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From streets of London to black cab graveyards
Published on: Sunday, December 06, 2020
By: Kan Yaw Chong
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Black cabs abandoned and unused.
THIS is another tale of devastating destruction to business, income, job, livelihood and confidence from a once rich black cab taxi trade after the London City Hall chose a severe and ever more zealous second Covid-19 lockdown early November.

Of course, nobody can blame London City Hall for choosing to extinguish a killer pandemic, life-comes-first decision over-and-above economics. 

But cynics continue to dig in to mock politicians, civil servants and their pensioned-ex, who remain fatly paid, anyhow so what do they care!     

Piers Morgan the famous outspoken host says UK records the worst economic melt down in Europe with output down by 20% and the greatest number of Covid deaths in Europe past the 70,000 mark. 

So, what we focus here is one of those countless millions of big-time stories of crashing from the height of prosperity to abject suffering and miseries where ordinary folks feel powerless in extricating themselves from the brunt of this heavy livelihood price exacted on them.         

This time, Editor-in-Chief James Sarda drew my attention overgrown weeds around fleets of London’s famous black cabs abandoned in droves!

As usual, as demand evaporated following two ever-stricter lockdowns, hundreds the famed black cabs have been taken out of the streets of London.

No passengers, no income, many drivers are simply unable to keep paying for their vehicles.

So they are handing back their vehicles in droves to the taxi rental companies.

Weeds around wheels in hired fields 

Where are the black cabs now, which are as iconic as London’s Big Ben?

Lying forlorn in hired fields and farmlands which some call “black cab graveyards” around the edge of London, as the Covid lockdown destroys one business after another.         

Unused and abandoned, weeds are growing around the wheels of hundreds of black cabs.

Tony Georgiou – co-owner of North London based GB Taxi Services, captured the crippling business blow in powerful metaphoric words with which millions of fellow victims around the world can easily identify with.

Like knees taken away

“We got our knees taken away with Covid as loads of vehicles getting handed back.” 

“I couldn’t tell you we are confident to get over this at this moment,” he said. 

“It is a struggle and it’s day by day now not knowing what’s going to happen. “

“It’s taken a massive impact on the business, and yes to be quite frank with you, we are hanging on a thread, like many other businesses who have had to totally unfold, you know,” he sounded his distress in an iTV News video clip.      

So Georgiou likens his plight to his knee been cut! 

The drivers who leased their cars simply can no longer make them pay.

When even large incentives don’t work

So he’s busy for the wrong reason. 

“Our phones are buzzing, the emails are coming through, messages are coming through, all throughout the same: it had not worked out there, I need to hang my coats up and drop the vehicle off to you. 

They are just sitting here,” pointing to an area of hired farmland in Epping Forest, Essex, which stores about 220 unwanted taxis so that he can stop paying to insure them, Georgiou told iTV News.

But even this seemingly prudent strategy to limit business loss back-fired in a way that he overlooked - crime. 

Thieves rub salt to wounds 

Apparently, thieves who are as hard up as he is rubbed salt to wounds when they raided the unattended “cab graveyard” and stole catalytic converters ( canister installed in the exhaust system to reduce emission and pollution) and diesel particulate filters, from around 50 of the cabs!

“So first we got our knees taken away, then this theft happens, which cost us in excess of 120,000 pounds Sterling. We are in a mess, don’t know where it is going to end up or how we are going to get out of this mess,” Georgiou said.               

As a legacy of the strict lockdown since November 5, GB Taxi Services’ business dropped drastically and rapidly like a stone.

Business free fall  

The occupation rate of its fleet of black cabs plummeted from 95pc before the crisis to just 10 per cent, despite halving its fees to encourage drivers to hold on to their vehicles.”

So even a large business incentive does not matter any more in a dead market! 

This is precisely what cabbie Andy Biggs, 63, said he’s lucky if he has three customers a day.

“When we first went back after the initial lockdown in June, things started to get a little bit better very slowly but now it’s as dead as it’s ever been,” Biggs said after the second strict lockdown imposed since 5 November 2020.    

‘Complete and utter nightmare’            

Steve McNamara, General Secretary of The Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, said the pandemic has been a “complete and utter nightmare” for cabbies in London. 

Only about 20pc of cabbies are still driving their vehicles, he believes. 

And they are earning “starvation wages” at around a quarter of their normal levels or suffered a three- quarter wage drop.      

It’s a desperate situation, McNamara said.

“Many have received “no income at all” since March, he claimed.   

To “get through the next few months”, some drivers “are doing desperate things”, such as selling their taxis well below the market value, he said.

“We are in a position where London could lose this icon,” McNamara worried.

iTV News narrator said London had 23,099 black cabs before the lockdown.  

After the first lockdown in June, it dropped to 18,553. 

Now it’s just 14,975.

To enforce the November 5 strict lockdown, the London City Hall closed more roads and made it unattractive for the public who are unable to move around,” but not giving cab drivers much help, McNamara criticised. 

Get the economy back on its feet: Angry CEO

The real answer is to get the economy back to its feet, noted another top dog CEO in the taxi trade. 

Asher Moses, CEO of Sherbet London, another rental firm which has hired a car park to help store 400 unoccupied cabs, representing two-thirds of his fleet of electrical cabs, said: 

“The whole trade has suffered. There must be 2000 taxis on the fields right now. The help cabbies most want is to get Londoners back to work. That’s what they need to do in London, get back to their office, start focussing, keep your social distance but let’s get the economy working somehow,” he argues. 

But typical of the feeling everywhere about politicians who don’t keep their words, Asher Moses is angry.

Ministers not keeping the word  

He accused UK ministers of failing to deliver on their commitment during the pandemic. 

“When Covid struck we had the Government say don’t worry we will support businesses like yourselves ‘. But unfortunately, they did not, and they left us out to rot,” a pretty strong feeling of lost trust and betrayal.     

Simon Harris, an award-winning iTV News political correspondent even mooted a potential spectre of doom for this fleet of abandoned black cabs. 

“Like many other businesses, the taxi trade is wondering if London will ever return to how it was before Covid, or are these cabs destined to make one final journey to the scrapyard ?” he wondered. 

 

Weeds around the wheels of abandoned black cabs.

Black cabs surrounded by weeds.

Georgiou

Moses

McNamara

Harris

The London Taxi Company’s logo. 

Black cabs graveyard, Epping Forest, Essex,, outside London. 

Black cabs at Kings Cross – but no customers. 





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