Cabbies in revolt over imposition of 48-hour week

BY THE Great Plague burial pit next to Smithfield Market in London, William Hayter was outlining a prophecy of doom: a capital city where taxis are near-impossible to find and prohibitively expensive.

Mr Hayter, talking between sips of tea, was imagining what might happen if the European Commission goes ahead with plans to regulate taxi-drivers to a 48-hour week. "I'm sure a lot of the drivers would have to leave the business and the costs would inevitably be passed on to the customers," Mr Hayter said from the driver's seat of his taxi.

A typical four-mile journey now costs pounds 10 on a weekday. Fares could rise sharply under the proposed regulations.

Once, if a passenger desired an animated soliloquy from the driver, he would have to bring up the subject of immigrants, or cyclists. The latest pet hate, though, is the European Commission, which wants to bring taxi-drivers in line with other workers subject to an average maximum 48-hour week, and restrict the hours they can work at the most lucrative times of all, the evening shifts.

News of the plans is just reaching London's 17,000 licensed black-cab drivers and, according to those outside Beppe's Cafe by Smithfield Market, the result could be rather more tangible than a general upturn in front- seat xenophobia.

Under this nightmarish scenario, black-cab drivers would be more reluctant than ever to take passengers south of the river, thousands of cabbies would go out of business and, as fathers discourage sons from following in their tyre tracks, the basis of one of London's most enduring traditions would be jeopardised.

"You just wouldn't be able to afford to buy a new cab," said Aubrey Saffer, who has been driving taxis for 30 years. "Young people who don't own their own cabs and have mortgages to pay off would suffer the most; it just wouldn't be profitable." The cost of self- regulation, by attaching tacho-graphs to meters, and the attendant bureaucracy, would also be passed on to the passengers.

Black-taxi drivers are all self-employed, either owning or hiring their cabs and choosing their working hours to suit themselves.

Many, particularly younger drivers determined to make quick money, work more than 60 hours a week, much of it at the peak times of Friday and Saturday nights.

The average earnings for a London cabbie are pounds 12 to pounds 16 an hour. It is higher on lucrative journeys but is balanced out by time spent waiting at airports and stations or cruising at quiet periods.

With a new taxi costing pounds 28,000, and a five-year-old one costing pounds 190 a week to hire, with added maintenance costs, cabbing is not the lucrative trade it once was.

As Mr Saffer said: "It used to be a great trade but there are so many other ways celebrities and interesting people get around now. It's not what it was and I wouldn't advise my sons to do it. The regulations would make it even more difficult."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness