Taxi firms caught in catch-22 as demand drops off

Things are improving slowly for Norwich city's taxi firms.

Taxi bosses Steve Douglas (left) and Chris Harvey (right) on the state of the taxi industry in Norwich - Credit: Neil Perry/Chris Harvey/Steve Douglas

Taxi drivers are swinging from madly busy weekends to quiet weekdays with bosses saying the work from home message is still killing trade. 

The changing pace of demand means many city cabbies have turned their backs on the industry in search of guaranteed income. 

In November, the Licensed Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA) estimated the industry is short of 160,000 of the previously 300,000-strong driver workforce.

Mark Mills, owner of Green Frog Taxis in Dereham Road, said that while it is busier at the weekend the drop-off midweek is stark.

He said: "Before Christmas we were so busy all the time because we didn't have the number of drivers we needed.

"But you can't get drivers to come back without the work guaranteed during the week.

"If you walk around Norwich after 7pm, it's almost like someone switched the lights off."  

Mr Mills added that the city's spate of roadworks, such as the £6.1 million revamp in St Stephens Street, don't help with the demand either.

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He said: "It's killing the city. Everyone is choosing to go and park at retail centres instead of taking a taxi or a bus into the city.

"People don't want to come anymore."

And Steve Douglas, controller at Goldstar Taxis in Whiffler Road, said that while things for the industry are improving they still aren't back to pre-pandemic levels.

Steve Douglas, controller at Goldstar Taxis

Steve Douglas, controller at Goldstar Taxis. - Credit: Steve Douglas

He said: "It was difficult for a while. Every taxi firm in Norwich was in the same boat.

"Thankfully, people are slowly coming back to the industry."

Mr Douglas added that without government grants, drivers would have "struggled" to carry on in the trade.

He added: "It was quite devastating for us because our demand vanished.

"The thing that's affecting us most is the work from home message because you obviously don’t need a taxi to walk down the stairs."

However, Norwich’s biggest taxi firm ABC Taxis has bounced back and recruited more drivers than before the first lockdown.

Chris Harvey, marketing manager at ABC Taxis.

Chris Harvey, marketing manager at ABC Taxis. - Credit: Chris Harvey

Chris Harvey, the company's marketing manager, said: "Like many others, we had a number of drivers leave us due to the pandemic because of the uncertainty.

"We now have 287 drivers when before Covid we had 230 drivers.

"We let them come and go as they please and we're the only taxi company in Norfolk to do this."