Probably one of the most common questions I am being asked by people both within and outside the trade right now is, do I believe the cab trade will bounce back? My answer is always and without any hesitation, absolutely.
Not only do I believe we will bounce back, but we will be bigger and stronger than before.
My confidence in saying that comes from the hundreds of cab drivers I have spoken with in the past couple of months, who cannot wait to get back behind the wheel, and who will do so with a new appreciation for the job. And yes, that is despite the many obstacles that have previously been placed in our path, and indeed the new ones that some boroughs continue to put in front of us.
This past year has seen vast swathes of Central London’s once bustling streets more closely resembling the Square Mile at the weekend, or even the apocalyptic scenes from the film 28 Days Later, which saw a lonely character walk the deserted streets of Westminster, Whitehall, and the West End.
We are now witnessing the UK coming out of its third lockdown. Without question this time has a very different feel to it compared to the others. In previous post- lockdown periods, there was only a small upturn in traffic volumes, a brave few venturing back on to public transport and people were slow to return to the streets. This time it feels like there is much more of an awakening happening in London, and the signs of our city coming back to life are much more widespread. It feels like we have turned a corner. The fact that we are now in Spring is also very apt. As London starts to “bloom” once more, I am hoping we are truly, finally on the road to recovery.
Getting recovery right
One concern I do have is that the same politicians – those whose leadership during the pandemic has been marked by delays, mixed messages, and dithering – are the ones who will now be leading our recovery. A case in point is the fact the Mayor of London recently stated that he will be spending £6 million on encouraging tourists back to London. On the face of it, that’s good news for us. Unfortunately, the plan and report on how that £6 million is to be spent is littered with the usual references to ‘it has to be a green’ recovery, and the implications of that dreaded phrase for us, worry me.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Central London’s mix of shops, restaurants, nightlife, museums and galleries is one of the city’s unique selling points, and attracts millions of tourists every year. But COVID has had a devastating impact on central London’s economy, with retail, hospitality, culture and night-time industries bearing the brunt.
“...London’s brand is an amazing global asset for the UK, and the income it generates is vital to the whole country’s economy. That’s why everything possible needs to be done to support the city’s recovery from the pandemic. But ultimately with tourist spending down by over £10 billion last year as a result of the COVID pandemic, our economic recovery as a city and a country will require the biggest tourism campaign that our city and country has ever seen, alongside the restoration of tax-free shopping for international visitors. Ministers can’t take for granted that once restrictions are lifted things will simply return to normal.”
Whilst I agree with the points he makes above, it’s a pity that when he talks about London’s ‘unique selling points’, and ‘brand’ being an amazing global asset for the UK, that he neglected to mention the world’s greatest taxi service. Ask any tourist what image comes to mind when thinking of London, I bet any money you like, the London Black cab will be high up on their list.