"It could be a job a night at the moment" - Sheffield taxi drivers reveal they're struggling this Christmas
Six days before Christmas, Hussain Mahmood would normally be well into his busiest season.
Instead, at 2pm on the last Saturday before the big day, he’s one of a number of taxis parked up on side streets across the city, waiting for business that isn’t appearing.
It’s the end of a difficult year for men and women whose livelihood depends on social gatherings.
"I can sit here two hours waiting my turn for a job these days,” says Hussain, with a shake of his head.
"It’s been a really awkward year, and now of course there’s nobody out Christmas shopping, so it’s really quiet, there’s hardly anybody out.
"I’m been working since 9am and I’ve had four jobs so far, where normally I would have had nine or ten.
Hussain has been a taxi driver in the city for 30 years, and says this is without a doubt the quietest and strangest year he’s ever known.
"Of course there’s not much we can do, other than get this year out of the way, and see what next year brings.
"Let’s hope it won’t be this way for too much longer.”
Slightly further up the taxi queue, Ali Anwar, a taxi driver of 26 years, agrees it’s hardly worth he and his colleagues coming out.
"It’s unprecedented, what’s happening,” he confirms.
"We’re not even supposed to park here, to be honest, it’s not a taxi rank, but there are so many taxi drivers just waiting for jobs, that we run out of places to pull up.
"It could be a job a night at the minute – sometime it’s a tenner, sometimes it’s £3.80.
"I’ve been on since 9am today and I’ve had four fares, which amounts to £34. I’d normally have made over £100 by now.
"It’s not been worth any of our time to come out most of the year, but what else can we do?”
Ahead of him in the queue, Shahnawaz Khan, a taxi driver of 27 years, reveals he’s had just two jobs since he started today.
"The taxi trade has taken a serious hit this time of year, with no Christmas gatherings or events.
"You could come out for an eight hour shift, and have three jobs.
"We all have our fingers crossed for better times next year.”