TAXI drivers have been forced to "throw in the towel" as the coronavirus crisis causes demand to plummet, a minibus taxi supplier has warned.

The Taxi Shop spoke to Brighton and Hove cabbies anonymously to find out their experiences of the pandemic.

One said: "The loss of trade is such that we could not manage the mortgage payments. Luckily our children have flown the nest, so we decided to sell and downsize. We are moving next week.

"The taxi business in Brighton will never be the same again. In fact, it will take years for taxi drivers to earn a decent wage to manage with their mortgages, bills and everyday life. Morale is very low."

A survey carried out by The Taxi Shop minibus taxi supplier found that almost 97 per cent of drivers quizzed had seen their incomes slashed over the last 12 months.

And, in many cases, this cut in profits was considerable, with 21.9 per cent of respondents saying their income was "half what it was" compared to the same time the year before.

A Brighton Hackney driver told The Taxi Shop: "I’ve been a Brighton Hackney taxi owner/driver since 1988. It was a lovely job back then. It still was just a few years ago.

"Then, last year the Covid-19 happened. Pubs, clubs, restaurants and the rest of the businesses are locked down, and the taxi trade is nearly non-existent. Now, waiting two and three hours for a job is the norm."

As Boris Johnson announced the first UK lockdown on March 23 last year, businesses across Brighton and Hove were forced to close their doors and people were urged to stay at home wherever possible.

And these restrictions have remained in place for large chunks of the last 12 months, creating near-impossible trading conditions for cabbies.

With far fewer people leaving the house or travelling around the city, demand dropped considerably, as did drivers' incomes.

Now, many are hoping for a "bumper summer" to help restore trade to how it was before.

A Brighton private hire driver of three years told The Taxi Company: "At the moment I own a £25,000 cab which I use to deliver food (for Deliveroo) at £3.50 a journey. When you consider the cost of fuel, £2,000 insurance also council licensing conditions, it’s not ideal!”

"I’m hoping that we can get back to pre-virus levels, especially this summer. With longer days, the roadmap spelled out, pubs and clubs opening April to June. Events like the Euros on and Pride in planning, this could be a bumper summer for us with everybody clamouring to break free of isolation."

However, the Taxi Shop delivered a sobering message to conclude in which it claimed many taxi drivers had quit their jobs due to the untenable conditions Covid had created.

A spokesman for the company said: "Taxi drivers are the ‘unsung heroes’ of the current crisis. A fourth emergency service that has continued to support local communities.

"They’ve carried on transporting NHS staff and key workers; delivering food and prescriptions to the old and the vulnerable, and now take the elderly for their Covid vaccinations.

"Yet, with much of the UK a ghost town, drivers are struggling to survive. Many cabs remain parked up or in storage; and many drivers have thrown in the towel, unable to survive."