London, UK – A taxi driver has started running Christmas tours around the capital after the coronavirus pandemic devastated his trade.
Joe Young, who grew up and lives on the Maiden Lane estate, York Way, is taking groups of friends, couples and tourists on sightseeing trips while blasting out festive tunes.
One of Camden’s youngest black cab drivers, aged 25, he got his licence two years ago after four years of learning “The Knowledge”.
He quit his job as a Royal Mail postman because he wanted to lead a more independent life and hoped to save enough to travel the world. But this week he said he felt “defeated” by Covid as customers stayed at home.
Mr Young said: “I have been a cab driver for two years and before Covid, I had no complaints. People talked about Uber, but I was earning a decent amount – maybe 50 to 80 per cent more than when I was a postman. I could choose my overtime, when I was having holidays. I was comfortable and happy in the job, loving life, but then coronavirus hit.”
But he added: “My earnings literally evaporated over night. I’d literally drive around and some days make no money at all. Some days you’d lose money. There was no support from the government because I was self-employed.”
The former Holloway School pupil added: “I do feel like a spoiled brat even moaning, but it is frustrating, because I feel so defeated, Covid has won.”
Mr Young said he got the idea to start running tours from his mother, a teaching assistant in Hampstead. “She was saying ‘look you’re struggling, but you have a Covid-safe vehicle, you are fully licensed. Turn the meter off, have a set price’.”
He added: “I picked up this really cute couple on their anniversary. I set off to show them all the sights, the wheel, the abbey, West End – but to be honest they seemed quite bored. So I started telling them when we were driving past the ex-politicians’ houses, like Tony Blair. And then the celebs’ houses. They were absolutely loving that.”
“You have a drink in the back. Put on some Christmas tunes. People were doing it as a way of something sociable, a way of getting out of the house.” Under UK law, passengers are allowed to drink alcoholic drinks as long as drivers are not distracted.
On the road changes frustrating drivers during Covid, Mr Young said: “The road changes in Camden and Islington are so detrimental to the trade. I love cycling, I go mountain biking all the time. But people who work in town halls, they don’t live in the real world. All that stuff with the roads has been more heartbreaking than the lack of the customers.”
But Mr Young said he still held plans for a grand sightseeing tour of his own.
He said: “I used to hang around on the estate, not really getting into loads of trouble – but we would knock-around and cause a bit of mischief. I still love riding motorbikes. I want to drive to Australia by motorbike. I always wanted to travel the world. I’d love to go through New Delhi and Mumbai on the way.”
To book a tour, call or text Joe on 07908 788715.
‘Work at home glee won’t last’
Office workers are becoming desperate to return to their desks and the use of black cabs will rise again, a driver has suggested.
Paul Brennan, from the London Taxi Drivers Association, said that at the start of the Covid crisis “anti-taxi types were gleefully saying our days were numbered because in the future everyone would be working from home”.
But he added that the appeal of not having to go the office was now wearing thin for many.
“What was once a domestic and personal life space has now transitioned into a full life container where work, rest and play is vacuum packed into a sealed residential unit,” he wrote in the Association’s magazine, Taxi. “Reality for many is firmly setting in and a return or escape to the office is eagerly longed for.”
And Mr Brennan said videocall meetings were proving to be “nowhere near as good as face to face meetings”.