Credit: Dora Dziki

Cash or cab: why is getting home so expensive?

By Meg Russell

When student safety is being jeopardised, Glasgow needs better taxi services – and we need them now.

With most Covid-19 restrictions eased, people are making the most of Glasgow’s nightlife again. Anyone that’s made the most of bars and clubs reopening will probably have noticed that getting a taxi or Uber in Glasgow is exceedingly difficult, extortionately expensive, or sometimes both. 

Glasgow isn’t alone in experiencing this either; cities across the UK are exacerbated again in the past few weeks due to fuel supply levels. Recruitment efforts are underway, though with the required qualifications it can take up to year to get drivers on the road. On the surface, it might sound like a simple enough fix, but like the growing list of other staffing and supply shortages, getting more taxis on the road is far more convoluted than it sounds.

It would be near-impossible to find an industry that hasn’t experienced profound challenges or change in the past 18 months. For Glasgow’s taxis, the loss of the night-time economy through extended restrictions, combined with everyone’s reduced movements in lockdowns meant that their business model became unsustainable. 

“For Glasgow’s taxis, the loss of the night-time economy through extended restrictions meant that their business model became unsustainable.”

Covid-19 restrictions have now eased, and with the return of the night economy, the work is there for Glasgow cabbies now. However, many were forced to find other work during the pandemic or have changed their working patterns. Eddie Grice, the Glasgow Chair of the App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU) told Glasgow Live that many drivers who managed to get through the periods of restrictions no longer wanted to work evenings, particularly past 3am – they want to make their money “with the least amount of hassle and stress and with the least amount of risks both from a violence point of view and a covid point of view”. These jobs aren’t offering enough incentive to get drivers back onto the roads again.

With the dearth of taxis on the street, surge pricing on services has increased as well. Uber is facing its own battles, with drivers recently striking over low pay and unfair dismissals, and the company is also recruiting nation-wide

The lack of available taxis and Ubers is causing safety concerns for users, too. Not only do taxi drivers service vulnerable populations like elderly and disabled people, they’re often relied upon as a safer transport option for many at night. In light of the housing crisis students are facing this year, many University of Glasgow students are staying much further from campus, with more limited transport options. The university already has in place its “Get Home Safe” initiative, to help students get home safe if they’re out of money, and the SafeZone app to assist with student safety. These have limitations too, and ultimately the problems go beyond the university. 

“The lack of available taxis and Ubers is causing safety concerns for users.”

Students often work in industries like hospitality where late finishes are common. Businesses that are open beyond public transport operating hours rarely assist in getting their employees home, and this has obvious implications for staff safety. With the seemingly never ending Sunday train strikes and the Subway finishing early, and most recently bus cancellations, getting around Glasgow, particularly on a Sunday, seems increasingly difficult. Yes, the university has a duty of care to its students, and yes, employers have a duty of care to their staff. Not to absolve either of responsibility, but they are both themselves enmeshed in a system that’s struggling and restricted by circumstances too.

Glasgow’s transport network is failing; government, council and private services are letting the public down. Glasgow’s taxi and Uber services are struggling with current demand now that we’re allowed back in the clubs and pubs, and unfortunately for everyone there’s no quick fix. The taxi service in Glasgow needs appropriate funding and attention, but tragically, it’s not alone. Many current services and broader sectors need careful consideration to ensure both workers and the public are properly served and feel safe. We should be able to get home safe, and it shouldn’t cost us a fortune. 


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