Taxi drivers feel the pinch but remain popular with passengers

Taxi rank in Buckingham Street
Taxi rank in Buckingham Street

Taxi drivers in Aylesbury have been given a vote of confidence by their passengers during a questionnaire carried out in Aylesbury.

The district council commissioned the survey to examine whether more than 50 Hackney Carriages are needed to serve the town centre.

Hackney Carriages can be hailed and use taxi ranks, unlike private hire vehicles (PHVs) which must be pre-booked.

More than 70% of 204 people interviewed said the cleanliness of Hackney Carriages was either good or very good and that drivers were helpful and well presented.

In contrast, 100% of those asked said that the cleanliness of private hire vehicles was either poor or very poor; however seven out 10 still felt the drivers were helpful and smart.

The study also found that only a fraction of Hackney Carriage customers had to wait for a taxi at a rank. Over a 96 hour period from a Friday morning to the early hours of the following Tuesday, only 95 out of 2,872 passengers (3%) were queuing.

The busiest rank was Market Square, where over the course of a week it is estimated 1,743 passengers are picked up while the High Street is the quietest with just 188. Taxi drivers were sat waiting for customers at the ranks for an average of 16 minutes.

A consultation with Hackney Carriage trade revealed that many drivers are struggling to make a living. Drivers said that combined train and bus tickets have impacted demand, as have Private Hire apps on mobile phones. Some drivers said they are earning less than they did 20 years ago.

They complained that there are no signs indicating where taxi ranks are located and that there are problems with private hire vehicles plying for trade in the centre of town.

Hackney drivers said some customers arrive at the station rank believing the fares are all £3 (this is the fare advertised by many PHV firms). The most common destinations from the train station are Stoke Mandeville Hospital and the prison.

The council’s licensing boss Peter Seal has recommended to councillors that the limit of 50 Hackney Carriages remains unchanged, as there is ‘no signficant unmet demand’.

He said only a minority of repeat offenders from PHVs ply for trade, rather than the majority, adding: “Additional enforcement work will be organised this year. Drivers found to be unlawfully plying for hire will have their licenses suspended and repeat offenders’ licenses will be revoked.”

The council’s licensing committee will discuss the report on March 2.