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Northern Ireland taxi firms unable to meet demand Published Date: 09/06/2021

The BBC reports that taxi firms have said a shortage of new drivers, combined with people leaving the industry, has left them unable to meet demand.

Official figures show the number of registered taxi drivers in Northern Ireland has fallen by a third in five years.

Northern Ireland's largest taxi firm said it has 400 fewer drivers compared to before the pandemic.

Stephen Anton, communications manager at Fonacab, said there needs to be more incentives for drivers to join the sector.

"Now that we have come out of lockdown the amount of bookings has grown more rapidly than the amount of drivers returning.

"Some drivers have yet to return and we've had some say they'll wait for their second jab or for social-distancing rules to be relaxed.

"Others have left the industry and have just retired, while some have gone to different driving jobs or where they could find the work.

"The major issue is at the weekends because demand is higher and because we aren't seeing a leap in drivers working. It's a stretch to cover the work that is there.

"I think from a public perspective, it's a little bit embarrassing. We are the biggest taxi firm and whenever we can't do what our customers expect from us we are as disappointed as they are.

"We would like to see some sort of restart package to either help drivers back into the industry or to make it easier for drivers to join the industry," Mr Anton said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Infrastructure said the decline was likely to have been caused by the pandemic.

"There has been limited opportunity for first time applicants to apply for their taxi driver test due to Covid restrictions on driver testing.

"However, the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) resumed practical driving tests and theory tests for all categories.

"In addition, some existing taxi drivers, whose taxi licence expired during this period, may have decided not to incur the cost of renewing their taxi driver's licence until the Covid restrictions were lifted."

Source: BBC