COVID-19 journey is hard going for Camelon taxi driver

The coronavirus lockdown has taken away a lot of livelihoods and one taxi driver admitted he has been going through a rough patch lately.

The days of being able to hop into a waiting cab and head to the destination of your choice are long gone as the pandemic restrictions continue to change all our lives.

However, spare a thought for the driver who used to take you to those destinations.

“The hardest thing has been the downturn in work,” said Paul Traynor. “In just a couple of weeks, I’ve gone from being able to make a living to not being able to make a living. I’m just like most self-employed people, I don’t have any stash of money so I just have to get myself to June and hopefully get some help from the government.

Taxi driver Paul Traynor is finding the coronavirus lockdown particularly tough

“I don’t see this situation improving in the next three or four months. For me, this has come out of nowhere and I had not prepared for it.”

Paul (53), from Camelon, has been a driver for Bruce Taxis for nine years and, while he may have had some slow shifts during that time, he admits he has never seen anything like this before.“I cover a lot of ground, from Polmont to Denny – anywhere the work takes me. I would normally have around 20 fares in a day with a shift running from 6.30am to 3pm – now I’m lucky if I get seven or eight passengers.”

Paul says he has started ending his shift early because there are no passengers around to pick up.

“I mean, I could sit out there in the car for another two hours for nothing, but the day’s long enough as it is. I had been sitting in the car from noon to 3pm without getting a single hire. That’s just soul destroying for you.

“You’ve got to look after your mental health – it’s a long day when you’re sitting doing nothing.”

Paul admitted the lack of toilet facilities has also caused him to throw in the towel and end his shifts early.

“There are no public toilets and supermarkets have queues of people out the door for food, so you can’t use them for their toilets anymore. I was actually refused access to the toilet at Falkirk High Railway Station.”

The pubs and clubs being forced to close have also had a knock on effect for the taxi trade.

“The night trade is almost entirely non-existent,” said Paul. “I go out early in the morning, but from talking to the controllers it’s absolutely dead – there is no one going about at all at night apart from the workers who need to travel home or to work at that time.

“Maybe a week or so ago you were still getting one or two that had the party head on, but not so much any more.”

On the rare occasions Paul does get a fare, his thoughts naturally go to the coronavirus and if his passenger has it or not.

“Of course – it’s on everyone’s mind at the minute. I could catch it from someone driving them around just as easily as someone else could catch it from a colleague at an office. You just have to look at Boris Johnson to see anyone can get it.

“You can’t really get round the confines of a car, people are as close to you sitting in the front seat as they are sitting in the back, that’s why I wear a mask now.”

As a taxi driver Paul has never been stopped by police officers on patrol, but he has seen others being pulled over and questioned.

“Police are out there, I see them stopping people and asking them what they are doing out, where they are going. I saw people getting stopped in the Central Retail Park just the other day.”

There are people who are always offering help and Paul hopes he can continue to make ends meet until he receives further monetary assistance.

“The taxi trade is getting hit hard,” he said. “Being out all day for £30 is no good. I just have to hope my car doesn’t break down. I’ve also got my taxi radio to pay for, but Bruce Taxis have been fantastic as a company.

“They dropped the price of my radio by 20 per cent and they are offering parcel delivery jobs to any drivers who want to do them. They are also doing runs for elderly people who need prescriptions picked up.”