Taxi vehicle numbers in the capital are continuing to drop at an alarming rate, according to latest data released by Transport for London (TfL).
According to TfL records, in April 2015 there were 22,500 taxis registered in Greater London. Since then there has been a decline in the number of taxis available to cabbies. The decline has been accelerated due to the financial impact on the industry caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
London’s licensed taxis have invested nearly £200million into 3,652 ZEC vehicles to clean up the capital’s poor air quality as requested by the Mayor of London.
However due to the higher initial cost of electric vehicles, continued restrictions placed on taxi road access and now a downturn in work levels caused by the coronavirus, some cabbies are reluctant to invest.
As a result, there are now only 16,202 taxis licensed in the capital, a total that represents a 28% drop in all taxis since Spring 2015.
In just one week, ending Sunday 4 October, the number of black cabs in the fleet dropped by a huge 344 vehicles. Due to the pandemic, only 38 new ZEC taxis were registered with the London authority in the same week.
In the last six week period the number of wheelchair accessible black cabs have plummeted by 924 vehicles.
In August, the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) published its position on the accessibility of taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs), highlighting the importance of taxis for disabled people both in urban and rural communities.
The committee shared concerns regarding the falling number of Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAV) available to passengers. 58% of taxis are licensed as WAVs, whilst only 2% of PHVs are able to carry wheelchairs. Due to the rise of ride-hailing platforms like Uber, the DPTAC highlighted that the number of WAVs are falling in the capital.
The report states: “There should be a mixed fleet of WAVs and conventional cars for both taxis and PHVs in all licensing areas. Although the boundary between taxis and PHVs has become blurred in recent years, for as long as the two forms of licenses exist, DPTAC wants both fleets to meet the needs of disabled people. It’s certainly the case that some disabled people will want to pre-book their vehicle by phone or on an app, while others will require a rank or hailed service.
“At present, 58% of taxis are WAVs but only 2% of PHVs. However, they are far from evenly distributed. All 20,000 taxis in London are WAVs, and the remainder are concentrated in the major urban areas (82% of WAVs are in metropolitan areas). In many urban areas of the country, fewer than 5% of the licensed fleet are WAV.
“Concerningly, the situation seems to be deteriorating. The launch of Uber and other app-based systems for booking PHVs has resulted in an increase of over 4% in the number of licensed vehicles. But they are nearly all PHVs and, in London, there has been a reduction in the number of licensed taxis which has resulted in an overall fall in the number of WAVs on the road."
Last month the Transport Secretary stated he will “say more in the not too distant future” about new support for taxi and private hire drivers during the pandemic which may help stem the rapid decline in licensed taxi numbers across the UK.
The announcement came following a transport debate at the House of Commons in September. The Secretary was asked directly about the impact of COVID-19 on the taxi industry and what his plans were for the future.
The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps MP, also defended claims that new Statutory Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Standards released this summer were “weak”.
Danial Zeichner, Labour MP for Cambridge, asked the Transport Secretary: “There are over 360,000 licensed taxi and private hire drivers in England, and the sector has been very hard hit. What assessment has the Secretary of State made of the impact on the sector, and will he tell us how he plans to measure the impact of his rather disappointingly weak statutory guidance issued back in July?”
Grant Shapps, responded: “The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about the impact, and the same is true of many other forms of transport. I pay tribute to the work of taxi drivers and private hire vehicle drivers, who have been incredible during this crisis and have often provided the only form of transport available for people in certain areas.
“The statutory taxi and private hire vehicle standards have considerable teeth, because for the first time ever we will have national databases, and we will put enormous work into ensuring that all local authorities and hackney carriage authorities sign up to those and use them.
“I will say more in the not too distant future about our support for taxis and private hire vehicles through the pandemic.”