Belfast taxi business Value Cabs is preparing for a gradual increase in the number of cars it has on the roads in the second half of this year with new social distancing measures in place.
The company has availed of a loan through the UK government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), facilitated by Danske Bank, to enable it to trade through a period when fewer drivers are working and cashflow is down.
Normally, Value Cabs has around 800 drivers in its fleet, which dropped to around 100 during the first month of the coronavirus lockdown but has now increased slightly to around 180.
Value Cabs and its drivers say they are proud to be playing their part during the crisis as they continue to fulfil contracts with the health service to transport patients in need of regular treatment – for example dialysis patients – while other major contracts with hotels, bars, restaurants, City Airport and corporate accounts, are largely on hold.
The company’s drivers are all self-employed and to support them while they are off the road, Value Cabs waived the fees paid by drivers for a month and continues to operate on a reduced rent basis for drivers who are still working. Drivers who are not working continue to pay no rent. Social distancing measures are also being put in place to help increase the number of taxis that can operate when the UK government begins easing the lockdown.
Christopher McCausland, Managing Director of Value Cabs, said: “We are trying to keep things as normal as we can but we are also adapting in order to keep drivers, staff and passengers as safe as possible. Screens between drivers and passengers have been installed in 100 taxis so far and we are restricting bookings to two passengers only in the rear of the car. Cars will also be cleaned between journeys and hand sanitiser made available. “We’re doing what we can to get ready for an extended period of social distancing, but we need to see the city get back to being open and to get tourists back into the city as soon as possible. A lot of the growth in Belfast’s economy in the last 5 or 6 years has been from tourism, which has helped drive business for hotels, restaurants and hospitality.”
Mr McCausland, who is also Senior Vice President of the Belfast Chamber, encouraged businesses who are eligible for government-backed support to look into the schemes as soon as possible.
McCausland added: “We want to see as many businesses take up the schemes as possible in order to come through this. These loans are providing assistance to keep businesses alive. Danske came to us at the start of the crisis and told us they were behind us and would step in to help. True to their word the process of getting this loan went very smoothly,”
Brian Shane, Corporate Banking Manager at Danske Bank, said: “Value Cabs is one of the best-known brands in Northern Ireland and while lockdown has obviously affected the company’s business, we were pleased to be able to support them through this difficult period. The company’s aim is to be ready to go again as the phased lifting of lockdown begins and it is very encouraging to see Christopher and his team putting in appropriate social distancing measures to ensure that can happen.”
Image credit: Danske Bank / Value Cabs