Taxi drivers in Bury are struggling to “make ends meet” as they battle a number of problems such as the cost of fuel spiralling out of control.

Vice chairman of Private Drivers Hire Association Bury, Raja Naveed Aijaz, said those on the frontline of the industry are suffering because of a number of factors including rocketing petrol station costs.

Minimum licensing standards in Greater Manchester and less stricter rules in Wolverhampton and Sefton Council are also leading to drivers getting their licences in those authorities rather than in Bury, Mr Aijaz said.

Mr Aijaz, who works for Uber and has been in the industry for around five years, said: “It is very hard-going for the industry.

“As well as the cost of petrol going up there is the expenses and costs of vehicles, which also need to be less than five years under minimum standards rules in Greater Manchester.

“Drivers are having to pay £20,000 for their cars which can go up thousands of pounds on lease and then they will be making a big loss when they sell them.

“Insurance is going up and so are all the parts of cars.

“People have left the industry because they cannot make ends meet.

“Drivers who used to be paying £100 a week to fill up are now paying up to £250.

“Some are only making £300 to £400 a week and after the expenses that goes down to £150 to £200.

“They are going to other jobs like working for Amazon.”

Mr Aijaz said the number of licensed drivers in Bury has dropped in the last two years amid the struggles of the pandemic and some registering in other places such as Wolverhampton and Sefton in Merseyside, where rules are less restrictive.

Uber and other firms in the region have operator licences in Wolverhampton which also allow drivers to work in Greater Manchester, he said.

Bury Times: Vice chairman of Private Hire Drivers Association Bury, Raja Naveed AijazVice chairman of Private Hire Drivers Association Bury, Raja Naveed Aijaz

He added: “In Wolverhampton, you can have a car up to 12 years old so drivers getting their licences there don’t have to spend as much money on their cars.

“With those rules people can spend £4,000 to £6,000 on cars instead of more than £20,000.”

Drivers licensed with Bury Council are therefore losing business in the borough to taxis registered in Wolverhampton and Sefton as a result, Mr Aijaz said.

He also said the implications of the restrictions have been raised to the council in several meetings.

Another problem drivers are faced with is the uncertainty of the clean air zone plans in Greater Manchester with it still unknown if it will be introduced across the whole of the region or just in the city centre.

But Mr Aijaz said even if the zone is just restricted to the city centre it will still hit Bury drivers hard as they regularly take their vehicles there for work at weekends.

He has also warned that if drivers continue to leave the business then the public transport system in Greater Manchester will be hit hard.

Bury taxi company Magnum Whiteline said there has been pressure to increase fares as the price of fuel rockets.

Manager Damian Robinson said a small fare increase was applied earlier this year but since then costs have continued to grow, making it very difficult for drivers to make a living.

He said: “Obviously it is a concern.

“It is now costing drivers £100 to fill up their cars when it used to be £70 before the increase.”

Bury Times: A Magnum Whiteline taxiA Magnum Whiteline taxi

Mr Robinson also said the firm is struggling with a “massive shortage” of drivers following the effects of the pandemic and the fuel increase with a reduced number of staff able to cover the workload.

Bury Council said its number of registered drivers has fallen from 1,172 from the start of 2020 to 969 at the beginning of this year and realises that the pandemic has affected the trade.

The local authority said minimum licensing standards was agreed across Greater Manchester to ensure it has a taxi and private service which is "safe and of the highest standard".

A spokesman said: “Bury Council agreed the minimum licensing standards following extensive consultation with the public and the taxi trade, and some specific changes to the Greater Manchester proposal were made locally in Bury.

"These included:

"Delaying any decision to implement a ‘GM approved’ bonnet sticker in Bury for a period of two years while more work is carried out with the trade and Greater Manchester Police (GMP) to address the concerns raised by the trade relating to anti-social behaviour, and bringing a further report to the licensing and safety committee prior to any changes being agreed to vehicle livery.

"Only implementing the policy that all hackney carriage vehicles must be black for new and replacement vehicles, not existing fleet vehicles.”  

The council said it is also committed to supporting those in the industry.

A spokesman added: “We have regular liaison meetings with drivers and operators, which are held jointly with GMP.

"We also have a dedicated officer to help the trade, and have kept them informed throughout the MLS process.

“There are many ways we have been helping the trade. We have, for instance, just opened a second vehicle testing centre, something the trade requested.

“During the Covid pandemic, we also introduced measures to help with the cost of licences.

"We also produced a video showing drivers how to apply for Covid support grants, and supported individual applicants with any queries and signposting them to wider business support.

“Enforcement action was also carried out at the recent Parklife event, dealing with unlicensed taxis, which trade representatives thanked us for.

“Taxi and private hire drivers provide an important and much-valued service, and by working together we can ensure that the sector continues to thrive in Bury.”

With regards to drivers being licensed in Wolverhampton and other places, a council spokesman added: “This has been an issue for many years, long before the current proposals to have minimum licensing standards in Greater Manchester.

"We, and Greater Manchester, continue to lobby the government to bring in new laws which would allow us to address this and ensure high standards Greater Manchester.”

Uber said it abides by the same regulations as all other private hire operators and every driver who uses its app has been licensed by a council.

Wolverhampton Council, Sefton Council and Transport for Greater Manchester have been approached for comments.