Pandemic cuts Sunderland private hire fleet

People in Sunderland have fewer private hire vehicles to get them around than before the pandemic, new figures show.

Taxi numbers.
Taxi numbers.

Department for Transport figures show there were 318 private hire vehicles in the city as of March – up from 288 the year before but below the 400 in March 2020.

The figures also show the number of taxis in the area has bucked the trend by rising to 303 in the last year – but below the pre-pandemic 346.

In all, there are now 737 licences for taxi and private hire drivers in the area – below the 1,694 in 2020.

Just 148 taxis were wheelchair accessible, while 29 private hire vehicles offered disabled access.

Nationally, the total number of private vehicles increased in the last year following a significant drop in 2021 – though it is still well below the number of vehicles on the roads before the pandemic.

There were 236,000 private hire vehicles in 2020, dropping to 197,000 last year before rebounding to 208,000 this year.

Nationally, the number of taxi licenses has dropped from 376,700 in 2020 to 341,300.

The GMB Union says running taxis and pre-booked cars has become more expensive due to a "perfect storm" of problems, including the cost-of-living crisis, the coronavirus pandemic and licensing issues.

Steve Garelick, GMB regional organiser, said: "Taxi driving has got more expensive in recent years. Whether it is fuel costs, or how expensive electric vehicles are, overheads are a struggle.

"Through the pandemic, many moved into other industries, and only now is demand picking back up fully, and drivers returning."