Taxi for Covid as black cab trade decimated by pandemic in Preston

Preston’s black cab trade has been decimated by the Covid pandemic over the past 10 months, according to drivers.

By Brian Ellis
Monday, 15th February 2021, 4:29 pm

The hackney carriage fleet says it has lost up to 90 per cent of its fares during lockdown, with many cabbies taking their taxis off the road or switching to delivering parcels and takeaways.

“We’ve really been hit hard,” said Zafar Iqbal, who is chairman of the drivers’ union RMT locally.

“The city centre has all-but shut down and hardly anyone is using the railway station. So most of our work has just dried up.”

Zafar Iqbal says black cab trade has lost 90 per cent of fares during pandemic.

The city’s 226 owner drivers say their business was already on a downturn before the coronavirus restrictions bit last March.

Only two weeks ago experts who carried out a survey on behalf of Preston Council - just before the first lockdown - warned the black cab fleet it would have to “up its game” with the use of technology, such as phone apps,if it wanted to compete with private hire taxi firms in future.

Now some hackney carriage drivers have even defected to the opposition to find work during the pandemic.

“We have lost about 90 per cent of our trade due to Covid,” said Zafar. “There just isn’t enough work for everyone. Our members have really suffered.

How the cab ranks at the city's railway station used to look before Covid.

“The pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants in the city have been closed for months. With the railway station, they give us most of our trade.

"But if no-one is out many of our drivers have had to look for alternative work, like taking deliveries.

"Sadly some have left the trade altogether and won’t be coming back. It’s been an awful time for us.”