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AROUND THE RANKS: Livery and card payment changes main concerns for an ageing Plymouth taxi trade

An ageing Plymouth taxi trade are facing big policy changes which in turn is stifling the desperate need to attract more cabbies, particularly younger drivers, into the industry.

Last month saw TaxiPoint’s inaugural ‘Around the Ranks’ section, asked industry representatives from around the UK to explain some of the key issues facing their regions and look at how they marry up with wider issues being faced.

Martin Leaves, General Secretary of the Plymouth Licensed Taxi Association (PLTA), highlighted some of the successes and problems facing cabbies down at the tip of the country.

Taxi drivers in the area have seen a boost to their earnings since the final coronavirus restrictions were lifted. According to Leaves, this is partly due to a shortage of private hire drivers, but also a reduction of hackney cabs.

“There are just 289 licensed taxis in the area at the moment,” said Leaves. “That number should be up nearer 360.”

There’s also a problem covering the demand during busy, and livelier, Friday and Saturday night shifts. With an aging taxi driver demographic, there are fewer cabbies needing to work longer full-time working weeks. Leaves told TaxiPoint there are just TWO DRIVERS under the age of 30-years-old in the entire region and that needs rectifying long-term.

Cabbies have been happy with the system put in place to deal with the rising fuel prices across the UK. Plymouth Council have a ‘fuel escalator’ whereby the cabbies add 10p to the tariff for every subsequent 10p increase over the value of £1.50 per litre. For example, when fuel costs £1.90 per litre, cabbies are able to quickly add 40p to each fare to cover the increased costs.

There are two big policy changes making headlines in the Plymouth taxi industry; the green and white livery and mandatory card payments.

Plymouth Council are looking for all taxis to sport a distinctive green and white livery. The new livery was given a five-year lead-in time (May 2027) to allow the industry to recover financially from the coronavirus pandemic.

From May 2027 private hire vehicles will no longer be able to use white vehicles.

Leaves said: “It will cost around £4,000 for a respray. There’s also a problem when a cabbie wishes to sell the vehicle. Other cities will not be interested in buying a green and white taxi which narrows our resell market.”

Whilst the industry understands the aim of mandatory card payment solutions offered to passengers, there is a worry that the remote regions of the Plymouth district don’t have the network coverage to support online payments.

Leaves said: “Plymouth is not like London or other big cities. There are plenty of rural areas in Plymouth that doesn’t provide the required level of network coverage.”

Some big changes arriving in Plymouth, but one of the biggest challenges remains enticing young drivers into the industry for the long- term.


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