In an industry which is seasonally dependent and cyclical, many full-time Oxfordshire small town taxi drivers are reliant on school transport work for something resembling stability of income.
Any kind of bank holiday inevitably means disruption to routine and a drop in the amount of money coming in, especially one such as Easter, with its additional day's holiday for Good Friday, making a long weekend for many people.
There is some prospect of improvement, however, as some councils around the country are considering and adopting a changed pattern of school holidays, where the overly long six weeks summer break is shortened by one week, with an additional week in the autumn. Still more radical proposals elsewhere advocate a four-week break in the summer, which would be much more equitable. Perhaps it is time to try something similar or even more radical, for Oxfordshire.
In the meantime, it is necessary at these times to put in a long overnight shift, working the Abingdon taxi rank, which continues to be more than four times oversubscribed, due to those drivers who use an inadequacy in taxi regulation, to be licensed as a Hackney Carriage in Vale of White Horse, but to mostly work for private hire companies in Oxford during the week. They return to the Abingdon rank on a Friday and Saturday night, only seven miles away, to make their cash in hand, further squeezing the livelihood of those of us who provide a full-time service to the travelling public in the Vale.
Although the council now does possess what is termed an 'acceptable use policy', this does not apply retrospectively and the numbers trying to use a five-car taxi rank in the middle of Abingdon are as bad as ever. Moreover, the capacity has been restricted by two thirds for four weeks, due to a water leak in the highway alongside it and a drain blocked by discarded cigarette butts.
Tweets are exchanged with Thames Water several times a week, but dirty water continues to be splashed all over my taxi by motorists driving too fast over the pothole caused by the leak, in their rush to get through the traffic lights adjacent to the rank, before they change and they are held up even further in Abingdon's notorious traffic.
Taxi rank work is fraught with difficulty, as it is by nature as random as individual members of the travelling public. It probably always will be. In the early hours of Good Friday, I had picked up several groups of people, who had been drinking with their friends, after work and at 0400, I was still working when a man approached, looking a bit worse for wear. He also had been drinking all evening with his friends but had lost them and fallen asleep in the lobby of a central Abingdon business for a few hours.
Another potentially vulnerable customer was safely delivered home. As we do week in and week out, providing a service to the people of Oxfordshire.
As published in the Herald Series on Wednesday, 04 April 2018
- ITV News, Why the six weeks holiday could be getting shorter, 29 August 2017, as retrieved 03 April 2018
- BBC News, Shorter school summer holidays plan approved for Isle of Wight, 08 March 2018, as retrieved 03 April 2018