Blackpool party-goers are facing long walks home – after a shortage of taxi drivers has hit the resort’s famous night-time scene.
Reports say one operator which usually has 100 drivers on the roads after 8pm on a Saturday during the season, now only has 50.
Meanwhile long waits for cabs has led to outbreaks of public disorder in some of the town’s busiest late night areas.
Now council chiefs are introducing measures to make it easier for firms to recruit new drivers, while taxi marshalls have been employed to control queues in Queen Street.
The lack of cabbies has been blamed on drivers finding alternative jobs during the Covid pandemic and not returning to the industry.
Meanwhile potential new drivers faced costs of up to £800 to get their badge, which many cannot afford.
Dee Grant, a director of one of Blackpool’s biggest taxi firms C Cabs, said they had lost 200 out of the 500 drivers on their books before the pandemic.
She said: “All the companies have lost a lot of their night drivers during the pandemic.
“While there was still work for the day drivers, the night drivers have moved onto jobs with Amazon, Tesco and the like.
“On a Saturday night on Queen Street it’s like Beirut because people get angry if they can’t get a taxi and in Blackpool they’ve always been used to getting taxis easily.
“It’s also been difficult for out office staff getting abuse from people who are waiting.
“It’s a problem all over the country, not just in Blackpool.
“We’re now running a big recruitment drive to attract new drivers. and we’re offering a £300 bonus to new drivers who join us to drive evenings.”
Ian Wharmby, managing director of Black Tax, said their taxis had stopped going down Queen Street after one was attacked a few weeks ago and had a window smashed,
He said: “On Friday and Saturday nights if people are out late, they can’t get cabs and are having to walk home.
“A lot of drivers left last year because there was no work and they have other jobs and are not coming back.
“The drivers we have are working non-stop, so you can make some good money from it. ”
He added: “Some security has been put on Queen Street but we have stopped cabs going down there and are picking up at the library instead.”
Now all the taxi companies are calling on Blackpool Council to relax the rules for applying for a taxi licence so they can attract new drivers more easily.
John Cutler, managing director of Premier Cabs, said: “We need more consultation from the council with the trade on this.
“Recruitment is difficult at the moment, but it’s something affecting a lot of sectors including the hotels and clubs.”
The council has now agreed new drivers can apply for a one-year licence at a cost of £90, instead of needing a three year £250 licence.
It is also reviewing training requirements for new drivers which can cost up to £380.
A report by the licensing service says: “The pandemic situation has detrimentally impacted the taxi and private hire trade to the extent that trade is currently experiencing a significant reduction in the number of available licensed drivers.
“The two largest operators in the town are reporting difficulties in recruiting drivers and have also reported that evening driver resources are down 50 per cent on pre pandemic levels.
“One operator reported to the Licensing Services that typically weekend resources are significantly lower than pre pandemic levels.
“Of a fleet of 240 vehicles they were recently able to operate 120 vehicles during daytime operations (to 8pm) on a busy Saturday at the
height of the summer holidays.
“The same operator reported that this number reduced to 50 drivers after 8pm. Their pre-pandemic expectation would have been to put at least 100
drivers on after 8pm on a Saturday night during the same period of the season.
“Another operator reported to Licensing that prior to the pandemic they operated 101 vehicles. Within the first three weeks of the pandemic this was reduced to 12. They are currently operating at a level of 67 vehicles.
“All representatives of the trade the Licensing Service has recently spoken to all state that they are struggling to recruit licensed drivers.
“In response to the current situation it is proposed that the council re-introduces a one year driver’s licence for new applicants at a cost of £90. ”
A council spokesperson said training requirements are also under review.
They added: “At the moment the requirement for the three day training course has been suspended while the wider policy review is under way.”
The council confirmed taxi marshalls are operating on Queen Street, Dickson Road and Market Street on Friday and Sat urday nights and would also be out this Sunday for the bank holiday weekend.