Ola to new taxi firm for Luton

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Taxi firm Ola has been given permission to expand its service, based on mobile phone technology, into Luton.

The company, a rival to Uber, was granted a private hire operator’s licence by the borough council’s licensing sub-committee.

Ola UK Private Limited intends to operate an App-based booking platform for taxi services with local private hire vehicles and hackney carriage vehicles.

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The firm will have an office at Capability Green, having started its UK operations in South Wales, Bristol and Exeter.

One of the taxi company’s representatives Darryl Supersad told the sub-committee the firm is planning to extend its operation to every city in the UK.

It will use local private hire drivers and vehicles, similar to Uber, and also include black cabs across the whole market, he said.

Ola would be using standard taxis for the moment, but plans to use electric vehicles in the future to provide taxi services.

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The company plans to provide executive services in six to eight months to and from London Luton Airport, the licensing sub-committee heard.

Drivers and vehicles used would all be licensed by the council, with the cabbies self-employed.

Bookings would be web-based only, and the website would provide phone numbers to deal with support and complaints.

Ola is looking at employing 100 to 500 drivers and vehicles initially, but hopes to increase to 2,000 in the long-term.

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The firm has a complaint management system and would take any driver issues raised seriously, the sub-committee was told.

Passengers and taxi drivers have to register via the app, so payments are made digitally at the end of a trip, rather than direct to the driver.

All payments will be made by credit or debit cards only, with no cash changing hands.

Drivers would not be required to work exclusively for Ola, but records would be kept of all their activities for the company.

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Bookings within the Luton would be given to local drivers, but cross border journeys, such as from Luton to Manchester Airport, may be offered to an Ola driver from outside the town where appropriate.

The sub-committee decided to grant the application for the operator’s licence, with exemptions to the current council policy over keeping records electronically instead of in a handwritten bound book.

It also requested that the application for licence renewal should be reviewed in full by a panel, instead of by the licensing service under delegated authority.

The borough council licences 35 taxi operators, 170 hackney carriages and 945 private hire vehicles.