Waiting for Godot

On a relatively long journey to Witney this week, a customer asked me about the process of becoming a taxi driver. Dependent on severity of traffic, the journey from Abingdon should take at least half an hour, so there is more than enough time to cover the entirety of the process.

Each time it is necessary to renew a licence, either for my vehicle or for myself, something has changed. It becomes steadily more laborious, almost as if the latest change in and of itself is evidence of the licensing authorities' desire to be seen to be doing something, rather than the generation of ring fenced fees income, per se.

And in Vale of White Horse, the terms and conditions attached to a Hackney Carriage drivers licence number more than one hundred pages, with which we must be familiar. One of the many rules is that we must not exceed "the safe permitted number of working hours". Yet, there is no definition of a safe number - in all probability because the Working Time Directive does not apply to self-employed people and the majority of workers in the taxi industry are self-employed.

For months since Easter, it has become increasingly hard to make a living as an Abingdon taxi driver. With the endless flow of part time Hackney Carriage drivers working for Oxford private hire business during the week, then seeking to make a few pounds cash off the Abingdon taxi rank at the weekends, the pressure is unrelenting. Cross border working of this nature should be outlawed, as it is effectively impossible for a district council to regulate those they have licensed who spend the majority of their time working in another council's area.

Every summer, the numbers of part timers on the taxi rank are swelled by those full timers who have been undertaking school runs at least twice a day during the week, in term time. In the overly long Oxfordshire school holidays, they do not have that work, so pile on to the more than five times oversubscribed Abingdon rank, stretching all the way past The Night Rank - invariably loaded up with private vehicles, illegally parked with impunity - to the takeaway food businesses on The Square and even on occasion as far as the High Street.

And we wait and wait and wait for Godot, all day and all night, waiting and working more and more hours, for passengers who for various reasons, are never going to arrive.

But the summer season is saved by those regular customers - the majority of whom have been with me for years - who have booked their taxis to the cruise terminals and airports, to begin their onward journeys for their annual holidays.

In some instances, I will transport four generations of the same family, over the course of the summer, to places like Tilbury, which are liminal and other worldly, the gateway to adventures of which these days, I can only dream,

As published in the Herald Series on Wednesday, 27 June 2018