Deputy Kirsten Morel said the age of taxi drivers could be a factor in fewer vehicles operating between the late evenings and early mornings, leaving a ‘gap in the market’ for illegal taxi services such as Jersey Lifts – a Facebook group which offers transportation in exchange for cash.
Limits are in place on the number of taxi licences – which are issued to vehicles – and badges – which are issued to drivers – but there is little incentive for those reaching retirement age to give up their badges and free up capacity for registered taxi drivers.
Of the taxi-badge holders, 82 are under the age of 50, but just one of those is aged under 30.
There are 116 between 51 and 60 years old, 123 are between 61 and 70 years old, and 50 are over the age of 71.
Deputy Morel said: ‘It is possible that the age of badge holders is leading to fewer taxis being available during late hours – 11pm till 3am.
‘I think it is the lack of drivers during these periods that has led to a gap in the market which Jersey Lifts is filling.
‘I think more licences should be issued otherwise the situation will be maintained. I think the [Infrastructure] Minister [Kevin Lewis] has to recognise that Jersey Lifts will continue as long as there are not enough taxis on the road during times of high demand.’
Earlier this year, the Jersey Taxi Drivers Association and firms Yellow Cabs, Citicabs, Liberty Cabs and Domino Cabs sent a joint letter to the late Home Affairs Minister Len Norman accusing the government of failing to tackle the issue, which has remained a point of contention for several years.
When asked how Islanders could be dissuaded from using the illegal alternatives, Deputy Morel said: ‘While there’s a demand that’s being unfulfilled, I doubt it will be possible to dissuade people from using Jersey Lifts. It shouldn’t be forgotten that Jersey Lifts offers a service that people like and value and it does so in a very simple way. I think the only way to encourage people to take regulated taxis will be to provide more taxis at lower prices.’
Deputy Lewis said the number of licenses was limited to 310, but that there was a ‘steady turnover’ with new drivers.
He said: ‘When any driver retires the licenses are re-issued.
‘If you go down to a taxi rank you will see drivers of all ages. Obviously with Covid some have been shielding.’
When asked about Deputy Morel’s comments, he added: ‘If you put more and more taxis on the roads they can’t make a living – it’s a very fine line. Because these [Jersey Lifts] people are operating without background checks or licenses they are able to charge much lower prices.’