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PostPosted: Sun May 17, 2020 6:17 am 
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The cabbies of ghost town thought they had seen it all. They were wrong

https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk ... n-18198199

'It only takes one person to cough or sneeze and you've had it'

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Image: ABNM Photography/Manchester Evening News

During his 35 years as a black cab driver, Micky O'Driscoll has seen almost everything.

One thing he had never done, up until a matter of weeks ago, is go a whole day without picking up a single fare.

That's the situation Micky has faced on more than one occasion during lockdown.

Financial worries are accompanied by the anxiety of having to sit in close proximity to the people he does pick up during the pandemic.

There have been reported deaths of taxi drivers in London and elsewhere in the country.

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Image: ABNM Photography/Manchester Evening News

Trade body United Private Hire Drivers (UPHD) says one of their members has lost his life to Covid-19, while another two have become seriously ill.

Micky, 62, says he and his hackney carriage driver pals in Trafford are implementing strict hygiene measures, but stresses they are open for business and ready to do their bit.

Micky, from Partington and licenced with Trafford council, has been working in and around Altrincham for over three decades.

Operating from the rank outside the bus and tram interchange, he used to work weekdays as well as Friday and Saturday nights.

The nights of ferrying drunken revellers home or from pub to pub now seem a distant memory.

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Image: ABNM Photography/Manchester Evening News

"It was before the actual lockdown we saw the initial drop off," Micky says.

"They just said on the Friday 'bang' all the pubs were shutting and that was that.

"Now, sometimes, we're driving off after eight hours without even turning the wheel. I've never ever had that before, it's crazy.

"There may as well be tumbleweed blowing down the street, Altrincham is just a ghost town.

"We're just about earning enough to cover our insurance and that's it.

"I did consider packing it all in at one point. But I don't want to close my business. I've worked hard to build it up. I'd only just paid my cab off last year. Also I love it so at the minute I'm just coming out and picking up any business I can."

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Image: ABNM Photography/Manchester Evening News

Instead of the weekend partygoers who have been his staple for decades, Micky says he is now primarily seeing a different type of client.

"Most of the jobs currently are dropping staff off at care homes", he said.

"Obviously for them it's probably safer than public transport like the train or tram or whatever.

"I do wear a mask and I'm very particular about the cleaning.

"My wife works at the hospital so I know how important it is.

"I'm only allowing one person in at a time. I have had a few couples ask if they can get in but you don't know their situation so I'm only letting one in at a time.

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Image: ABNM Photography/Manchester Evening News

"I also wear gloves and put the money in a box which I even clean when I get home, as daft as it sounds.

"You do have a good distance between you and the customer, it's almost two metres - I've measured it. And obviously there is the partition as well.

"But you still have to get out and disinfect it and wipe it down before the next one. It's obviously a bit of a pain but it has to be done."

Ultimately Micky says he believes the trade needs help like many others affected by the pandemic have been afforded.

"The public transport has been subsidised but we've got nothing, even though it's probably safer for people and we're providing a public service.

"I did look into getting universal credit but the queue to register was that long I just gave up.

"We just feel a bit like a forgotten trade really."

Hilary McLaughlin goes even further, saying she believes taxi drivers are currently the country's 'fourth emergency service'.

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Image: Manchester Evening News

Mum-of-four Hilary, 57, is into her second spell as a private hire driver having first started out in the job 32 years ago.

For the last two and a half years she has worked for Lynx Taxis, based in Hazel Grove, Stockport.

They have around 600 drivers on their books and would normally have a couple of hundred out at any one time.

However she says currently that number has been as low as a dozen on some days.

"It has been difficult money wise", she said.

"Just before the lockdown takings must have been sixty percent down and it could be more now. It is very quiet.

"But there are a lot less drivers on the road so we are still keeping quite busy.

"And the jobs we are doing are all important so we feel like the fourth emergency service really.

"We've got a contract with the ambulance service so I drop a lot of people off at the hospitals, dialysis patients and patients at The Christie for example.

"They are sitting in the back and I'm making sure I am masked and gloved up and am taking no chances because some of them are vulnerable.

