UK

Sydney Siege: Taxi App Uber Condemned For Hiking Prices

15/12/2014 08:42 GMT | Updated 15/12/2014 09:59 GMT

Taxi firm Uber has been condemned for putting up prices in Sydney after the hostage taking, being labelled a "shameful disgrace".

Prices for fares out of the city centre more than doubled in some cases after a gunman took hostages at a Lindt cafe in the city centre.

Uber's Sydney branch insisted the prices went up to secure more drivers, saying: "We are all concerned with events in CBD (Central Business District). Fares have to encourage more drivers to come online to pick up passengers in the area".

This - and Uber's subsequent decision to offer rides for free - did little to convince people on Twitter of their good intentions.

The company said its prices were automatically tied to demand and they had later taken action to prevent this. They were forced to begin tweeting this explanation to everyone who complained.

A trip from the city centre to the airport typically costs between $45 and $55 but it was costing $145 shortly after the man took his hostages, The Daily Mail reported.

In a statement posted to its website, Uber said it would refund people who had paid the higher fares.

"We are all concerned with the events happening in Sydney," it said.

Uber Sydney will be providing free rides out of the CBD to help Sydneysiders get home safely. Our thoughts are with those affected and the NSW Police Force.

"We are in the process of refunding rides... Please note that surge pricing is used to encourage more drivers to come online and pick up passengers from the area."

One person on Twitter referred to the free rides decision as a "PR backflip".

So far, no one has been injured or killed. At this article went live, five hostages had escaped.

There were reports of others being allowed contact with their families from within the cafe.

New South Wales Premier Mike Baird was asked whether the hostage taking would change the city.

He said: "No, it won't and no it shouldn't. "We are incredibly proud of this city. The values we hold dear and we will continue at every day to protect them."