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Addison Lee unveils plans to recruit 1,000 drivers in London

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Private hire giant Addison Lee is set to hire 1,000 drivers in London as demand for taxis continues to rise amid a driver shortage.

The company said it is offering drivers a ‘market-leading’ package, which includes a £5,000 guarantee for the first month of employment, a pension and holiday pay.

It comes after it was revealed drinkers face huge three-hour queues to get a taxi home after a number of private hire drivers pulled out during the pandemic.

It is believed that thousands of drivers have stopped in the past 18 months, with many now works for takeout delivery companies or services such as Amazon or DPD.

Uber has previously admitted it hopes to recruit 20,000 new drivers to address the shortages, as demand for taxis was found to soar.

Addison Lee is also seeing similar trends since lockdown restrictions have been eased.

Between August and September, Addison Lee said the number of car journeys in London increased by more than 40%, and the company expects continued growth over the Christmas period.

Addison Lee said the number of car journeys in London increased by more than 40% between August and September

It's because customers wait three hours for private rental cabs amid driver shortage

It’s because customers wait three hours for private rental cabs amid driver shortage

Chief executive Liam Griffin said: ‘During the pandemic we have put drivers first, and as London recovers we are delighted to grow the driver community with market leading wages and benefits.

“It is encouraging to see London reopening and the city coming back to life. Drivers will play a big role in helping people move around the city as safely and reliably as possible.

“Our latest recruitment campaign is designed to ensure we continue to support existing drivers and meet future demand.”

The news follows Addison Lee’s announcement last month to make its standard fleet all-electric by 2023.

It’s because customers wait three hours for private rental booths.

Taxi companies have also been hit, with one manager describing the situation as “the zombie apocalypse” with wrecked cars and battered employees.

Cerys Edwards, 23, night shift manager for Coxon’s Cars in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, said: ‘Cars have been vandalized, my window has been spit on, someone has been beaten. We have a lot of them since the driver shortage. And people drink harder. It’s like the zombie apocalypse: if they don’t stagger everywhere, they’re angry and violent.”

Meanwhile, Glasgow Taxis revealed that a third of its drivers have left after the pandemic, leaving drivers “extremely afraid” of going home at night.

Nightclub DJ Rosie Shannon, 29, said: ‘I wait up to two hours for a taxi when I leave work at the club. It is freezing cold, sometimes it rains. I am approached by random men on the street. It’s getting to the point where I have to walk home on unlit, dangerous streets. It’s very scary.’

A lack of private hire drivers affects revelers who have revealed they are waiting for hours to get home. [File image]

A lack of private hire drivers affects revelers who have revealed they are waiting for hours to get home. [File image]

Performing under the moniker AISHA, Rosie has DJed in Berlin nightclubs and most recently joined Sub Club on Jamaica Street, Glasgow, as a resident.

When she went back to work in September, she found she couldn’t get a taxi at all.

She added: “I’m done around 3 or 5 in the morning, depending on what time I play.

“When I was in a club for the first time since the restrictions were lifted, I couldn’t get a taxi at all. I had to walk back with my friend and I have never been more afraid for our safety.

“During that walk, men in the street came up to us and tried to talk to us.

“We were calling taxis and saying ‘we’re scared, we’re on the street’ and they told us to walk home. This was about 4 hours.

“Every time I had to walk home it was the same story and I hear this from my friends too. It’s a dangerous situation to be in.

“We’d be on the other side of the street and men would come up to us and start talking to us.

“To go to the trouble of coming to girls who clearly don’t want to say, ‘We don’t want to talk to you, can you leave?’

“It’s just acknowledging that you don’t just walk up to people at four in the morning on a dark street.

“It’s been disturbing whether it’s friendly or not, there’s just a heightened sense of dread.

“There are streets that we know aren’t allowed to go down because they aren’t well lit.”

One Twitter user, discussing the taxi situation in Scotland, said: ‘This is a really serious problem. Tried to get a taxi to Queen Street station at 9:30pm yesterday as it was already dark – 2 taxi companies didn’t answer, 2 couldn’t help, one had an hour wait and four Uber’s cancelled. On Wednesday at 9.30 pm.’

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 have to wait 10 minutes on my own for a bus from central London to take me home as there are no taxis or ubers available. As a woman, this is frightening because of the recent events. The tubes are closed, so the only option I have is to just wait.”

Another woman said: ‘Last weekend I had to walk 20 minutes from the pub to my house, alone, at 1am on roads that usually had no street lights, as there were no ubers or taxis available. I think it would have been my fault if I had been hurt, right?’

Dougie McPherson, Chairman of Glasgow Taxis, said: “The taxi trade in Glasgow was already under severe pressure and faced increasing challenges before the pandemic. Covid has only been the catalyst to exacerbate these problems.

“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-emission zones, it’s a ticking time bomb.

“So for the past three years we have been warning Glasgow City Council of an impending driver shortage coming through, only exacerbated by Covid.

“From registering interest in becoming a driver to fully qualifying and hitting the road, that process can take more than a year.

‘We ask the municipality to reduce that to a matter of months.

“Should that happen, in addition to our own ongoing recruiting campaign, we hope to turn this situation around, but it won’t happen overnight and we need help.”

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: ‘The problems faced by taxis and private hire companies extend far beyond Glasgow and so does the influence of the licensing system.

“However, we have met with representatives from the taxi industry to discuss the issue of driver availability and we will work with the industry to determine what steps we can take in an effort to get more drivers into the city.”

Marshals have to keep an eye on taxi queues, it is claimed, as people wait to get home after a night out.

Dee Grant, 57, director at C Cabs in Blackpool since 1995, said the violence is the worst she has ever experienced.

She told The Mirror: ‘The council has appointed marshals, but passengers are still throwing things at taxis, frustrated that they can’t get in. One of our drivers was hit through his window.’

Uber has previously admitted it hopes to recruit 20,000 new drivers to address shortages

Uber has previously admitted it hopes to recruit 20,000 new drivers to address shortages

She added that drivers ‘would rather work’ for Amazon or DPD, where they meet people laughing at the door instead of being beaten’.

Jim Buchanan, who worked as a taxi driver in Glasgow for 25 years, became a truck driver during the pandemic when the taxi work dried up.

He told the BBC: ‘I was looking for a bit more security compared to what I had before. Now the wage is a fixed income per week. It has been good for my family.

‘In my new job I don’t suffer from drunks or antisocial behaviour. I don’t get so stressed anymore.’

Uber previously said it is launching a recruiting campaign to increase its numbers as current drivers say many who left during last year’s lockdowns have yet to return.

Meanwhile, drivers are said to be outraged by changes to their payroll agreement with Uber, which means they now have to pay a larger portion of their fare to the San Francisco-based tech company.

Uber raised the service rate from 20 to 25 percent for thousands of drivers after UK Supreme Court judges ruled that the company must give its employees benefits such as holiday pay.

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