The taxi trade in Glasgow is reaching crisis point as the industry continues to shed drivers as a low emission zone compliance deadline approaches.
The average age of a taxi driver in Glasgow is in their 50s and many of them decided to pack up their business when the pandemic first hit in 2020.
As Covid-19 restrictions closed the late night and hospitality industry, many taxi drivers left the trade due to the lack of business - and the declining numbers of taxi drivers has continued nationally.
Research gathered by transport experts by CMAC group found that nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of drivers in the UK left the industry during or after the pandemic due to stress, while 21 per cent said it wasn’t a financially viable career.
A further 17 per cent couldn’t afford to keep their vehicle during lockdowns - around one in five (21 per cent) were unable to renew their licences and continue their careers - or had their vehicle repossessed, affecting their credit rating and ability to return to the industry.
GlasgowWorld spoke with branch chairman of the Glasgow cab section of UNITE, Calum Anderson, to discuss current issues the taxi trade faces in the city.
Calum Anderson, branch chairman of the Glasgow Cab Section of UNITE, said: “Many people have been leaving the taxi trade ever since the pandemic first started two years ago, and that exodus hasn’t stopped.
“More and more people are leaving the taxi trade, and there’s nobody to take their places.
“The LEZ is undoubtedly the cause of the most recent exodus, and the council will not listen to reason.
“Other cities aren’t enforcing the LEZ until 2024, Andy Burnham, the mayor of Manchester himself, said that the plans drawn up pre-covid bare no relevance post-covid.”
Calum Anderson claims that the recent loss of taxis on the road is in large part due to the upcoming LEZ deadline in Glasgow for many taxis to become compliant with emissions standards set by the council in the city centre.
The original date for taxi drivers to make sure they have taken steps towards making their vehicle compliant was May 31, 2023, but was since pushed back to October 31 this year.
For most taxi drivers in Glasgow this means finding £1,000 to place as a deposit on an interest free loan from the council for a hybrid car.
For many taxi drivers who have already incurred major debt from the pandemic, an extra £1,000 charge is the final nail in the coffin for their business.
Current electric vehicles on the market - that would comply with the demands of the council - cost upwards of £50k, and drivers fear that by the time they pay the loan off they will be forced to find a new car to comply with Glasgow City Council’s aim to be carbon neutral by 2030.
Calum Anderson,continued: “The supply chain issues are severe, where are these replacement taxis coming from?
“A new electric cab can cost around £65000, the average age of a taxi driver is 57, where are we meant to get the finance?
“The money isn’t there in the taxi trade to service that type of loan - the council have left the taxi trade as roadkill in the rear view mirror.”
Calum Anderson went on to argue about the importance of the taxi trade in supporting disabled commuters, as well as their transport contracts with schools.
Calum said: “There’s a clear shortage of taxi’s on the road right now, there is no common sense in the council’s decisions, and it will have knock-on effects on the hospitality trade in Glasgow.
“It’s getting harder and harder to get a taxi home from the city centre, and that make’s people anxious about going out if they’re worried about how they’ll get home.
“We’re already in a recession and more pubs, clubs and restaurants are shutting down, and the council won’t let up at all, they’re fumbling from one mistake to another.”
Calum Anderson argues if second-hand buying rules on taxis are relaxed, and drivers are given a deadline extension until ‘25 when the used taxi market from London begins to flow again, that Glasgow could be running entirely electric cabs before 2030.
The branch chairman concludes: “There’s nothing we can do to stop people from leaving the taxi trade just now.
“Prices for compliant vehicles are so prohibitive that we can’t get finance for them - our wages stopped in 2020 and didn’t start again for two years.
“While everything opened back up, we were the last business to pick back up to pre-pandemic levels.
“We’re just trying to get out of debt and now we’ve been told we need to buy a new taxi now, but there’s none available, so what do we do?”