Pandemic cuts South Tyne private hire fleet

People in South Tyneside have fewer private hire vehicles to get them around than before the pandemic, new figures show.

Taxi numbers.
Taxi numbers.

Department for Transport figures show there were 256 private hire vehicles in the borough as of March – up from 244 the year before but below the 290 in March 2020.

The figures also show the number of taxis in the area has bucked the trend by remaining steady at 236 in the last year – in line with pre- pandemic numbers.

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In all, there are now 485 licences for taxi and private hire drivers in the area – below the 541 in 2020.

Just 30 taxis were wheelchair accessible, while 33 private hire vehicles offered disabled access.

Nationally, the total number of private vehicles increased in the last year following a significant drop in 2021 – though it is still well below the number of vehicles on the roads before the pandemic.

There were 236,000 private hire vehicles in 2020, dropping to 197,000 last year before rebounding to 208,000 this year.

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Nationally, the number of taxi licenses has dropped from 376,700 in 2020 to 341,300.

The GMB Union says running taxis and pre-booked cars has become more expensive due to a "perfect storm" of problems, including the cost-of-living crisis, the coronavirus pandemic and licensing issues.

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Steve Garelick, GMB regional organiser, said: "Taxi driving has got more expensive in recent years. Whether it is fuel costs, or how expensive electric vehicles are, overheads are a struggle.

"Through the pandemic, many moved into other industries, and only now is demand picking back up fully, and drivers returning."