As the time of push coming to shove approaches for driver and rider matching service Uber, with a decision on renewing its London operating licence due by the end of the month, yet another disturbing story has been related by a punter who wanted to get from Canning Town to Neasden in the early hours of Sunday morning, but ended up being taken out of town on the M1 - until she realised what was happening.
The Uber user, who Tweets as Afrikan Feminst (@Diamond_London), had expected to pay £27 and be taken directly to her destination. And the journey was almost complete when she apparently dozed off, only to awake and find that the driver had somehow taken her on to the northbound motorway. That unfortunate passenger might think the Jubilee Line or - wanting to go door to door - a proper London taxi a better bet in future.
This is her account of the fateful journey: “I had the most horrific experience with @Uber last night and [had] to call the police! Also my fare went from £27 to £69 Total paid!! And my 40 minute journey took 2.5hrs!!! I don’t think I will ever feel safe in / use an über again! I believe had [I not] woken up when I did & contacted the police … something sinister may have happened. The driver clearly attempted to take me outside of London”.
There was more. “When I fell asleep I was 5 minutes from my destination, when I woke up I was on the M1 heading to Luton. As I confronted the driver and asked why we were on the motorway I was met by silence … I became increasingly alarmed … I asked again ‘please tell me where you're taking me sir’ in a peculiar tone he responded ‘to your home’ at this point … I contacted the police”. As one might. And there was yet more.
“I contacted the police without alerting him … while scanning the car and keeping an eye on the driver to make sure there were no weapons … I felt like I was being kidnapped and it may sound dramatic but I sincerely felt that my safety had been compromised! As the driver became aware I was on the phone to the police he took the next nearest turning on the M1 heading back towards London”. So what had happened?
“I fell asleep at Brent X and my destination was Neasden! PLEASE TELL ME HOW WE ENDED UP IN WATFORD ON THE M1 HEADING TO LUTON … he eventually said ‘there was an accident and I had to divert’ there is no diversion coming from Brent X To Neasden which would logically take you the route that we ended up on … He then said ‘you're a big woman why are you scared this is Uber'”. Did he now? That’s well creepy.
And someone now wants answers. “From Canning Town to Neasden a 40min journey ended [up] being 2 hours, my fare estimate was initially £27 [but I] was charged £69! Something went seriously wrong … I truly believe if I had not woken up at the point that I did I may have been kidnapped, raped or assaulted! I expect a full investigation by @Uber and expect to be compensated!” Press and broadcasters, are you listening?
Uber might not want to explain itself in public. But that is what it must now do, and sharpish. There have been too many disturbing recollections like this for it to be merely waved away. And TfL need to ask themselves once more: is this operator fit to be given a licence to work the streets of the capital? How many more incidents do there have to be?