One downside of London emerging from lockdown is that traffic levels have risen again, especially as people try not to travel on the tube. A good way to avoid the inevitable rush-hour gridlock is to abandon roads altogether and commute via our celebrated river – and Uber is here to help make that easier.
The ubiquitous cab company has splashed out on a partnership with Thames Clippers to extend its involvement with London’s transport network by taking to the water, with the Uber Boat by Thames Clippers service launching today (Monday August 3). The firm has bought naming rights to the 20-strong fleet of river boats and the piers they serve, from Putney to Woolwich, and its users will be able to book journeys on the Uber app.
Thames Clippers will continue to run the rebranded vessels, which will operate just as they do now, except that people who have booked via the Uber app will be able to board using a QR code on their phone. Passengers will still have the option to buy tickets from other sources, or use a contactless or Oyster card to pay for journeys, and prices will not increase.
Uber has trialled boat services before, notably an island-hopping service in Croatia in 2017 and punting trips in Cambridge last summer, but this will be its first foray into waterborne commuting. Jamie Heywood, Uber’s regional general manager for northern and eastern Europe, said: ‘Many Londoners are looking for new ways to travel around the city, particularly when they start commuting back to work.’
Thames Clippers co-founder and CEO Sean Collins added: ‘In our 22nd year of operation it is key that we continue to support London and its commuters with the ease of lockdown and return to work.’
For now, passengers will have to embark from piers and the boats will run to a timetable – so, unlike with Uber’s taxis, you won’t be able to hail a ride from wherever you are for your own private cruise. One day, maybe?
Want to go behind the scenes of the Thames Clippers? Read our interview with one of its captains.
In other transport news, the government is handing out £50 vouchers to help you repair your bike.