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Town’s taxi drivers are right to put their own safety first

cars driving at night

Violent and abusive customers are stopping taxi drivers working late shifts and it is affecting a town centre’s economy.

Despite a surge in demand for their services, taxi drivers in Barnsley are rightly putting their own safety first by avoiding late-night shifts – and the trouble caused by drunk passengers.

As part of its licensing survey, Barnsley Council recorded taxi use of the borough’s 67 licensed Hackney cabs to understand why demand is exceeding the number of cabbies available.

It found that drivers are concerned about working during the busy late night and early morning periods, because of fears for their safety. The Barnsley Chronicle reports that in the run-up to Christmas, the council carried out three spot checks – one in the day and two at night. The daytime check found all 12 cabs were Barnsley-licensed, while on both nights, all of the drivers were from out of the area.

Risks

The Star reports that seven per cent of drivers surveyed said they avoided working during these times, in case they face “drunken, violent or abusive customers” – at a time when demand for taxis has increased from 3.4 per cent in 2017 to 9 per cent in 2024.

The council hopes that installing free CCTV cameras inside the borough’s black cabs will deter violent and anti-social behaviour, as well as reassure drivers, and has applied for funding so the scheme can go ahead in consultation with the drivers.

The council knows it needs to find a solution quickly as council leader Sir Steve Houghton said lack of drivers available in the town centre at night has put people off, despite a £200 million regeneration.

He told the Chronicle: “We are seeing a loss of income coming into the town because people fear they can’t get a taxi home on a night. That’s particularly the case for those drivers who are not private hire but can pick up off the streets.

“We have seen taxi drivers operate during the day, but not on an evening or at the weekend, which are generally the busiest times in the town centre.

Safety and security

“We’ve got to try and combat that. One of the reasons is safety and security, particularly for drivers.

“One of the things – clearly for any taxi driver these days – is being able to go to work knowing you will be safe. The free cameras are a small step, but hopefully one which will provide an inducement for drivers to work on nights and weekends.”

The council heard that despite more private-hire vehicles coming into town, there are still long queues for taxis at the end of the night.

The council told The Star: “Our two largest private hire companies have been amalgamated and have also brought with them out-of-town drivers that although raising a significant concern to the trade, are helping to fill the unmet demand gap.

“Despite there being unmet demand that is significant we would not introduce more Hackney Carriages vehicle licences at this time, although other research and a repeated full survey with rank surveys no later than March 2025 is recommended.”

No one should feel threatened or unsafe in their workplace, whether it is an office, shop or a taxi. Safety has to come first and taxi drivers should not be expected to put themselves in harm’s way. If they agree to the free cameras, CCTV installed in cabs will hopefully act as a deterrent and stop “difficult customers” becoming dangerous.

All information is correct at time of publication. Information provided within this article may have changed over time. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by John Patons Insurance Services or any of its employees.

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