Taxi to nowhere: Virus measures hit London cabs

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EPPING: Tony Georgiou sighed as he stood in entrance of a discipline filled with parked taxi cabs, admitting he has misplaced depend of what number of are there.

Many London taxi drivers lease their immediately recognizable black cabs from fleet corporations reminiscent of GB Taxi Services, the place Georgiou is without doubt one of the homeowners.
But with London’s streets emptied by the coronavirus lockdown, many drivers are unable to maintain paying for his or her automobiles and are handing them again in droves.
“There’s probably around 150 to 200 vehicles that are here, which we’ve had to take off the road,” stated Georgiou, whose firm has parked its automobiles in Epping northeast of the capital. “I’ve lost count.”
Famed worldwide, the British capital’s bulbous black cabs had been initially designed to accommodate a passenger in a high hat.
To earn a license, drivers should move a fiendishly tough examination referred to as “The Knowledge,” which assessments their recall of streets, routes and landmarks purely from reminiscence.
But fields filled with taxis at the moment are a mass phenomenon, stated Steve McNamara, common secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA).
“It’s happening all over, all round the M25 there are fields with cabs like that,” stated McNamara, referring to the principle orbital motorway round London.
He referred to as the state of affairs “totally and utterly unprecedented” and “already not survivable for some.”

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The LTDA has about 11,000 members out of a complete variety of about 20,000 black cab drivers within the metropolis.

Georgiou stated that about 50 of the parked automobiles have already been focused by thieves who eliminated catalytic converters and diesel particulate filters that can price some £120,000 ($160,000) to interchange.
“I couldn’t tell you if we are confident to get through this at the moment. It is a struggle,” he stated of his firm, which has been working for greater than 16 years.
Currently, just some 20 p.c of cabs are working, McNamara stated, basing the evaluation on the affiliation’s personal automobile counts and official figures from Heathrow Airport.
The LTDA has about 11,000 members out of a complete variety of about 20,000 black cab drivers within the metropolis.
McNamara now needs taxi drivers to get extra monetary assist from the federal government, arguing that they lately invested in expensive electrical cabs and digital fee machines. Covid is “without doubt the prime factor” for falling numbers of taxis, he stated.
Uber and different ride-hailing apps are “absolutely not” an element, he added, arguing that their costs have crept up and drivers are unpredictable.
Those cabbies nonetheless on the highway could also be incomes 20 p.c of their common revenue, which might vary from £15,000 to £80,000 per yr.
“We’ve lost 5,000 to 6,000 vehicles since June,” he stated.
Some drivers have switched to creating deliveries for supermarkets however the “vast majority” should not working, he added.
According to official figures from Transport for London (TfL), the variety of licensed black cabs has gone down from greater than 19,000 on March 1 this yr to simply underneath 15,000 on November 8.
A TfL spokesman stated that it had suggested drivers on tips on how to keep protected and mentally wholesome through the pandemic and so they have had grants to assist them purchase low-emission automobiles.
Drivers are “calling on the government for more support” relatively than TfL, he stated. One cab driver, Sam Houston, was ready in a queue at Heathrow to get a fare.
With air journey constrained, hitting tourism, he stated that the wait may very well be 20 to 24 hours as a substitute of the conventional three.
The 45-year-old has been a taxi driver for eight years and says that in regular circumstances it’s a “good living.”
But the COVID-19 interval is “the most difficult time I’ve ever experienced,” he stated.
“The feeling it’s a semi-permanent change to the economy, a lot of people are finding that incredibly frightening.”
While some taxi drivers have claimed self-employed furlough payouts from the federal government, many haven’t certified, he stated, urging “targeted support for our industry from local government and national government.”
McNamara stated that taxi drivers needs to be singled out for assist, in the identical manner that authorities helped eating places attempt to bounce again after their enforced closure.
“We’ve been hit equally hard, if not harder than the hospitality sector,” he stated.



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