‘I’ve lost 40% of my taxi business and can’t provide for my family’

Amir Salih has been a taxi driver for 15 years and usually goes the extra mile, but since the pandemic business has slowed down

Taxi driver Amir Salih says he lost 40% of his business due to the pandemic. Photo credit: Emily Whitehouse.

The taxi rank by Cardiff’s central station resembled the start of an F1 race: when a car shows up it is immediately whisked off again.

Now, the station is constantly crowded with cars, eager to drive people to their desired destinations.

Whilst this rank used to be empty, cars eagerly await for business to pick up again. Photo credit: Emily Whitehouse.

Amir Salih, 57, admits that even though the world is opening up again, business for taxi drivers isn’t what it used to be.  

“I used to think it was normal to drive around for six hours a day with no break, but now I find myself with too much time on my hands. It is better now that clubs and bars are open, but I’ve lost 40% of my business and can’t provide for my family.” 

From India to Cardiff

Originally from India, Amir moved to Cardiff in 2003 and in 2006 he applied for his hackney drivers licence.

When he became self-employed, Amir applied for a private license so he could keep his hours flexible. 

The Cardiff-based driver opened up about his struggles at school, which he called ‘’really hard.” As a result, he didn’t come out with many qualifications. To become a freelance driver, Amir had to complete a two-part knowledge test which was one of the biggest challenges  he’s ever undertaken.

But, after 15 years Amir has been able to provide a steady income for his family. 

Lightheartedly, he said that all his hard work paid off as most of his Saturday nights were spent eating the free pizzas that were left in the back of his car. 

Eating free pizza most Saturday nights made it all worth it

Stepping on the brakes for 12 months 

Switching from working over 40 hours a week to being at home for a year affected Amir. He struggled the most with not being able to provide a steady income for his family.

“I had absolutely nothing. I’m not qualified to do anything else so I just had to sit at home for 12 months. We never received furlough, but we did get a grant from Cardiff’s council. However, this wasn’t enough,” his smile faded.

Although, the time at home did have some benefits. Amir said that before the pandemic he would barely make it home for bedtime, but during the lockdown, he was able to spend all day with his wife and read his children a bedtime story. 

“After my children had finished online school, we would sit and play racing games on the Wii. It was nice to do something that made me think of my job, but it was even better because I was with my children.”

Back in the driver’s seat

Amir’s work mainly came from airport and nightclub runs, but with borders and dancefloors being the final things to open, he lost a large fraction of his wage.

Even now Cardiff is gradually re-opening, the current restrictions are still affecting taxi drivers. 

“Because you have to wear a mask, fewer people are willing to book a taxi,” Amir says. 

However, Amir tells me with a sense of relief that most people he carries have no problem following guidelines. 

To read more about how how other businesses have been affected by the pandemic, click here

Amir’s tips to avoid paying the £50 sick fine:

  • Always make sure to carry something you can be sick into, whether this is a plastic bag or bottle, anything is better than vomiting on the back seat.
  • Roll down the windows. Although you may still receive a small fine, it’s better than doing it inside the taxi. Metal is easier to clean than carpet.
  • Don’t leave it too late to tell the driver, nine times out of 10 they will find somewhere to pull over so you can throw-up outside.