PASSENGERS will be able to hail black cabs in the city via an app for the first time from today.

The rapidly expanding mytaxi service has picked Oxford as its latest launch destination as the local transport system increasingly moves online.

But the world's most popular taxi-hailing app, Uber, has abandoned plans to set up in the city - despite widespread interest from residents.

And existing taxi firms have cast doubt on the ability of an online-only service to be successful, saying customers still value having someone at the end of the phone.

Mytaxi bills itself as 'Europe's largest taxi app' and says it works with existing black cab drivers to provide pick-ups within five minutes of hailing.

It is designed so drivers can balance online work while also still being available to be hailed from the road-side.

Oxford is the sixth UK city this year where the firm has launched and initially it will work with 100 drivers.

Spokesman David Savage said interest from residents and support from Oxford City Council convinced bosses the time was right.

He believes the app has the potential to transform the way people in Oxford take black cabs. It follows on the back of the launch of Oxford Bus Company's 'Pick-me-up' app earlier this year.

He said: "Licensed taxi drivers are often self-employed and this is about supporting them so they can compete.

"With our app they can go from one job to another, rather than wasting petrol trying to find work.

"We work very closely with our drivers and within the rules and regulations of a city.

"It's a very very different approach to the likes of Uber and we have actually been around for longer than them.

"What has been most heartening is the feedback from drivers - we want to help build their business, not cannibalise it."

Oxford's taxi firms have long feared that the introduction of an app-based cab service with its own fleet of drivers, such as Uber, could decimate business as it has done in other parts of the UK.

The Silicon Valley giant now has more than three million drivers worldwide and had applied for a licence to operate in Oxford after 50,000 people in the city tried to use its app.

After this application lapsed in July 2016, the city was still said to be on the company's agenda late last year.

But when asked by the Oxford Mail, a spokesman said it now has 'no plans' to operate here in the near future.

Some taxi drivers have welcomed the introduction of mytaxi, saying it represents much-needed investment in the industry.

Majahid Butt, who has driven cabs in Oxford for five years and has become an ambassador for the app, said he saw it as an 'exciting prospect'.

He added: "Not only does it give us the opportunity to continue to operate with street hails, it also gives us access to a readily available customers base who can book on demand.

"It’s brilliant to still see such an investment in the local knowledge and skills of licensed taxi drivers within Oxford .”

But the secretary of The City of Oxford Licensed Taxicab Association (COLTA), Sajad Khan, said he wouldn't be signing up just yet.

He said: "We all recognise the need to modernise and clearly an app-based system is the way to go to make it as easy as possible for customers.

"But this is a national app and we would like to see something more specifically geared to the needs of Oxford's drivers that we can have more control over."

Oz Khan, the business development director for Royal Cars, said he welcomed the competition but questioned whether an app-only service would find success in the city.

He said: "We have offered our customers an option to book via an app for a long time and now around 50 per cent of our business comes in through our automated booking services.

"But we will always have people on the end of the phone in Oxford to be there when our customers need us.

"Lots of people still want to talk to someone at the end of the phone and, as a local company, we like to build those relationships.

"We want people to be able to use our service in whatever way suits them."

The mytaxi app is now available to download and customers can use it to hail taxis from today.

The company is offering 50 per cent off all trips in Oxford until the end of September.

Alex Hollingsworth, board member for planning and transport at Oxford City Council, said the council had been working with mytaxi to ensure it complies with all licensing criteria and processes.