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Jacqueline Wake Young: Never mind Uber in Aberdeen, drivers wept when I passed my test

Councillors are about to decide on Uber's bid to launch in Aberdeen as existing drivers call for it to be refused and almost 500 people have backed the plan

Plans for Uber in Aberdeen will be decided upon at the start of June. Image: Shutterstock.
Plans for Uber in Aberdeen will be decided upon at the start of June. Image: Shutterstock.

Not passing your driving test until the age of 38 does have its advantages, for taxi drivers anyway.

My former workmates reckoned I could single-handedly put a city’s entire fleet of taxis out of business if I ever moved to another part of the country.

As far as I know, the taxi drivers of Glasgow have survived the economic fallout of me moving to the Granite City, although there were tears shed.

I know this for definite because many of them were at my leaving party.

Getting a taxi is one way to get around when public transport isn’t an option. Image: Shutterstock.

My pathological inability to be on time for anything, coupled with my dazzling capacity for faffing about, meant that I spent most of 1985 to 2005 in taxis.

It really was the only way to hold down a job and keep my friends.

Getting to work and social engagements were just a small part of my contribution to the taxi industry.

The drivers who hadn’t been able to retire early on the earnings from these shorter trips would sometimes drive me 50 miles to meet friends or 100 miles to catch a flight.

Uber in Aberdeen sparks row

This was at times when Scotland’s public transport system wasn’t working properly. So most of the time.

A 150-mile round trip when my best mate needed me was a memorable and expensive journey.

A legendary cab ride to Liverpool to catch last orders and queue to see DJ Graeme Park at Cream was, I know, bonkers.

Aberdeen DJ Graeme Park at the mixing desk in Liverpool. Image: Supplied by Graeme Park.

One driver, instead of driving me to my parents’ house 14 miles away after I spotted a spider in my bathroom, came in and liberated a little blighter into the front garden.

He did himself out of about 40 quid, but as I’d probably already funded his second holiday home, it was the least he could do.

Another time, a driver came clubbing with me after my late shift when I couldn’t drag anybody else out with me, and then drove me home.

She even let me call in for chips on the way. What a result.

A familiar picture of train cancellations. Image: Shutterstock.

Then, after 20 years of lessons, I passed my driving test and a nation of taxi drivers mourned.

Having a customer like me, who wants a taxi any time of day and not just at closing time on weekends, must have been very welcome.

Would Uber in Aberdeen solve the queuing problem?

This gets to the heart of the problem for taxi businesses and their would-be customers the world over.

There is intense demand at peak times and then nothing happens for huge chunks of the day.

Photographs of long lines at taxi ranks in Aberdeen illustrate the principles of supply and demand as well as any graph.

A queue at a taxi rank in Aberdeen is a familiar sight. Image: Kami Thomson.

Transport, including public transport, is a hot enough topic as it is.

That’s before you get to the multiple problems associated with not being able to get a taxi when you need it, safety being just one of them.

No wonder there is such a stooshie over Uber launching in Aberdeen.

The ride share operator has courted much controversy over the years but it has also attracted many fans, who find it cheap, safe and convenient.

And as passengers, what else do we really need? Spider-catching and disco dancing notwithstanding.

Drivers opposed to Uber in Aberdeen

In Aberdeen, existing drivers opposed to Uber moving into the city hand-delivered an objection to council chiefs.

In Paris they set fire to tyres on the Boulevard Périphérique but that’s what you get from a nation weaned on Emile Zola and Edith Piaf.

Riot police officers stand by an overthrown car during a taxi drivers’ demo in Paris. Image: AP Photo/Michel Euler.

Protests against Uber in London saw 8,000 Black Cab drivers block every lane around Westminster and Trafalgar Square.

There, drivers are more invested than most. They have pass the Knowledge, which involves learning thousands of routes within six miles of Charing Cross.

Mastering the Knowledge is something akin to an undergraduate degree, taking three or four years at a cost of up to £10,000.

Black cab and licensed taxi drivers protest at Trafalgar Square over Uber. Image: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire.

Aberdeen taxi drivers don’t face quite the same challenge, unless you count having to spot the turn-off for Teca on the northbound carriageway of the AWPR.

They could test people on avoiding the bus gates and LEZ zones or finding somewhere to park for The Lemon Tree or Aberdeen Arts Centre.

I think we’d all be interested in studying for that.

Bus gate markings on Union Street, Aberdeen. Image: Scott Baxter.