Today I came across Transport for London’s licensing information. The website promises to keep me informed about ‘How licences fees are invested, weekly licence issues, vehicles inspections and licence checks’. With a heading like that, I could hardly resist checking it out, and for me if nobody else, it makes for interesting reading.
But first the data:
Unfortunately I could not find any licensing figures before 2010.
Commendably, even during these testing times, this information is updated every week, informing me that 28 cabbies, for various reasons, surrendered their Bill (licence), while only 4 gained their driver’s licence. This means that seven times more cabbies are leaving than joining the ranks.
More significantly taxi vehicle licences (ie the number of cabs that could be driven around London plying for hire) decreased by 280 on the previous week, probably due to the 15-year rule, while there were only 9 new licences issued for cabs.
Conversely, private hire vehicle licences decreased by 819, but 199 decided their car could become a ‘cab’, far less of a reduction in the number of black cab vehicles.
Unfortunately, I could not find any statistics earlier than 2010, and I couldn’t be bothered to raise a Freedom of Information Request.
Looking at the decade’s figures you find that in 2010 there were 1,111 more vehicles than cabbies to drive them around London. By 2020 this has been reversed with more cabbies than there were vehicles by almost the same number at 1,138. Now, this could be drivers ‘doubling up’ to share a vehicle, this can be discounted as 10 years ago renting a cab at ‘half flat’ was a common practice. My unscientific conclusion is that the Mayor’s scrapping of older vehicles has left many retaining their Bill, but not working or wishing to rent or buy.
Another obvious comparison is with the rise of private hire drivers compared with a decline in cabbies. Twenty-fifteen saw an explosion in private hire licenses being issued from 78,690 to 101,434. That same period witnessed the first decline in cabbies, from a high of 25,232, just short of the all-time high the previous year, to 24,870.
This decline in the number of cabbies plying for hire in London coincided with Sadiq Khan becoming the Mayor of London four months later on 9th May 2016. From that, you cannot prove causation, but his appointment does coincide with what could prove to be the start of the Black Cabbie’s terminal decline.