The UK’s dependence on taxis is growing, but is the industry fit for every challenge?

In England, there are now over 291,800 licensed taxi and private hire vehicles. This is a 2.5% increase since just last year and the highest number since records began in 2005.

Unsurprisingly, this has been driven by the rise of Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs), the vehicles used when you book a ride through a ride-hailing app like Uber, Addison Lee, Kapten, Bolt or many more.

The UK have fallen out of love with traditional taxis and in love with the easy-book, easy-pay characteristics that come with taxi apps. So much so, over 75% of the total licensed vehicles in England are used as PHVs and just 25% are taxis.

PHV numbers have increased by 4.4% since 2018 whereas taxi numbers have declined by 3% in the same time. (Source: Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Statistics, England: 2019)

London taxi black cabs are less popular

Why the shift to PHVs?

We depend on these ride-hailing apps to book a ride in minutes, any time, from almost anywhere.

For example, Uber can be found in the majority of major cities in the UK (see here). This means they are perfect for late night trips home from town or simply just to get you somewhere quickly.

Plus, each app has its own set of enticing extras, such as discounts when you refer a friend, different modes of transport to choose from (fancy going by helicopter?) and a simple fix for the age-old problem that is splitting the fare.

On the other hand, traditional taxi firms need you to book in advance, or you risk a wait. Plus, until recent years have been behind the times when it comes to card/contactless payment. This might explain the slow decrease in user satisfaction and usage.

However, as much as these ride-hailing apps are innovating and delighting customers, it’s not all perfect.


For example, in 2019, Uber had a scare when TfL decided not to grant a new license for them to operate in London. This was after TfL identified a “pattern of failures” with Uber’s system, suggesting the current system was safe enough. Discussions are still ongoing.

Ultimately, organisations such as Uber and Bolt must trust their independent drivers to do a good job and delight their riders.

A hidden strain on the taxi industry

However, one thing neither the company nor the driver can anticipate is dealing with lost property. Unsurprisingly, passengers are just as likely to leave an item behind in a taxi as in any other form of transport.

Almost 3,000 items were handed in to the TfL Lost Property Office in 2018/19 from black cab drivers, in London alone. Unfortunately, we have less access to statistics when it comes to PHVs but it would be safe to say the volume of lost property piles up quickly.

An insight into Uber lost and found

Uber now publish an annual Uber Lost & Found Index to report the most commonly lost items in their vehicles during the year. In 2019, the top 5 most commonly lost items were: a phone, camera, wallet, keys or a bag. Interestingly, bizarre items also get left behind, such as a full set of 18k gold teeth, or simply very important items like birth certificates or engagement rings.

Lost phone left in taxi cab

So how does taxi lost property work?

Picture this: you’ve used a taxi to get you safely to your location but you heart sinks when you realise you don’t have one of your items anymore. You’re quite sure it’s fallen out in the taxi but you don’t know what to do to get it back.

Luckily, most of the larger ride-hailing apps have a section on the app dedicated to lost property and what you should do next. However, behind the scenes, it may not be very simple.

Some of the issues with lost property in PHVs

1. The driver might not be aware there is an item in their vehicle.

They may not look in their vehicle properly until the end of the day if nobody has contacted them.

2. Your driver has gone on to fulfil more rides since yours.

If there have been multiple people in their taxi that day, they won’t know who the item belongs to.

3. You lost something in a taxi that someone else booked.

Therefore, making an appeal about a lost item might be a lot harder.

4. The driver is likely to operate across multiple ride-hailing apps every day.

Again, the driver will struggle to distinguish between rides.

5. The customer service/care team get overwhelmed.

Enquiries regarding lost property can take up valuable staff time.

Ultimately, this might lead to a frustrating enquiry process for the rider and the driver isn’t always in the best position to help.  Furthermore, staff handling enquiries have other important jobs to do – lost property is perceived as a time-consuming distraction.

It’s obvious the process needs to be looked at. A system that ties found items to enquiries would be invaluable to the taxi industry when it comes to lost property.

A change is coming to taxi lost property

This would ensure that the rider has some control about their enquiry and feels they have been heard. Meanwhile, the driver has support and can handle lost property appropriately. Staff cut the time spent handling enquiries and ultimately return more lost property to riders. Finally, when these companies need to produce reports regarding their process, they are able to do so easily thanks to an automated end-to-end process. 

It’s a win-win scenario for driver, rider and team. This makes the ride-hailing process even more streamlined and enjoyable for all. 

Happy taxi driver uber lyft

Interested in learning more?

Request a demo to see how our free lost property software could work for your a ride-hailing app or taxi firm here. One of our dedicated sales team will be more than happy to show you around. We love a chat!

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