The Licensed Taxi Drivers‘ Association (LTDA) is calling for urgent financial support for London’s taxi trade, as the number of licensed taxis in the capital hits an all-time low.
Record numbers of black cabs are being delicensed each week, as COVID-19 restrictions continue to stifle passenger demand, with 377 vehicles delicensed in the week ending 25 October alone.
According to the latest figures from Transport for London (TfL), since June 2020, more than 3,500 licensed taxis have been lost from London, nearly 160 on average per week.
By comparison, just 699 taxis were delicensed over the course of a whole year, between June 2019 and June 2020.
The figures also show that over 900 drivers have surrendered their licences, however the figures are likely much higher as many will simply let their licences expire.
To halt this rapid decline, the LTDA, a trade body which represents half of London’s more than 21,500 black cab drivers, has launched a campaign, Taxi Drivers Can’t Work From Home to highlight the devastating impact of the pandemic on the taxi trade and the need for more support for the industry from the Government.
Through the campaign, the LTDA is calling for urgent additional financial assistance to protect taxi drivers from ruin and ensure the iconic black cab is not lost from London forever.
Passenger demand for black cabs collapsed during lockdown and had barely begun to recover as the second wave of the virus hit and new restrictions were introduced. With another lockdown to begin tomorrow, demand will likely collapse once more, and drivers will have nowhere left to turn.
Figures from the taxi feeder park at Heathrow Airport – London’s largest cab rank – demonstrate this catastrophic fall in demand. The number of black cabs passing through the feeder park was down 96 percent on last year’s figures in April, May and June. It picked up slightly in July when it was down 90 percent and in August and September down 83 percent. As new restrictions were introduced in October it fell again, down 85 percent on last year. This pattern has been repeated on the streets of London.
The average waiting time for a job at Heathrow in October was also a shocking nine hours from the time the driver entered the feeder park until being dispatched to the terminal.
Steve McNamara, General Secretary, Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, said: “These figures represent drivers with nowhere left to turn, being forced off the road. Every vehicle delicensed represents a driver’s livelihood gone and at this rate of decline, without urgent intervention, the iconic black cab could be lost from London forever.
“Taxi drivers can’t work from home. They also can’t earn a living if everyone else is staying at home. This may sound obvious, but it’s a simple fact that policymakers don’t seem to be able to grasp, and its not just a problem in London, taxi drivers are facing the same challenges in cities up and down the UK.
“Other industries in similar circumstances, like hospitality and other transport operators, have received specific, tailored packages of financial support to help them get through the difficult months ahead, but the taxi trade has been forgotten.
“We are calling on the Government and the Mayor of London to step in to protect drivers from ruin and ensure the taxi trade, a key part of London’s transport network, survives this national crisis, but so far our calls have fallen on deaf ears. Drivers need a greater level of support through the extension of the Self Employment Income Support Scheme, and to ensure no one is left behind we also need a dedicated package of financial support for the taxi trade.”
Richard Massett, Chairman of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, said: “Our members are reporting going hours in between jobs and earning around just 20 percent of their usual income. We also estimate that only 20 percent of drivers are even back at work, as there is simply not enough demand to sustain the majority of drivers.
“With fare income once again being decimated by new restrictions and a new lockdown starting later this week, the situation is only going to get worse. Many more drivers will reach a cliff edge over the next three months, as support through the SEISS, for those who have been able to claim it, plummets and motor finance payment holidays come to an end.