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Transport / Mass transit

Uber decides Wakefield is fifth British city

How would you rank the influence of Britain’s cities?

London obviously tops the league tables on most measures (that is one very big reason why everyone else hates it so much), and after that, you’ve get Manchester and Birmingham fighting it out for second place.

Beyond that, though, things get murky. Leeds and Glasgow have population size on their side; but Bristol has wealth, and Liverpool has cultural influence. Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast all have political power, in a way none of their English rivals do. It’s tricky.

One city you won’t notice popping up on any of these lists is Wakefield. It was once the county town of the West Riding of Yorkshire, but since that got abolished in 1974 it’s been reduced to the status of a sort of southern suburb of Leeds. And while the population of its council district is around 300,000, the population of the town proper is only about a fifth of that. It’s not very big, is the point here.

Anyway, the reason we mention this is that everyone’s favourite bunch of techno-taxicab-disruption-revolutionaries Uber have decided that the proper ranking of British cities goes: London, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Wakefield.

That, at least, is the order it’s launched its app in these cities. It’s done Wakefield before it’s done Glasgow. Yep. Here’s the statement we received from general manager Tom Elvidge:

The people of Wakefield told us they wanted Uber by downloading the app in their thousands, as such we decided to launch in the city and give them what they wanted. We have already seen huge demand from riders and drivers alike.

Elvidge elaborated on this in an interview with the Yorkshire Post, telling the paper:

Wakefield is an area that is well served by transport already, it has the main line rail… and probably has a population that is particularly tech savvy.

(Our favourite bit there is the “probably”. But anyway:)

It has been through a lot of regeneration and there are a lot of new businesses in Wakefield and a lot of younger early adopters of tech so hopefully it is going to resonate really well.

We’d speculate that there might be two other factors at work, too. The more facetious one is that Elvidge, as the Yorkshire Post delights in pointing out, is a Yorkshire boy himself, and there’s nowt so loyal as a Yorkshireman.

More importantly, though, look at the map of coverage on the “Leeds” page of Uber’s website. Wakefield is already in there:

At time of writing, there isn’t a separate Wakefield page.

So maybe this isn’t a separate launch at all. Maybe this is simply an attempt to ramp up the existing West Yorkshire service, in response to an unusually high number of users in the southern suburbs of Leeds.

That would mean that Uber was engaging in a form of spin to get free marketing in local papers, of course. Which certainly doesn’t sound like Uber. But still.
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