INVITING global taxi provider Uber into Darlington could take all the business away from local firms, the town’s leading taxi company has said.

The town’s taxi firms continue to battle severe shortages with residents forced to walk miles home in cold, dark weather after the reopening of the hospitality sector and night-time economy saw demand rocket.

Some residents have suggested inviting Uber to operate in Darlington but others, including 1AB Taxis, are unconvinced.

Managing director at 1AB, Chris Bainbridge, said: “The difficulty for us as a local company that provides local jobs is if someone like Uber comes in they could take all of the local companies out of it.”

Mr Bainbridge said 1AB’s legacy in the town is down to its community work.

“Since 1984, we have supported local charities, the NHS and throughout Covid-19 we spent a lot of money locally,” he added.

“You wouldn’t get that commitment, service and support from Uber. They will take all the local companies out of the market.

“We are very much a local company that wants to support the people of Darlington and the surrounding area.”

The Northern Echo: Uber is in operation in other areas of the North EastUber is in operation in other areas of the North East

However, resident Martin Landers says introducing Uber would help with the town’s taxi shortages and guarantee people can get home safely.

He said: “My solution is to call on the council and to look again at this and invite Uber to town. I looked into setting up a company in order to fill the gap but then I thought why when Uber is the solution.

“The way Uber operates it would naturally work well and help fill the gaps. You could say to people to arrange a taxi before they go out. But the truth is, a lack of taxis going to impact local businesses.

“The easy solution is Uber.”

Darlington’s MP Peter Gibson received criticism from workers and residents in the town after meeting representatives from Uber last month, with many sharing concerns over the safety of Uber’s taxis.

But Mr Gibson said the conversation centred around his Private Members Bill relating to safety in taxis and private hire vehicles.

On the possibility of Uber working in Darlington, he said: “Competition is generally a good thing, but when large powerful players come into a local marketplace it can be damaging.

“I have engaged extensively with the local taxi community, including on raising the loss of the taxi rank on Victoria Rd. I remain happy to meet and discuss local taxi companies’ concerns.”

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