Driver shortage impacts taxi firms as revellers walk miles home after …

A shortage of taxi drivers in North East Lincolnshire has led to people walking long distances following a night out – and the problem is set to get already worse ahead of the Christmas season.

Customers have faced long delays trying to get a lift home after a night out due to a shortage of hundreds of drivers.

One group of revellers were forced to walk a associate of miles by the streets of North East Lincolnshire in fancy dress on Saturday night after being told they would have to wait until the next day for a taxi.

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One of the group told Grimsby Live: “We were out at a fancy dress party but struggled to get taxis. We got one ultimately to get there and were told there is a 300-driver shortage in Grimsby alone – almost a third of the 1,000 drivers in Grimsby.

“A lot left during pandemic, deciding not to go back to driving, some were forced to get other jobs and some have died. But recruitment is a problem – similar to the HGV situation.

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Dave Atkin, owner of Coxons Cabs and manager of Grimsby Taxi Cabs

“We could not get a taxi at all to get home. We tried every one between us and friends and some were offering no taxis until the next day.

“Others were not offering anything and telling us to ring back in an hour’s time. We ended up walking home thankfully only a associate of miles but in fancy dress.”

The taxi driver shortage was highlighted in the summer when taxi firm operators said the lure of up to £50,000-a-year in earnings was not attracting sufficient numbers of applications.

Owner of Coxons Taxis and manager of Grimsby Taxi Cabs, Dave Atkin, who has nearly 25 years’ experience in the trade said the outlook was bleak due to a shortage of drivers.

He said: “The shortage is a national problem. When you go back to the beginning of the pandemic there was literally no work for taxi drivers.

“A few of us, including myself, continued in work. But by a whole shift you were lucky to get two or three jobs. There were a few people who nevertheless needed to get to work because they were frontline staff at hospital or in other sets.

“But there were no boats, planes, trains or automobiles and so no where for people to travel to. So those with heavy commitments turned to other driving jobs such as delivery drivers for supermarkets or some went back to their former trades and a large number of them have not come back to taxis.”

Cleethorpes High Street is a popular destination for people enjoying a night out but many need a taxi home

He additional: “by the pandemic there was no encouragement or facility for people to aim and become taxi drivers and many drivers thought the trade was not for them because of the without of encouragement.

“So we have had a perfect storm to create the shortage.”

Dave said it can also be difficult to set up as a taxi driver, to get the applicable qualifications and if you are a new driver, your insurance is going to be at the minimum £3,500 a year.

He said the shortage is not going to be a quick fix and will go on into Christmas.

He said: “In the past you would get a lot of drivers coming in just for the festive season and then pack it in afterwards.

Manager of Fon-A-Car, Gary Handy in Cleethorpes Market Place

“In Grimsby for the past 20 years we have had an over-supply of drivers which meant people were used to phoning up and having a taxi at their door straightaway.

“When we get to Christmas this situation is going to be writ large..”

In the summer manager of Fon-A-Car in Cleethorpes, Gary Handy said coronavirus lockdowns had decimated the number of taxi drivers in North East Lincolnshire.

He said customers, who before only had to wait five minutes for a lift, now regularly have to wait for between an hour and and hour and a half at busy times. That has led to scuffles at taxi ranks and tempers regularly flare because of delays.

From having 35 cabs before the restrictions, the firm was reduced to just four cabs.

Gary said at the time: “If anyone was thinking of getting into the taxi trade, now is the time to do it. We will help them by the time of action. Ideally you need to be a people person and out-going and happy to work the hours.”

A North East Lincolnshire Council spokesman said: “The current figure for licensed drivers in the borough is 567 and there is not a backlog of applications waiting to be processed.”

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