“We just don’t have the pilots anymore.”
This is the message from two of Great Yarmouth’s leading taxi companies as they struggle to meet customer demand due to a shortage of taxi drivers.
Albies and Swift Taxis saw fewer of their drivers on the streets, especially at night.
Albies has seen an exodus of drivers as they look for jobs elsewhere, like takeout delivery drivers, or forgo night work because they don’t have the financial incentive to pick up revelers.
The company lost 100 drivers during the pandemic and the number of working nights has fallen sharply, with waiting times increasing.
Director Simon Kitchen said: âBefore the pandemic we had about 40 drivers at night, but now it’s like 15.
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âWork had completely dried up during the pandemic and the drivers left, did not come back – they looked for new ways of life.
âThe situation for drivers has never been as bad as it is.
“This will end the survival of the fittest. We are already on pretty low profit margins.”
Mr Kitchen said the company was trying to rectify the situation by offering to pay for potential taxi driver’s licenses, with three of them currently awaiting their tests.
He added that taxi fares had not increased for eight years, which did not help the financial situation.
At Swift Taxis, the company closes its offices at 11 p.m. due to a shortage of drivers.
Director Catherine Smith said there was no point in keeping an office open with two telephone operators if there were no taxis available to dispatch.
She said: “We are in exactly the same situation as Albies.
âMore and more drivers don’t want to work at night. If I don’t have a driver at night, why would we pay an operator then?
“We just have to cut our fabric accordingly.”
She said drivers earn enough on contract work, like with county council and the offshore industry, to tide them over and make them want to not work at night.
She added, “We’re just not getting new blood.”
View from the taxi rank
Taxi driver Neil Anderson was waiting for the trade to pass at the Theater Plain taxi rank.
A 32-year veteran behind the wheel, he said trade had been slow and he waited two and a half hours for his first tariff on Tuesday.
He said: “People stopped using taxis. It was horrible.”
He added that the drivers had given up on waiting for fares at the city train station because there was not enough interchange of passengers getting off and waiting for fares in the city center instead.
He added that companies like Albies were suffering as its drivers “left to work for Just Eat” – leaving the pickup drivers free to enjoy during the day.
Another one-row cab driver, who declined to be named, said: “It has been a struggle.”