TAXI drivers in Bolton claim app-based service Uber is being given an easier ride in the town.
They have accused Bolton Council of operating a “two-tier system” with regard to ensuring strict licensing terms are met.
Private-hire operators are required to have a licensed premises within the borough and say the council strictly enforces this.
The ride-hailing firm has been operating in Bolton since 2015, but private-hire drivers claim the office at Flexspace in Manchester Road has been vacant for several months.
One driver, who asked not to be named, said: “Many exceptions have been made. There have been no inspections that are in any way similar to what other private-hire operators undergo.
“None of the documents that private-hire operators have to keep in their office are at Uber’s office. So the question is, why are the other operators in the borough not treated similarly?”
He claimed that his operator, PAL Cars, spends a couple of hours every week making sure the necessary documentation meets council requirements in preparation for an inspection.
The council would not disclose how many times Uber’s office has been inspected in the past year.
In addition, Uber drivers in Bolton also want the company to operate its local office, according to trade representatives. This is because they now have to travel to Manchester in order to complete some paperwork.
A spokesman for Bolton Private Hire Association said: “We want the council to get Uber to man the office so the drivers can do their paperwork. It’s better to have some one face-to-face. That’s what the members want.”
However, Uber claims that it still maintains an office in Bolton, consistent with the address on its licence.
An Uber spokesman said: “We primarily support our Bolton partners face to face through our main hub in Manchester, although we do very much retain a licensed office in Bolton and are able to serve our partners there should the need arise.”
When Uber obtained its licence three years ago, local operators threatened strike action because they claimed Uber cars did not adhere to rules set for other private-hire vehicles.
Before the company was granted a licence, a report outlining Uber’s differing business model was approved by the licensing and environmental regulations committee.
This allowed the company to forgo conditions regarding telephone lines and hiring at the licensed premises.
An Uber spokesman added: “We offer many support options for licensed drivers including directly through the app and recently through our 24hr phone line.”
Farnworth councillor Maureen Flitcroft has taken up the issue with council chief executive Tony Oakman after it was raised by a resident.
She said: “Everybody should be on a level playing field. It’s unfair if one has got an unfair advantage over others.”
A council spokesman said: “We have received a complaint raising a number of concerns in relation to Uber’s operator practices, which we are currently investigating.”