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TAXI SHORTAGES: The rapidly changing face of the London black cab fleet

There are shortages in the UK taxi and private hire industry which are causing demand to go unmet. Mostly it’s a shortage of DRIVERS causing pain for both frustrated customers looking for a car and those associated to the trade. However, in one instance it’s not the DRIVERS that are lacking... it’s the number of licensed VEHICLES available to use that is the sticking point.

Since coronavirus pandemic restrictions eased in September, demand for black cabs has skyrocketed quickly. However, since the pandemic started, the capital’s taxi fleet has plummeted by 25% to around 14,000 available vehicles. In April 2020 there were 18,504 black cabs licensed by London’s regulator.

Given the dramatic drop in licensed cabs, the Mayor of London is being urged to ‘do the right thing’ and extend the age limit of licensed taxis by a year to help Londoners travel safely and allow qualified licensed taxi drivers to work.

The current shortage of taxis is being squeezed further by new age limit regulations brought in by Transport for London (TfL). Older black cabs in the capital can now only be licensed for a total of twelve years instead of fifteen. It is estimated that the fleet will lose another 1,500 vehicles based on the age of vehicles over the next 12 months.

Paul Brennan, LTDA Chairman, said in TAXI Magazine: “It is clear to just about everyone that lives or works in London that there is currently already a real shortage of available taxis.

“This is obviously also the case for the many qualified drivers that require access to a cab as well. However, this is not something that has come out of the blue or suddenly reared its ugly head – we’ve all been acutely aware that this would be a problem, and despite calls from the trade, the Mayor seems unwilling to revisit the premature scrapping of taxis that have reached an artificially-set age limit of his choosing. An age limit by the way, that was set pre-pandemic and so in a completely different world to the one we currently inhabit.”

Brennan added: “All that is required is a simple extension to the life of a small percentage of taxis. This could make all the difference to those men and women who want to work, have earned the right to work but due to circumstances way beyond their control can neither afford to buy a new cab or find one to rent.”

So how much has the taxi fleet changed pre and post pandemic?

Here we breakdown and compare the age and type of vehicles licensed in April 2019 and July 2021 respectively. It’s only here that you can really see where the fleet was hardest hit over the last two years.

Unsurprisingly, older diesel vehicles were lost over this two-year period. A mixture of vehicles reaching their age limits and drivers cashing in on incentives offered by the Mayor of London saw thousands of roadworthy black cabs lost, never to return despite the shortage.

In the two-year period analysed by TaxiPoint, 77% of the remaining TX2 black cabs were wiped out of London. Just 399 TX2 taxis remained in July 2021 compared to the 3,142 licensed just two years earlier.

Many might think that the TX4 hasn’t been affected too much given its cleaner credentials. However, a staggering 2,940 (30%) have been scrapped or sold on to other cities. These perfectly good, purpose-built wheelchair accessible vehicles are simply not being replaced at the same rate as they are being lost.

It’s the same story for the trusted Mercedes-Benz Vito taxi. A total of 916 have been lost in the two-year period.

With all this in mind, the taxi industry and its loyal customer base requires a period of stability post-pandemic to begin meeting the demands of commuters. The Mayor of London could extend the life of some taxis by a year. The Government could support fleets and individual drivers with low-cost finance deals and grants. And importantly, cabbies themselves could still invest to secure his or her future

in the industry.


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