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‘Safe Taxi’ scheme introduced

Cardiff University is starting up a “Safe Taxi Scheme” that will enable students to get a taxi home safely, regardless of whether they have cash on them.

Megan David, Welfare and Community Officer, decided to set up the scheme after the elected officer team travelled to some of the best students’ unions around the country, and noted that several had such a scheme.

The scheme will operate between the hours of 10pm and 6am. It will be available for those who do not have cash on them and do not feel safe searching for a cash machine, or are unfamiliar with the surroundings. Students should ring Dragon Taxis on 02920 333 333 and ask for the “Cardiff University Safe Taxi Scheme”, and quote their name and student number. When the taxi arrives, the driver will ask to see the student’s university ID card, and then give the student a safe journey home without requiring payment at the end of the journey.

The student will then receive a receipt, with a reminder to go and pay the fare in the Finance Office of the Students’ Union within the next few days. To guarantee the student pays the fare, the invoice that Dragon Taxis sends the Union will have the student’s number and name, as well as their fare amount. Therefore the Union can email the student to remind them to pay their fare. If it is not paid, the University can block access to university facilities including certain buildings, libraries, gyms and gig tickets.

Megan David notes that the scheme is a slightly adapted version of those operated by such universities as Sheffield and Leeds, as there were issues with the role of the ID cards at these institutions. In other students’ unions, the ID card is used as a form of deposit, which the taxi driver takes after dropping the student safely home. The card is then handed to their students’ union the next day, where the student can pick it up once they have paid the fare.

However, when Megan David began researching the scheme in more detail, and looked for responses from students on Facebook, it transpired that some were concerned with handing over their ID cards. She said, “I decided to put out a Facebook question to gather whether students liked the idea and to answer any concerns that students had about it.

“Out of the 86 students who answered the question, 79 loved the idea, yet 7 had concerns about handing over their ID card to the taxi driver and it therefore being in the hands of a stranger.”

This concern was shared by the University, who explained that student ID cards are technically keys to various buildings and could cause trouble if they were to fall into the wrong hands. Subsequently, David decided to use student ID numbers instead, which would enable them to prevent access to university services if the fare was not paid or the scheme was abused.

However, there are rules in place to prohibit students abusing the scheme. For example, no more than two students can use the service in one taxi, as three would likely be able to either walk home together, or at least find a cash machine and pay for their own taxi.

There is also a cap of £10 on the journey, as it is possible to get almost anywhere in Cardiff, particularly Cathays and the student residences, for less that £10. Although there is flexibility in this figure, it will hopefully prevent students taking advantage of the scheme to travel to Swansea for a night out, for example.

Dragon Taxis was chosen for the scheme for several reasons. When considering which firms to approach with the idea, Megan David chose the three major companies, Dragon Taxis, Premier and Capital Cabs as not only did they have the biggest fleet of cars and therefore would be able to cope with demand, but they would also be most well known by students.

Premier Taxis were apparently unwilling to cooperate on the scheme, according to David. They did not think it would work due to a lack of support from drivers, who they believed would not be happy to carry out the scheme as they like to have cash for the journey.

Capital Cabs only responded to David’s request after several attempts, and suggested that they could be persuaded to use the scheme if they were able to charge VAT on the admin and journey cost of the taxi, unlike Premier and Dragon Taxis who only charge VAT on the admin cost.

David also drew attention to  neither the fact that Premier nor Capital Cabs turned up to the taxi forum meetings held by the police and representatives from the council about how to improve taxi services in Cardiff for members of the public. However, two representatives from Dragon Taxis were in attendance , both contributing to many topics, including David’s own agenda regarding the safety of students.

Megan David said, “I am delighted to be supported by Cardiff Local Police force, our Police Student Liaison Officer PC Tim Davies, as well as Cathays’ local neighbourhood police officers. I also have the support of senior managers at the University and Cardiff Council’s Student Community Liaison Officer, Emma Robson.

“The scheme is something that will benefit all students.”