Private hire giant Addison Lee is to recruit 1,000 drivers in London as demand for taxis continues to soar amid a driver shortage.
The company said it is offering drivers a ‘market-leading’ package, with a guarantee of £5,000 for the first month of employment, a pension and holiday pay.
It comes after it was revealed that drinkers are facing huge three hour queues to get a taxi home after a number of private hire drivers quit during the pandemic.
It is believed that thousands of drivers have quit in the past 18 months, with many now working for takeaway delivery firms or services like Amazon or DPD.
Uber has previously admitted it is hoping to recruit 20,000 new drivers to tackle shortages as it revealed that demand for cabs was soaring.
Addison Lee is also seeing similar trends since lockdown restrictions eased.
Between August and September, Addison Lee said its passenger car journeys in London increased by more than 40%, and the company expects to see continued growth throughout the Christmas period.
Addison Lee said its passenger car journeys in London increased by more than 40% between August and September
It comes as customers revealed three-hour waits for private hire cabs amid a driver shortage
Chief executive Liam Griffin said: ‘Throughout the pandemic, we have put drivers first, and as London recovers, we’re delighted to be able to grow the driver community with market-leading rates of pay and benefits.
‘It’s encouraging to see London reopening and the city coming back to life. Drivers will have a huge role to play in helping people getting around the city as safely and reliably as possible.
‘Our latest recruitment drive is designed to ensure we continue to support existing drivers and meet future demand.’
The news follows Addison Lee’s announcement last month to transition its standard fleet to fully electric by 2023.
It comes as customers revealed three-hour waits for private hire cabs.
Taxi companies have also been affected, with one manager describing the situation as like ‘the zombie apocalypse’ with cars vandalised and workers abused.
Cerys Edwards, 23, night shift manager for Coxon’s Cars in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, said: ‘We’ve had cars vandalised, I’ve had my window spat at, punched on. We’ve got a lot of this since the shortage of drivers. And people are drinking harder. It’s like the zombie apocalypse – if they’re not staggering everywhere, they’re angry and violent.’
Meanwhile, Glasgow Taxis revealed that it has had a third of its drivers leave following the pandemic, leaving riders feeling ‘extremely scared’ about getting home at night.
Nightclub DJ Rosie Shannon, 29, said: ‘I am waiting for a taxi for up to two hours when I leave work at the club. It is freezing cold, sometimes it is raining. I am being approached by random men on the street. It is getting to the point I am having to walk home on unlit, dangerous streets. It is extremely scary.’
A lack of private hire drivers is hitting revellers who have revealed they are waiting hours to get home. [File image]
Rosie performs under the name AISHA and has DJ’d in nightclubs in Berlin as well as recently joining as a resident at Sub Club in Jamaica Street, Glasgow.
When she returned to work in September, she found she was unable to get a taxi at all.
She added: ‘I finish at around 3am or 5am, depending on what time I’m playing at.
‘When I was back in a club for the first time since restrictions lifted, I couldn’t get a taxi at all. I had to walk back with my friend and I’ve never been so scared for our safety before.
‘During that walk, men were coming up to us in the street and trying to talk to us.
‘We were phoning taxis and telling them ‘we’re scared, we’re in the street’ and they told us we’d need to walk home. This was about 4am.
‘Every time I’ve had to walk home since it has been the same story and this is what I am hearing from my friends too. It’s a dangerous situation to be in.
‘We would be on the other side of the street and men would come over and start speaking to us.
‘To make the effort to come to girls who clearly don’t want to have to say, ‘We don’t want to speak to you, can you go away?’
‘It’s just recognising that you don’t just come up to people in a dark street at 4am.
‘It was disconcerting, if it’s friendly or not friendly, there’s just a heightened sense of anxiety.
‘There are some streets we know not to go down because they are not well-lit.’
One Twitter user, discussing the taxi situation in Scotland, said: ‘This is a really serious issue. I tried to get a taxi to Queen St station at 9.30pm yesterday since it was already dark – 2 taxi companies didn’t answer, 2 couldn’t help, one had an hour’s wait and four Uber’s cancelled. At 9.30pm on a Wednesday.’
Another said: ‘Is there a complete shortage of taxis in London? Trying to book for tomorrow morning and on third app with no success.’
While a third wrote: ‘I’m having to wait 10 minutes on my own for a bus from central London to get me home because no taxis or ubers are available. As a woman this is terrifying because of the recent events. The tubes are closed so the only option I have is to wait alone.’
Another woman said: ‘Last weekend I had to walk 20 minutes from the pub to my house, alone, at 1am down roads which mostly had no street lighting, because there were no ubers or taxis available. I’m guessing it would have been my fault if I was hurt, right?’
Dougie McPherson, Glasgow Taxis chairman, said: ‘The taxi trade in Glasgow was already under serious pressure and facing mounting challenges prior to the pandemic, Covid has only been the catalyst to exacerbate these issues.
‘From the average age of our drivers and the cost of owning or operating a taxi, to the growth of the gig economy and the prospect of Low Emissions Zones, it’s a ticking time bomb.
‘So for the last three years we have been warning Glasgow City Council of an impending shortage of drivers coming through, only made worse by Covid.
‘From registering an interest in becoming a driver to fully qualifying and getting on the road, that process can take more than a year.
‘We’re asking the council to reduce that to a matter of months.
‘Should that happen, alongside our own ongoing recruitment campaign, we hope to turn this situation around – but it won’t happen overnight and we need help.’
A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: ‘The issues facing the taxi and private hire trade are found far beyond Glasgow and also the influence of the licensing system.
‘However, we have met with representatives of the taxi trade on the issue of driver availability and we will work with the trade to identify whatever measures we can in an attempt to have more drivers operating in the city.’
Marshals are having to supervise queues for cabs, it has been claimed, as people wait to get home after a night out.
Dee Grant, 57, a director at C Cabs in Blackpool since 1995, said the violence is the worst she has ever known it.
She told the Mirror: ‘The council put marshals on but passengers are still throwing things at taxis, frustrated they can’t get in. One of our drivers got punched through his window.’
Uber has previously admitted it is hoping to recruit 20,000 new drivers to tackle shortages
She added that drivers would ‘rather work for Amazon or DPD, where they meet people smiling at the door, instead of being punched’.
Jim Buchanan, who worked as a taxi driver in Glasgow for 25 years, became a HGV driver during the pandemic when cab work dried up.
He told the BBC: ‘I was looking for a bit more security compared to what I had before. Now the pay is a steady income every week. It has been good for my family.
‘In my new job, I don’t have to deal with drunks or anti-social behaviour. I don’t get as stressed anymore.’
Uber previously said it is launching a recruitment campaign to up its numbers, as current drivers say many who left during last year’s lockdowns are yet to return.
Meanwhile, drivers are said to be furious about changes to their pay deal with Uber, meaning they are now having to fork a larger chunk of their fare to the San Francisco-based tech firm.
Uber increased the service rate from 20 to 25 per cent for thousands of drivers after Supreme Court judges in the UK ruled the company must give its workers benefits such as holiday pay.