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It has widely been reported that a shortage of taxis is "making it harder than ever to get home". The taxi and private hire industry is struggling post-lockdown.
There are driver shortages in some parts of the country, and vehicle shortages in others, and unsustainably low rates for minicab drivers are leading to increasing driver cancellations.The problem is widespread. For example, Glasgow Taxis reportedly lost a third of its drivers during the pandemic.
Aberdeen Taxis are down to 550 cabs – compared with 1,000 before Covid-19.i reported in Grimsby, cab firms are missing as much as a third of the workforce, and in London there are vehicle shortages affecting black cabs – as well as minicab drivers reporting that poor rates mean that up to 80 per cent of journeys are being turned down.
Black cab companies are struggling to get finance as they look to change their fleets to electric vehicles. In addition, many drivers were forced to leave during the pandemic as business dried up during the lockdowns, with many opting to become delivery drivers instead, and then deciding that it is a more stable way of making money, with less red tape and fewer safety concerns.
Black cab drivers are hard to replace, as the process of qualifying is a long one.
Jenn Nimmo-Smith, co-founder of Reclaim These Streets Glasgow, says that, in some cases, it can feel like a “bidding war, capitalising on our anxiety”.
She says: “One woman told me she paid £105 to get home, for what should have been a £25 journey.” Out of desperation, Nimmo herself has recently paid £40 to get home – for a journey that usually costs £8.
In some firms offering these “highest bidder wins” cab bookings, the rides are not booked through an app and hence not tracked – which raises even more safety concerns. It also creates accessibility problems and highlights the need for affordable, reliable, after-hours public transport.
Since the taxi shortage, Reclaim These Streets Glasgow has had reports from dozens of women who haven’t been able to get a taxi – leading to them being afraid for their safety, left waiting in the dark for hours, followed, harassed and intimidated.
Many women feel safest riding in a black cab, but there’s a shortage of licensed cab drivers, too. Calum Anderson, black cab driver and chairman of the Glasgow Cab Section of Unite, says: “The biggest challenge in bringing new drivers into our fleet is the length of time it takes them to qualify, which is currently up to a year.”