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How many London taxi drivers and vehicles were there in 2010 and how does that compare now?


The London taxi industry has experienced a notable decrease in both the number of vehicles and licensed drivers over the past thirteen years, according to Transport for London (TfL) data.


Starting from the 2009/10 period, where there were 22,445 vehicles and a total of 24,914 drivers (including both All London and Suburban), the numbers have steadily declined to 15,130 vehicles and 18,297 drivers in total by the 2022/23 period.

This downward trend highlights significant changes within the industry, with the most dramatic decrease observed in the 2020/21 period, where vehicle numbers fell to 13,461, and driver numbers to 20,786. This period reflects the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the taxi industry, among other factors like the shift to electric black cabs.


The data shows a gradual decline in both 'All London' and 'Suburban' driver categories over the years. 'All London' drivers, who were numbered at 21,334 in 2009/10, decreased to 16,327 by 2022/23. Similarly, 'Suburban' drivers fell from 3,580 to 1,970 in the same timeframe.


This steady decrease poses challenges for the industry, affecting not only the livelihood of the drivers but also the accessibility and availability of taxi services for London's residents and visitors. The numbers indicate a need for supportive measures and possibly a reevaluation of the industry's regulatory and operational framework to adapt to changing transportation needs and trends.

Why have the numbers fallen?


The decline in the number of taxis and licensed taxi drivers in London over the past decade can be attributed to several factors:


1. Rise of Ride-hailing Apps: The emergence of ride-sharing apps like Uber, Bolt, and others did impact the traditional black taxi industry between 2012 and 2018. These platforms saturated the market with low subsidised journeys attracting some customers away from using taxis.


2. Regulatory Challenges: Taxis in London, particularly black cabs, are subject to stringent regulations regarding vehicle standards, driver licensing, and fare controls. While these regulations ensure high standards of safety and service, they also impose costs, stress, risk and operational constraints that can push drivers into other employment.


3. Economic Factors: Economic downturns, inflation, and changes in consumer spending habits can reduce the demand for taxi services. The COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, led to lockdowns and a dramatic decrease in travel, severely affecting the taxi industry.


4. Environmental Regulations: London has been implementing stricter environmental standards, which has required new black cab vehicles to meet certain emission standards to operate. Upgrading or replacing taxis to comply with these standards has been costly for drivers and operators, pushing many part-time workers out of business.


5. Cost of Operation: The cost of operating a taxi, including vehicle maintenance, fuel, insurance, and licensing fees, has been rising fast recently. These increased costs have led to some leaving the industry.


Despite the declining numbers of taxis, demand for black cab services remains high. Regulators need to find a way of balancing the issues forcing cabbies away from the industry, before a recovery in numbers can begin.


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