Black cabs face bleak future

directnews.co.uk

By Lena de Casparis

Traditional Black Cabs are facing a massive decline in takings, as the economic crisis hits London cab drivers.

On Tuesday the London Cab Drivers Club (LCDC) held a meeting in Elephant in Castle, where black taxi drivers reported takings were down 35%. LCDC is one of the capital’s largest trade unions for cabbies, with some 1,500 members.

The current economic climate was blamed for dwindling business across the city over the last six months.

Drivers being forced to work longer hours

Daryll Paul, general secretary for the LCDC, said that business in January is always slow but there is no work for him now, “let alone after Christmas”. He continued: “Next year will be horrendous. I’ve been a cab driver for over 30 years and I think it will be the worst year ever.”

Hackney carriage driver Tony Burrows, 58, told The Platform a lack of business was forcing him to work longer hours to make enough money.

He said: “Normally I start at around 5am and would be finished by 5pm, but recently I’ve been having to work on over the next rush hour to take home enough cash.”

Many drivers are working longer hours now, explained Burrows, which is resulting in dangerous driving as the streets as saturated with Black Cabs “all looking for business that isn’t there.”

Steve Price, 38, a Hackney Carriage driver from Kent, who mainly works out of London Bridge station, said he could tell there were more taxis on the street because the taxi queues at London stations have doubled in length. He said: “No-one is making enough money.”

Price said he would have walked away from the taxi business by now, but he only finished his four years of expensive training last year.

Burrows, who has seen previous economic recessions in his long career as cabbie, warned that 1991 was the last time business was as bad as this – and “13 taxi drivers committed suicide that year because of their financial worries.” He hopes the same won’t happen this time round.

All of the Hackney Carriage drivers The Platform spoke to said that illegal cabs were taking any business there was. Burrows stressed that while there are laws against illegal mini-cabs, they need to be better implemented and enforced, which might help legitimate cabbies survive the recession.

Price added that the government could also improve the situation: “If they could drop our licensing fees that would obviously help but I’m sure they won’t.” He continued: “The 2.5 per cent off VAT certainly won’t solve the problem.”

Next week, the LCDC publication The Badge will be printing a special issue to promote awareness of drivers’ recent problems.

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