By Ashyle Cota
Galway’s largest taxi company, ProCabs Hackney Service, saw an immediate drop in business calls since the lockdown.
“It was like a switch to our business,” said Mr John Murphy, owner of ProCabs, who has been in business for over 20 years and has an office on 7 Prospect Hill, Eyre Square.
“Everything dropped off straight away, probably like a 95% reduction in our calls. It was a fairly dramatic impact. It would vary day to day but on average close to 1,000 customers per day and, we’ll say, a busy period 1,500, the likes of a Saturday night or whatever. We’d be down now to 100, 150 jobs a day. We had a fleet of over 100, maybe 105 drivers. We have a pool now of about 15 drivers, so we might have five or six working at a time.”
When asked about how the drivers themselves were coping and how they reacted to the lockdown, Mr Murphy went on to say that many of them thought it best to take leave during the crises.
“Financially, I suppose they’re not too bad if they can get the Covid payment, you know. Most of them didn’t even hang around; they were pretty much gone straight away. They were nervous, they had issues. If they didn’t have issues themselves, their wives or family members had issues; they were afraid of bringing something home.”
Safety measures have been put in place for customers who choose to travel by taxi for emergencies and to buy household essentials.
“We provided wipes and hand sanitiser. A lot of the cars have been fitted with screens; we have like a heavy-duty screen between the front seat and the back behind the driver. All customers are required to sit in the back. We try and not carry more than two people… we wouldn’t like to have four passengers in the car.”
The future for the taxi business is unclear until the present restrictions are lifted across the board.
“It’s fairly uncertain, yeah. A big part of our business is pubs, restaurants. I assume restaurants will open up sooner, but how many of them are going to survive I don’t know, [or] what kind of restrictions they’re going to have to have in place going forward. But, I mean, it’ll probably be closer to Christmas before we see pubs open again.
“It’s a struggle to keep going at the moment. The restrictions will have to be lifted slowly, so it’s just a matter of kind of hanging on, hopefully we’ll survive it. It’s not going be a switch back on again like it was a switch turned off, but just, you know play, it by ear and see what happens.“