Why Uber uses surge pricing, even during a tube strike

July 9, 2015 / London

It’s been over a year since the last major tube strike in London – and just how difficult it would be to get around caught many of us off guard.

The London Underground does such a good job getting us where we need to go that we forget how much we rely on it – and just how many of us Londoners depend on it. But, with around 4 million journeys taken on it every day, it’s no surprise that, when the tube goes out of action, London’s transportation system cracks under the strain.

Since the tube strike started, we’ve helped more than 100,000 people get across London – and we’re still going strong.

Here at Uber, we believe it’s our job to help keep London moving. Our mission is to ensure that everyone can get a reliable ride when they need it – and we’re proud that, unlike any other private hire operator or taxi company today, even during a tube strike we succeeded.

Of course, we did everything we could to encourage every partner-driver working on our platform to be available and online during the strike – and there were double the number of cars online this morning compared to a normal Thursday. Since the strike started, we’ve helped more than 100,000 people get across London – and we’re still going strong. Londoners did their bit too, travelling together to ensure as many people as possible could get a ride and splitting the fare between them. But it still wasn’t enough to meet the incredible demand.

No one has to travel when surge pricing is in effect – it’s entirely your choice. But it does give you the choice.

Our competitors have complained about surge pricing – our dynamic pricing model, which comes into effect when demand massively outstrips supply. The increase in prices encourages more partner-drivers, who work with Uber on a fully-flexible, non-exclusive basis and as much or little as they want, to come out to work and ensures that those already on the road know where they are needed most. And, of course, those who don’t really need to travel will likely wait until prices have dropped.  We’ll always be completely transparent about our pricing, with big notices and confirmation screens to make sure you’re aware that surge pricing is in effect.

Believe us when we say we would rather have a car for everyone than have people pay more. But, crucially, dynamic pricing lets us give you the option to get a car when you really need it – something that our competitors didn’t seem to be able to offer today.

We compared booking a journey between Marble Arch and London Bridge just after 5pm this evening – right at the start of rush hour.

Addison Lee

Addison Lee looked hopeful initially – if you were willing to wait 85 minutes for your car. But sadly, when we tried to order, it was not to be. The app notified us that they were fully booked in the area.

Addison Lee


We had no luck with Hailo either – there we were, sitting on the little pin, but there was no Taxi and no HailoExec available for us.



Things seemed hopeful for a while, with lots of cabs appearing to be milling about us and the app promising to be getting us a taxi. But, yet again, we were disappointed. All the black cabs were, understandably, busy.



At just after 5pm, surge pricing was at 1.9x – meaning that you would need to be prepared to pay nearly twice the normal fare – £19 – £25 on the fare estimator. We were happy to pay and within seconds the car was on it’s way – with an ETA of just 2 minutes.


For this route, at normal prices, we would have been around 25- 40% cheaper than our competitors. Naturally, at almost double our usual prices you’re paying more to get where you need to go but, we were still not that far off when it came to the cost. Check out the rates below to see how this journey compares at different surge multiples.

Screenshot 2015-07-09 20.46.27

Fare estimates taken from Addison Lee app, Hailo app, and

Not happy to pay that much? No problem – hit ‘notify me if surge ends’ and we’ll let you know if the price drops in the next 30 minutes. Or, if you’re feeling the love for your fellow man, you can split the fare with friends or colleagues heading in the same direction, bringing down the price for everyone and reducing the number of empty seats.

No one has to travel when surge pricing is in effect – it’s entirely your choice. But it does give you the choice: whether you pay for a car that will get you to work, to that meeting you can’t miss or home to your loved ones. Or whether you negotiate the buses, walk it or stay put.

As we said, we’re here to ensure you can get a reliable ride, when you need it. We’ll always give you that option – the choice is 100% yours whether you take it.