Taxi drivers in Hull have warned that they will not be able to cope with the deluge of visitors for next year’s City of Culture.
An estimated one million visitors are expected to descend on the city over the course of the coming year. But the Taxi Drivers Association, representing all 900 drivers currently active in the city, say there is already a critical shortage of cabs caused by too-stringent council regulations.
“It’s set up to fail,” said secretary Magnus Murray. “It’s a public protection crisis. There are no new drivers coming in - the knowledge test is so hard even local people can’t pass it.
“We’re now down to 900 drivers to serve a city of Hull with a population of a quarter of a million, and a catchment of three quarters of a million. We can’t cope now, how are we going to cope with the City of Culture?”
Mr Murray says that while there are more than 1,300 taxi drivers licensed in Hull, there are only 900 actively working as the remainder keep their license while focusing on other jobs.
In recent years, he said, the number has fallen steadily as increasingly tough new rules have been brought in to grant new licences.
Last Christmas, at peak season, he says the 10 taxi companies in Hull were forced to turn away up to 20,000 calls a week as they couldn’t guarantee a journey.
“Because of the massive shortage, the drivers are earning fantastic money” he said. “They’re earning up to £1,000 in three days - so they don’t need to work weekends. This is just compounding the issue. We can’t provide a service at all. We are not ready. We can’t even cope now. People are not going to be able to get back to the hotels. They are going to be stranded in the city centre.”
The association has made a formal complaint to the council and has now gone to Local Government Ombudsman to investigate.
Because of this, Hull City Council said it would not be able to comment on the concerns. But Coun Nadine Fudge, chair of the licensing committee, insists there are enough licenses.
“There isn’t as many as they want to work weekends, but that’s the taxi drivers’ choice,” she said. “We can’t grant licenses just for weekends. During the week, they are sitting around for an hour or more waiting. Getting a lot of new taxi drivers in won’t mean they will all work weekends. We have enough taxi licenses in the city.”