TAXI drivers in York are among the many self-employed workers who are struggling from the drop in demand for their services amid the coronavirus crisis.

Private hire taxi firm 659659 which has more than 90 drivers is usually kept busy with calls such as taking early morning commuters to York railway station, driving elderly customers to appointments and transporting students from both universities.

Business from these customers has dropped dramatically, forcing the company to re-think its operation.

But, among the worry, they have also witnessed kindness towards them and their elderly customers from others.

“The phones have stopped ringing,” said Lee Clarke, one of the directors.

“Compared to two weeks ago we are nearly 50 per cent down in work already.

“This has really had a big impact on most of our staff.

“They have all had to take a reduction of hours.

“ The worst thing was having to tell them but they have been really understanding.”

Lee said many of the drivers, who are self-employed but pay the firm a subscription, were not earning enough to manage.

“They pay us a set fee each week and come and work as and when,” he said.

“We have cut their subs in half to try and give back to the drivers.”

In a bid to drum up business, the company has been contacting other local businesses to see if they can help and support each other.

“We have been around all the big supermarkets offering to help with deliveries for click and collect customers,” said Lee.

“We would charge a set fare to the customer to deliver their food.

“When we told staff at Sainsbury’s, Foss Bank, about some of our elderly customers they gave us six trays of food to give to our customers.

“When we delivered that they were over the moon. They are regular customers and we knew some would really appreciate it.”

The firm has also offered its services to chemists to help with prescription collections.

“We would put it on the customer’s door step, ring the bell and stand far away but check they collect it,” said Lee.

He said their landlord had also been very supportive to help them through these troubled times.

“He emailed me and followed it up with a phone call and said we don’t have to pay rent until this is over. He said we will speak regularly to keep updated.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced yesterday new measures to support businesses. These include enabling self-employed people to now have universal credit and statutory sick pay. No business will have to hand over VAT until the end of June and will have until next April to pay the backlog. And any employer will be eligible for a grant to cover most of the wages of people who are not working but are furloughed.