The number of taxi drivers in Darlington has declined by about 30 per cent since the pandemic, as fewer drivers struggle to service demand. 

Figures show there are 394 licensed drivers throughout the borough - abour 100 fewer than the month before Covid restrictions were introduced. 

A Darlington Borough Council meeting heard how the area’s taxi trade has been heavily hit since the pandemic and is yet to fully recover. 

The North East region saw the greatest reduction of drivers in the country, councillors were told. 

During the pandemic taxi drivers took up other jobs, including home delivery services and at nearby Amazon centres. Several European drivers also returned to their home country and have not returned to the trade. Those who retained their licence may now only drive taxis as a second job. 

Council officials say that although there were early signs of recovery, the recent economic situation has slowed progress as being a taxi driver is not a financially attractive role.

The current four private hire license operators in Darlington are: 1AB (now ‘Take Me’); United; Falcon Cars; and GPS Travel. 

There are currently enough licensed vehicles between operators in the town, but there are insufficient drivers to service the current demand at peak times.

“We have seen an interest from Ukrainians who have come across and are interested in becoming licensed drivers,” said Colin Dobson, the council's licensing manager. 

Councillors heard how the public often calls for Uber to be introduced in Darlington but claims that the local authority refused a licence were disputed. 

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A council report added: “Uber has a business model that suits large towns and cities, particularly with a university student population. Developments planned for Darlington may make the town an attractive proposition to Uber in the future.”

Despite the service struggles, fares in Darlington continue to be the highest in the Tees Valley for a two mile journey at £6.30 - however, charges are determined by the operator and not the council. 

Taxi marshals, who help manage demand at Grange Road, were praised as being an “integral part” of the night time economy and further funding bids to maintain their future are being considered.