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TAXI REP: There’s a shortage of ‘cheap subsidised minicabs’, NOT a shortage of regulated taxis

Updated: Nov 1, 2021

There is NO shortage of taxis in the capital, instead there’s a shortage of “cheap subsidised minicabs on every corner”, says taxi representative.

Users of ride-hailing services like Uber and Bolt have complained of high prices and lack of available vehicles during peak times since pandemic restrictions were eased this summer.

The lack of available drivers since lockdown easements began is seen as one key reason why prices have sky rocketed at times of demand.

However, taxi industry representatives from the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) say the current price hikes are more likely due to a stop in subsidised journeys and operators allowing prices to be set by the market demand instead.

Steve McNamara, LTDA General Secretary, said in TAXI Newspaper: “In the last week I have taken dozens of calls from journalists who all want me to comment on the ‘Shortage of Taxis’. Apparently, this a major issue on social media and is a big problem to ‘millennials’. Of course, what they are actually referring to is not a taxi shortage, but a shortage of minicabs, and more specifically a shortage of minicabs available on Uber and other apps.

“A quick scratch at the surface of this ‘story’ reveals that even this is not the truth. There is no shortage of cars on Uber, Bolt, or any of the others, but there is a shortage of cheap subsidised minicabs waiting on every corner as perhaps ‘millennials’ have come to expect.”

McNamara added: “The explanation for what has happened is simple economics. During the pandemic many minicab drivers got other jobs and quickly realised that they earned more money, got holiday and sick pay, didn’t have a car to run and insure and were treated with respect by their employers as opposed to having to suck up to some obnoxious patronising fools just to get a good rating on an app.

“The drivers that remained now have the upper hand and can no longer be controlled and forced to work for uneconomic fares. They now play the apps at their own exploitive game by logging on to two or more at the same time, accepting a job – but only to cancel it if a better offer comes in from one of the other apps. The cancelled job is then offered back on the app at a surged price (increased fare), if it’s high enough, a driver doing a job on one of the other apps cancels their job and accepts it. This merry-go-round results in constant cancellations and the logarithms that run the apps kick in, rapidly upping the price until a decent service level is restored – often when the fares reach a realistic and sustainable level.”

On the flip-side, regulated licensed taxi drivers are experiencing a street hailing work-level BOOM as workers return to the workplace once again.

At the height of the pandemic numerous taxi drivers were forced to turn to different jobs and employment to tide them over. Work levels have now spiked since school summer holidays have ended and employees head back to the capital’s offices.

According to London’s biggest taxi rental fleet firm, Colts Cabs, it was reported card payment transactions has hit its highest figure since the COVID pandemic forced restrictions in March 2020. More than 40,000 transactions were recorded on Thursday 9 September. In comparison, a daily number of card transactions in June 2020 fell below 3,000 payments.

Black cab booking apps have also seen a surge in demand. Gett recorded over 17,000 uncovered jobs in one week as taxi drivers struggled to cover demand across the capital, but most notably in the wealthy Kensington and Chelsea area.

FREE NOW have introduced reward schemes to entice taxi drivers to cover more work on their platform too. However, with street work busy the option of paying no app fees and running no dead-miles to the pick-up destination could mean operators may continue to struggle for driver coverage digitally.

Steve McNamara added: “As we came out of the pandemic, and they started to struggle with service levels and surging of their fares, more and more customers have returned to us, often starting the journey with “you won’t believe how much Uber/ Bolt quoted me!” and tapping a card, phone or watch at the end of the ride.

“Londoners and visitors alike are starting to realise that our premium gold service

is far superior to anything our competitors have to offer and the myth about high taxi fares is just that – a myth!”


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