“It’s going to be heckled”: London taxi bosses warn huge taxi shortage will worsen
If you’ve struggled to hail a Hackney horse-drawn carriage through the streets of the City over the past few months, you’re probably not alone.
Now taxi bosses warn it could get worse if two key issues are not addressed for London’s taxi industry.
They say more and more drivers are choosing to quit the trade – and the time it takes to learn “The Knowlege” means new hires can’t fill the void.
They also say that it is becoming increasingly difficult for taxi drivers to obtain funding because “the taxi business is not the flavor of the month”.
The warnings were voiced during a panel discussion between three industry figures on the latest episode of the LDTA (Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association) podcast.
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Michael Glassman, director of Colts Cabs, responsible for London’s largest taxi fleet, described the difficult situation.
He said: âFinance companies don’t have any faith in trading. In the past this has never been a problem and now I feel like Oliver Twist and say ‘please sir then I have more? “”
Glassman and many taxi bosses depend on finance companies to convert their fleets to electric vehicles as quickly as possible. He reports having 150 drivers on desperate waiting lists to drive the newer, cleaner vehicles.
“I will definitely go ahead with the electric, I’m not looking to go back to diesels,” he added.
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For the drivers themselves, the situation is difficult. Many have resorted to overtime or a second job to make ends meet or simply quit the industry instead.
As London taxi drivers have to pass the difficult but prestigious ‘knowledge test’ to fully join the industry, it is currently taking too long to replace drivers who left during the pandemic even though vehicles are available.
This leads to a vicious cycle for operators. “It’s going to be chaotic,” suggested a boss.
One of the most striking visualizations of the recession is a multi-story parking lot in Ilford, which was used as a warehouse for taxi vehicles that were taken out of service or stopped until trading resumed.
Last month, MyLondon reported that several taxis had either been vandalized or fallen into rather deplorable condition, a depression reflecting the shock to the capital’s transport industry.
Changing regulations mean that taxis are prematurely withdrawn from use because they are too polluting, too expensive, or just too old to operate.
Combined with the difficult conditions for financing new taxis, it leads to shortages. Lee Dacosta of Cabvision warned, “A lot of these fleets just give up on these vehicles, they won’t bring them back.”
Glassman said: âIn my opinion, I think he[the shortage]it will get worse. Huge. Huge. We are going to lose, I have been told, between 1,500 and 1,800 taxis perhaps this year. “
It directly linked to funding being a barrier to a solution. “If you can’t get the funding, you can’t build the fleet.”
However, all is not gloomy, the taxis remaining on the streets are now one of the cleanest taxi fleets on the continent, with almost all taxis being electric or using Euro VI diesel / hybrid vehicles.
Transport for London (TfL) rules mean that the most polluting taxis will be banned once they reach the 13-year-old age limit from November 1. In effect, this means that taxis will only continue to become greener.
There are around 13,000 licensed London taxis in circulation (excluding unlicensed private rental operators like Uber), up from 18,000 before Covid, but those that remain have resisted as travel across the city begins again.
The return of nightlife to the capital is helping. Steve McNamara, general secretary of the LTDA, also explained that the prevalence of contactless payments in the London taxi fleet is helping to attract unsolicited customers again.
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