations.

More than 4,500 extra bus, train, ferry and light rail services will be running in Sydney to help ease congestion caused by road closures and special event clearways in the city centre and harbour foreshore, North Sydney and on the lower north shore.

Public transport in Victoria will be free across the state from 6pm to 6am, and in Brisbane from 9pm until 5.30am.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Elle Hunt, for theguardian.com on Thursday 31st December 2015 03.16 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010