A CAB firm says it is struggling to fill vacancies after the number of licensed taxi drivers dropped sharply during the pandemic.

In the run up to Christmas they fear passengers may find services badly affected. One major cab firm said on weekends after 10pm there were not enough drivers to meet demand.

Taxi firm representatives met with Blackburn with Darwen Council last week. The council has revealed it will now begin accepting new applications to fill the greater demand for vacancies.

Farooq Khan has been running Highfield Taxis for 20 years and says he has never seen anything like it.

“It has been a combination of factors which means many cab firms have less than half the drivers than before the pandemic began last March.

“We had 80 drivers on the books and now have 47. That is huge loss for passengers.

“So, when someone calls and is unable to get a taxi it is due to us not having enough drivers sometimes.

“Some of them have retired and others have gone on to doing deliveries for Uber.

“On top of this the council has been unable to hand out new licences due to Covid restrictions. This really needs to change and it is something we are discussing.”

Other local firms have also struggled to fill vacancies with some losing more than 50 cab drivers during the pandemic.

Mr Khan said Christmas was their busiest time of year. “I fear for services at Christmas if this is not solved. Already I have cases after 10pm weekends when firms simply cannot get a driver out quick enough. I have urged for temporary badges to be put in place to meet the demand.”

A council spokesperson said: “Our licensing department has had a very recent meeting with the Blackburn with Darwen Taxi Forum where this issue was raised with us. Following on from this, we will be accepting new applicants for taxi driving licences as soon as possible.”