Abingdon's night economy is slowly dying

Already evident this year on the roads between Abingdon and Wantage are the preparations for some of the familiar events and traditions which help to make this part of southern Oxfordshire what it is.   Interestingly, though, several of my customers still refer to it as North Berkshire..

Even before children had returned to school after the overly long school holidays, it was possible to see the first cowboy and Native American scarecrows on the public highway in Hanney, off the A338 for the 2016 Scarecrow Competition, part of Hanney Michaelmas Fair.  One scarecrow is even still on the edge of the highway from last year, looking a bit rough.

A few years ago on a school run, a child who I had known for some time decided he wanted to be a taxi driver, "when I grow up".  He used to see me safely storing away £10 and £20 notes and thought it would be a good job to have, as I always appeared to have plenty of cash on me.  

Obviously, I tried my best to put him off and to encourage him to aim his aspirations a little higher and diligently explained that I had to pay everything he had seen into the bank, to cover my bills.

Then more recently, I had a long conversation with a solider based at Dalton Barracks on the edge of Abingdon. Being mostly logistics specialists, he was thinking of becoming a taxi driver and wanted to know the reality of what it is like. So I told him, as honestly as I could, with actual figures, always to hand, in this age of mobile technology.

Daily cashflow is one of the best things about working as a taxi driver.  Running a single taxi as an owner driver is never going to make anyone's fortune in southern Oxfordshire, but it should still be possible to make a living, if you work 60 to 90 hours a week in term time.

Just this last week, in a radio studio in London, I was asked if I enjoyed driving a taxi and although not recording at the time, gave my standard response "that's a very good question," because it gives time to formulate a coherent reply.  Not one for giving a standard mustn't grumble answer, rather to give a truthful one.  That is, I believe in doing the best I can.

Taxis queue at night on The Square, Abingdon to get on an over subscribed taxi rank

Taxis queue at night on The Square, Abingdon to get on an over subscribed taxi rank

Undoubtedly, there are too many taxi drivers on the road in the Vale of White Horse, which does not restrict the numbers of licences issued. Steadily more drivers cram onto a five car taxi rank in Abingdon, the largest town of the district, as if they believe the streets of Abingdon are paved with gold. 

The stark reality is though that the night time economy in Abingdon is slowly dying and the amount of money taken on a Friday and Saturday night is less than half what it was, four years ago.

As published in the Herald Series on Wednesday, 14 September 2016

  1. Hanney Michaelmas Fair, 2016, Competitions, as consulted 12 September 2016