Preston's black cab fleet told to 'up their game' to survive in competition with private hire taxis

Owners of Preston’s black cabs have been told to “up their game” if they want to compete with private hire companies for a dwindling number of passengers.

Wednesday, 3rd February 2021, 3:45 pm

The hackney carriage fleet, which has been decimated by the effects of Covid, now commands only a quarter of the city’s taxi trade, according to the latest survey commissioned by the council.

And there are concerns that could shrink even more if owners don’t get up to speed with the technology used by minicab firms, such as booking apps.

Experts say the private hire companies have mounted a “much stronger and more robust reaction” to a fall-off in trade over recent years, leaving black cabs trailing in their wake.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Taxis queue at Preston Railway Station.

“To survive the hackney carriage trade in the city needs to up its game even more than its private hire counterparts have done,” says a report presented to Preston’s taxi committee by the national Licensed Vehicle Surveys and Assessments unit.

The survey, carried out every three to four years, says that pre-Covid trade was down by 31 per cent compared to the last inspection in 2016.

The figures were compiled before the first lockdown, with numbers now considerably lower. Preston has had a limit of 187 black cabs since 1994. The survey estimates weekly demand was 8,245 passenger journeys before Covid, almost a third less than four years ago.

While the number of hackney carriages is restricted, there are now 579 private hire vehicles in the city, taking 76 per cent of the business.

Black cabs have fallen behind private hire fleets on technology.

Preston cabbie Zafar Iqbal, branch chairman of the taxi union RMT, said: “I would agree with the report, we have fallen behind on things like technology.

"But our drivers are working hard to catch up. We could soon have an app and we now have electric vehicles on our ranks. We know what we have to do.”