The black-cab driver: Bob Azam, 49, drives a black cab in Manchester
The traditional black cab is under threat: there has been a year-on-year decline in numbers across England, while the number of private hire vehicles (such as minicabs) has jumped by 23% in the last two years. Meanwhile, according to a report from the Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford, it is highly probable that taxi drivers’ jobs will become automated. The arrival of taxi apps such as Uber has hit the traditional black-cab driver.
I got into this because of a bet about 15 years ago. I’d just sold my newsagent business and was at home doing nothing much. I went out for dinner with my brother, who was already a cab driver, and he said, “You don’t know Manchester as well as I do.” I love a challenge, so I bet him I could pass my Knowledge. I’ve been driving a taxi ever since.
It’s funny, a few years ago we were saying, “Uber? Never gonna work – who’s going to use an app to get a taxi?” But it has decimated our trade. I could take you round Manchester at the weekend and show you Uber drivers who have come here from Wolverhampton, Leeds, Liverpool to pick up fares, but they don’t know the area. They have to work really long hours to make a decent living: 15-hour shifts. But of course people use them, because it’s cheap.
about 50% in the last few years
You have to adapt. I use [taxi finding] apps such as Gett, which have revolutionised the way I work, so I can find fares if I’m in a new bit of town. I’ve got a little PayPal machine, because who has cash any more? The drivers who aren’t getting into this technology are struggling. I think they’re the ones who will die out.