Travellers criticise ‘disgraceful’ taxi fares as demand surges amid rail strikes

Travellers have criticised the “disgraceful” increase in taxi fares as demand surges during the nationwide rail strikes.

Millions of people are suffering disruption from rail strikes with 80% of trains cancelled and a spike in road congestion.

London Underground workers are also on strike on Tuesday.

Those forced to travel are having to contend with skeleton train timetables, increased traffic on the roads and surging demand for alternative modes of transport.

Rail and Tube strikes
Trains stopped at Edge Hill Sidings in Wavertree Liverpool, as members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union begin their nationwide strike in a bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions (Peter Byrne/PA)

Uber users in London are being hit with a surge in prices with a three-mile journey from Paddington to King’s Cross estimated to cost £19 just after midday – down from £27 at 8.45am.

Elsewhere in London, Addison Lee taxis has had limited availability on Tuesday morning and travellers are having to pay a £5 surcharge for all journeys.

Zipcar and black cabs are also experiencing higher demands but people will only have to pay the usual price for these services.

MJ Shannon, a bar manager, said she had to take a £30 Uber taxi, instead of a local train service, from Hale, Cheshire, where she was at a training event, to get to Manchester Piccadilly before a train home to Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Ms Shannon said: “I’m trying to get back to Newcastle. It’s not the worst inconvenience in the world, all the major lines are still running.”

Meanwhile, Karen Longhurst, who was faced with a £44.85 Uber fare to work, tweeted: “Disgraceful Uber @Uber – I can’t work from home as I work in the the NHS.”

Jamie Murphy tweeted: “Great uber driver tells me he “saved me this morning”. Fair enough pal – but you did charge £30 quid with nearly a 50% surge.”

Elsewhere, social media users complained about fares for cabs to the airport or to get children to schools as well as taxi services being booked up altogether.

Rich Neeth wrote: “So I can’t get my young daughter to school this week.

“Completely cut off, no bus, no real alternative (£120 a day in cabs, if I can’t get a cab).”

Another user said: “The knock on of this strike – mum was going away on a coach she walked to her local shops – no buses.

“Rang for a taxi all booked up all morning she couldn’t get to the coach station she’s 84! Not funny she won’t get her money back and she had to walk a mile all the way home 84yo.”

Alexis Rodney wrote on Twitter: “They want £200 for a taxi from Heathrow to London to cover them for the train strike. I will walk like Chaucer and the Pilgrims before I pay that.”

Another user wrote: “Just booked a taxi to Gatwick, £155. Ouch.”

Uber said it is expecting “significant” demand this week and it has capped surge prices which have been rising on Tuesday.

A spokesperson said: “We are expecting significant increases in demand as a result of strike action across the rail network this week.”

They added: “As a result of the strike action currently taking place on the National Rail and London Underground network, we have capped the level that prices can surge, and all users are shown the price of their trip before they book.

“We are also working hard to ensure that there are enough drivers out on the road to match demand.”

National Express also said it has seen a surge in bookings and inquiries for coaches on its UK-wide scheduled network.

The coach operator is 65% sold out across the network and anticipates this to hit more than 85% with seats still selling fast.

James Taylor, general manager of Zipcar UK, said the car hire service have also seen higher bookings across the UK but has “committed” to keeping prices the same.

He said in a statement: “We are seeing higher bookings across the strike days, but we are committed to keeping our prices the same despite increased demand from customers.

“We would urge anyone looking for alternative transport to book early to avoid disappointment, but if customers need to make a last-minute journey, they can take advantage of our flex service, which can only be booked 15 minutes in advance.”

Rail and Tube strikes
Passengers wait at a bus stop outside Clapham Junction station in south-west London, as members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union begin their nationwide strike in a bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions. (PA)

Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, which represents black cabs, said: “We expect London’s roads to be more congested than usual causing delays to some journeys, but our members will be out in force doing everything they can to help people get where they need to be as safely and efficiently as possible.

“Taxi fares are set by our regulator, so passengers using a black cab can expect the same reliable service, at a fair price, like on any other day and taxi drivers won’t be looking to exploit these difficult circumstances.”

A spokesperson for Addison Lee said: “During the last tube strike, demand for Addison Lee services grew by more than 50%, and we’re seeing similar figures this week.

“Therefore, for the rail strikes, we are incentivising drivers to come out by applying a £5 additional charge for journeys, 100% of which will go directly to them.

“By encouraging as many partner drivers to work as possible, we can complete more important journeys and help keep London moving.”