"We're also dropping meals off for restaurants who have converted to takeaway and need delivery drivers or doing grocery deliveries. In those cases I'm just leaving the food on the doorstep, buzzing and stepping back it's completely contactless", she said.

The firm has already dropped off dozens of free food parcels for NHS staff at nearby Stepping Hill hospital as a gesture of goodwill and solidarity with healthcare workers.

Hilary does have a weak lung but says she took the decision that coming off the road just wasn't an option.

"I didn't even think about it really. There's so few drivers working we're needed.

"Also I love it. I think it's the best job in the world.

"What better job is there than driving around and chatting to people.

"An elderly guy came out the other week and you could tell he just wanted to drive around and have a chat. It didn't really twig until afterwards but I think that's what he was doing.

"Sometimes you do have concerns. There's been the odd occasion someone has got in and you suspect they might be going to a house party or something like that and I'm thinking 'well, where have they been before?'

"But I'm just using my gut instinct really.

"We've been covering the whole of Greater Manchester and Cheshire, wherever I'm needed I'll go."

Ultimately for many however, the risk of working through a pandemic was just too high.

Uber driver Tariq Qureshi, 52, from Falinge in Rochdale decided to come off the road the weekend before the lockdown was formally introduced on March 23.

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Image: Manchester Evening News

"It's just too risky," Tariq said.

"You are too close to the customers.

"It only takes one person to cough or sneeze and you've had it.

"In the past we always had people sneezing or coughing in the car but you thought nothing of it.

"But in the middle of a pandemic it's too big a risk. I just didn't want to risk bringing it home.

"I already know three people, other drivers, who've carried on working and caught something, probably the virus, and have regretted it.

"I don't think there's many out there who are still working.

"We have an app telling us how many people are on the road and near me it's been hardly any."

He said Uber had said that they would reimburse drivers for PPE.

However he says overall he felt the approach across the industry had been 'too lax.'

UPHD has initiated a legal challenge against central and local government claiming there has been a failure to protect licensed private hire drivers and their passengers from Covid-19 infection.

They claim many companies have failed to issue PPE and point to other European countries such as the Netherlands where a distance of 1.5 metres between driver and customer and the use of PPE had been made mandatory.

They also said the offering of free rides by firms to NHS staff, 'welcome as this may be, presents significant mutual risk for passengers and drivers.'

Simon Cox, barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, which has been instructed as part of the action, said in a statement released by the trade union: "Key workers and members of the public making necessary journeys need private hire drivers.

"The Health Secretary has made draconian regulations against shops and members of the public, to protect the right to life.

"But no regulations have been made against private hire operators.

"The government must urgently use its powers to regulate private hire operators."

A spokesman for the Department of Transport said: "Our thoughts are with the families and friends of transport workers who have tragically lost their lives to coronavirus while carrying out their vital roles keeping the country moving.

“We are committed to keeping these workers safe and the Transport Secretary has written to employers across the sector, asking them to closely follow the Government’s strategy on personal protective equipment in order to look after frontline staff.

“We are aware of the issues being faced by the taxi sector and Ministers are in regular discussions with senior figures from the sector to understand how the Government can offer support.”


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PostPosted: Sun May 17, 2020 9:29 am 
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Location: Stamford Britains prettiest town till SKDC ruined it
I'm not even bothering with the rank today have done 3 small jobs 06.30 to 07.30 off the phone and am sitting awaiting phone calls

Local taxi ranks are very quiet and it takes a lot of patience to sit there for several hours awaiting a fare

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PostPosted: Sun May 17, 2020 12:30 pm 
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I haven’t worked since March 16th, talking to the lads that have (there’s only been four or five and some of them are on a P/H circuit as well) I haven’t missed anything, a four or five hour wait for a fare is the norm. I may venture out early June, I’ll just see how it goes.


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PostPosted: Sun May 17, 2020 4:04 pm 
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One thing he had never done, up until a matter of weeks ago, is go a whole day without picking up a single fare.

No way would I work if I even thought there was a scintilla of a chance of me not getting one single job.

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