Why is it so difficult to find a taxi in the UK now? We ask an expert | life and style

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Llast minute cancellations, long wait times… anyone who has tried to get a taxi recently has probably faced some difficulty. But why? I asked Steve Wright, president of the Licensed Private Hire Car Association, who represents taxis that accept pre-bookings.

When reports about it appeared last year, it was attributed to the shortage of taxi drivers – is this still the case?
Yes. When the pandemic hit, work plummeted. Many drivers are self-employed and there wasn’t much government support. Some with leased vehicles have lost their car, and don’t forget registration fees or renewals. It’s catastrophic.

How much are the license fees?
Well, by the time you do your criminal record check, medical check, topography tests and the like, you’re not far off £1,000. The process could already take three or four months, but then there was the pandemic backlog. Drivers think, “I’d rather drive for Amazon.

How many pilots have disappeared?
It’s hard to quantify that because people may still have their license but have given up using it. We estimate that almost 50% of the industry is gone. Try to get a private rental vehicle late at night and you just won’t be able to.

That’s my experience, even using the apps.
Most taxi companies have their own apps, but you mean the big American company I won’t name, with its immoral prices blowing people up. They came in saying, “We want to get rid of your lot of local taxis, so we’re going to offer lots of cheap rides. Local taxis couldn’t compete. We talked to the competition authority about it: it’s like the days when people said supermarkets were going to be great and cut costs. In fact, they slaughtered every small business in the area and guess what?

…you have no choice but to buy from them.
And that’s where they raised the price. Vulture capitalists. There’s no loyalty with the apps, no, “Hello Mrs. Jones. Are you going to see the doctor again? We’ll make sure we get a car for you. And for the drivers, there’s no controller. There is no one at the end of the radio to help you if you get stuck.

Would you say that being a taxi driver is poorly paid now?
No – in fact, it’s the opposite. The shortage of drivers has led to the resetting of fares. The remaining taxi drivers have never eaten it so well. But here is another irony for the consumer. Taxi drivers are very motivated by: “I need to earn a hundred pounds and then I’ll go home. But if they gain the hundred pounds faster, guess what happens?

They go home early, leaving the night owls stranded. My God, I remember the last time I went out, trying to get a cab with 1% battery and no apps on – panic!

OK, so how long before we get driver numbers?
We need to make the licensing process more efficient and get government support for drivers who have lost their vehicles and cannot get credit. But at the current rate… maybe never.

But people need taxis!
I say. People rely on us, especially the elderly and the vulnerable. We organize many school races for children with special needs. But apps have twisted it for the worse. Nobody won.

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