Ola starts UK operations with Wales, plans nationwide launch by end of 2018

India's cab-hailing service Ola on Monday started operations across South Wales to mark its UK launch.

The Bangalore-headquartered company began its services in Cardiff, Newport and the Vale of Glamorgan and said it will offer additional transportation options on its platform in the future to provide passengers with greater choice.

One of the world's largest ride-hailing platforms, which had announced the acquisition of a licence to operate in the region earlier this month, said it is the only cab-hailing app in South Wales to offer customers the option of private hire vehicles (PHVs) and official taxis on one "user-friendly" platform.

"This is an exciting moment for everyone at Ola and we are very pleased that South Wales is where we will be starting our UK journey," said Ben Legg, Managing Director of Ola UK.

"Over recent weeks, Ola has received positive feedback from drivers in South Wales and looks forward to providing passengers with a dynamic, new responsible service. We are determined to do a great job for the community and work closely with local authorities to help with their mobility goals," he said.

Legg added that passenger safety was at the heart of the Ola app, which had features to allow passengers to alert police and loved ones at the touch of a button, ensuring any concerns are "de-escalated and resolved quickly".

To celebrate its UK launch, Ola is offering customers a limited number of discounted rides to try out its new service. Customers can download the Ola app on Google Play or the iOS App Store and register for an account to begin booking rides, the company said.

Ola said its aim was to lead the industry with its approach to passenger safety, including Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) screened drivers and processes such as 24/7 voice support, options to share ride details with emergency contacts and in-app emergency features.

The Indian company is working with local authorities across the UK to expand nationwide by the end of 2018 and has already obtained licences to operate in Greater Manchester. By incorporating local Black Cabs that operate on UK roads, Ola is aiming for a more diverse service than its rivals.

Ola's entry into the UK follows its launch in Australia in February 2018, where it now operates in seven major cities.

Over 40,000 drivers across Australia have registered since its launch in February and have completed millions of rides. Ola claims to conduct 1 billion rides each year globally, with more than 1 million drivers and 125 million customers in over 110 cities.

The company's main rival in the UK market, as in other markets, will be American giant Uber, which also operates a similar ride-hailing and sharing taxi service. However, Uber has come under some scrutiny in recent months over passenger safety and the treatment of its drivers. It has been banned from some UK cities and had to enter into a legal battle to keep its licence to operate in London.

Uber and Ola both have Japan's Softbank among their investors.

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