Getting a private hire vehicle in London could become a little more difficult in 2021 as latest figures show the number of licensed minicabs has dropped by over 11,000 vehicles since April according to latest data released by Transport for London (TfL).
Due to a drop in demand for minicabs caused by coronavirus restrictions placed on the capital throughout 2020, the number of private hire cars licensed by TfL currently stands at 83,017. At the turn of the financial year that figure stood at 94,712.
A similar story is also well documented for the licensed taxi industry which has only 14,638 taxis licensed in the capital, a total that represents over a third less taxis available to taxi drivers and passengers since Spring 2015.
In a bid to stem the reduction in fleet numbers, taxi and private hire representatives have urged the Government to assist drivers nationwide, rather than on a regional scale, throughout the pandemic.
Last month the Licensed Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA) Chairman, Steve Wright MBE, wrote directly to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak MP, to seek tangible help for taxi and Private Hire Vehicle drivers on a national basis.
In the letter to Sunak, Wright highlights several key issues facing the industry: ‘There are many closures of smaller operators, serious reductions of drivers returning to the trade, with Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles being stockpiled off road, some in fields and warehouses.’
Wright suggests one way of assisting cabbies and minicab drivers would be if the Government directly funds vehicle and driver licensing fees for owner drivers by way of a block claim by the licensing authority. The driver effectively is not charged for re-licensing his or her vehicle and renewing their own licence.
Steve McNamara, General Secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), told TaxiPoint in a recent interview: “Many of the older vehicles that have been taken off the road, may sadly never come back. But as restrictions ease and passenger demand picks up, we should start to see confidence returning to the trade and people who have temporarily hung up their badges to find other work or because they can’t earn enough to cover the running costs, getting their cabs back on the road.
“Eventually, we should also start to see drivers investing in new zero emission vehicles again. Ironically, the devastating reduction in the size of the fleet means that ZEC cabs now make up over a quarter of the taxi fleet – I just hope we don’t start to lose them in the next few months.”
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has also recently stated that he has written to the Treasury to ask for the ‘provision of targeted financial support’ to be handed to both taxi and private hire drivers in the capital due to the impact of the coronavirus on the industry.
Whilst some self-employed taxi drivers have been able to claim support via the Government’s Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS), cabbies who have high business overheads have struggled. Those drivers include taxi drivers who have invested in new greener electric taxi vehicles.