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One in five black cabs in London has been taken off the road since June as drivers struggle to earn a living during the coronavirus pandemic, research reveals. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has come under attack from cab drivers across the capital over his failure to provide them with more financial security and support. One black taxi driver told Sky News on Thursday: “The silence is deafening. Liverpool put something in place, Manchester’s Andy Burnham, the king of the north that people champion, is trying to put help in place for the cab drivers up in Manchester.
“Sadiq Khan has done nothing. Nothing.
“He’s washed his hands of us, it seems.
“Which is a shame for one of the icons of London.”
He added: “The iconic London taxi is dying. And if there is no help in place, the trade – I won’t say it will collapse – but there won’t be much left of it.”
The number of taxis licensed in the capital plummeted from 18,900 on June 7 to 15,000 on November 8, according to Transport for London (TfL) data obtained by the PA news agency.
Black cab rental firms have been forced to hire fields and farmland dotted around the edge of the city to store vehicles handed back by drivers in recent months.
The Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) believes only 20 percent of cabbies are still driving their vehicles.
General secretary Steve McNamara said they are earning “starvation wages” around a quarter of normal levels.
Drivers “are doing desperate things” such as selling their taxis for well below market value to “get through the next few months”, he added.
The pandemic has been a “complete and utter nightmare” for cabbies who have “fallen through the gaps” in the Treasury’s furlough scheme, Mr McNamara said.
These include those who recently bought a new £65,000 electric taxi, or receive a small pension from a previous job.
Many have received “no income at all” since March, Mr McNamara said.
“We’re in a position now where London could lose this icon,” he said. “We’re a very viable business. We’re an integral part of this city’s DNA.
“We need a specific package that’s targeted towards taxi drivers in London just to help us get through this.”
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London cabbie Andy Biggs, 63, said demand has “evaporated” and he is lucky if he has three customers a day.
“When we first went back after the initial lockdown, things started to get a little bit better very slowly,” he said. “But now it’s as dead as it’s ever been.”
LTDA figures show drivers arriving at Heathrow Airport’s taxi feeder park last month waited an average of nine hours before being dispatched to pick up a passenger.
North London-based rental company GB Taxi Services has seen the occupation rate of its fleet of 100 black cabs plummet from 95 percent before the crisis to just 10 percent, despite halving its fees to encourage drivers to hold on to their vehicles.
It is one of two firms using an area of farmland in Epping Forest, Essex, to store around 220 unwanted taxis so they can stop paying to insure them.
But the plan backfired when intruders stole catalytic converters and diesel particulate filters from around 50 of them.
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