Uber Expands Into Newcastle, Offers Free Rides After Devastating Storm

Following a three day-long storm that has seen Newcastle and the New South Wales Central Coast declared as disaster areas, Uber has decided to expand into the north of the state to help people get around free of charge.

The ride-sharing service announced yesterday it would launch into Newcastle, NSW to help locals get around for free after a devastating storm that killed three people.

In a blog post, Uber wrote:

Newcastle has been hit hard these past few days with public transport down and many people needing to get around town. Today, we’re proud to announce Uber is coming to Newcastle to help locals get around.
As of 10am Thursday, Uber users who need to travel can open the app and request an uberX ride to help them get around Newcastle this week – for free.
We will be guided by the recovery coordination team’s updates and heed all official advice about travel in the area from Police and Emergency Services.

Uber is also currently recruiting drivers for the Newcastle area. You can apply to be one here.

It's asking people not to request rides unless they actually need them, and specifying that it's only going to ferry passengers around the CBD and surrounding areas.

"During this time we ask that you only request an Uber if travel is essential, as there are many people needing to move around Newcastle. Demand will be high and availability limited. If you can’t get a car right away please try again later. We’re working hard at getting more cars onto the road, so thank you for your patience during this time," it wrote.

Uber's benevolent behaviour in Newcastle is a far cry from previous disasters. When Hurricane Sandy lashed New York City closing the subway and forcing buses off the road, Uber engaged its surge pricing and jacked up the cost of taking private cars around the city. At the time Uber defended the surge pricing saying that it was one of the only ways to get more drivers onto the roads at the time.

Uber has also responded poorly to crises in Sydney, jacking up prices during a siege of Martin Place that saw many wanting to get out of the city for fear of further attacks.

Uber seems to finally be learning. Ride safe, Newcastle.

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