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In London this Christmas? Good luck finding a cab

Posting in Technology

In the busiest time of year, taxi drivers may find themselves cab-less, and Joe Public may be left waiting hours for a ride.

Head to New York, and the streets are flooded with glaringly yellow taxi cabs and a veritable army of drivers willing to take you wherever you want to go. (Unless, of course, it's Brooklyn. Ask to be driven there at your peril.) In London, we trade bumblebee vehicles for plain black cabs, and it only takes a minute or two to hail a taxi -- as most of them are stuck in traffic anyway.

After heading to London to enjoy the egg nog and sudden entry fee to enter your favorite in-town pub, all you want is to seek out a taxi and get back under the duvet. However, this year, you may be left standing on the curb in your festive high-heels longer than usual.

Taxi drivers and hire companies based in the Big Smoke have reported a serious shortage of London black cabs, and long waiting lists or a complete manufacturing absence are leaving some drivers out of work, The Financial Times reports.

Renny Raphael-Campbell, owner of a taxi hire company, told the publication that would-be cabbies are being "laughed at for asking" to hire a cab and do a day's honest graft.

“The demand for vehicles completely, massively outstrips supply,” Raphael-Campbell said. “We have drivers who have been out of vehicles for three weeks who can't find one to work.”

Black cab manufacturer Manganese Bronze was once the only place to go if drivers wanted to rent a black cab. However, after entering administration last month, a recall of 400 cabs made with faulty Chinese steering boxes combined with U.K. Mayor Boris Johnson's clean air strategy which took every taxi over 15 years old off the streets, Christmas is not looking too full of cheer this year.

Following Manganese Bronze's decline, many garages are now no longer honouring warranties, and so a fresh number of cabs-for-hire are being left parked in garages.

Until 2008, the company was the sole black cab supplier. However, Mercedes-Benz now claims 40 percent marketshare, but therein lies the problem. Mercedes-Benz only deals with those who wish to purchase a cab, not rent one -- leaving drivers reliant on being able to rent a vehicle, as well as their would-be passengers, out in the cold.

Image credit: Jimmy Barrett

— By on November 7, 2012, 1:30 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure