Last January I wrote Parting company with TfL, laying out the demise, as I saw it, of the London black cab.
Little did I realise then just how successful Transport for London would be in reducing the number of wheelchair accessible vehicles on London’s streets.
On 1st August TfL published its fortnightly statistics covering the number of vehicles and licences in service on London’s streets.
The previous week there was a decrease of 20 licences (22 surrendered and 2 issued}, while 13 vehicles were taken off the road and 14 new vehicle licenses issued.
On the face of those figures not much seems any different from any previous week in August.
Until you drill down to the cumulative figures. Comparison with 10 years ago show a very different story: 2011: 22,558 vehicles (2021: 13,461), all London drivers’ licences 2011: 21,499 (2021: 18,341). Private hire record an even more dramatic change with operators numbering 3,111 in 2011 (2021: 1,955) and drivers recording a dramatic rise to 61,200 in 2011 (2021: 105,329).
All this has not gone unnoticed in the national press. The Daily Telegraph ran a piece by Oliver Gill, their chief business correspondent with the headline ‘Black cab slump to the lowest level since 1983 as a quarter of drivers quit’.
The transport union RMT have called on ministers to work with London Mayor Sadiq Khan to introduce emergency support measures following Department of Transport figures showing a catastrophic 29 per cent drop in the number of licensed vehicles, the lowest since 1983. From that, they extrapolated there has been a drop of more than 5,000 wheelchair accessible vehicles operating in the capital.
So there you have it. Get caught on a TfL vehicle without a face mask, and a valid excuse, you get fined or refused transportation. Find yourself in the vulnerable position of needing some kind of aid (wheelchair accessibility, low steps or swivel seats), and I’m afraid you’ll have to wait some considerable time.