Cardiff taxi drivers have come under fire after refusing to drive students for short distances, only days after a series of sexual assaults and pressure for students to use the Safe Taxi Scheme.
Despite both the University and police advising students to take taxis home following the attacks, taxi drivers have turned down requests to go to areas such as Cathays due to their close proximity to the city centre.
Meanwhile, Cardiff University’s own taxi Scheme has come under scrutiny by students, after voicing concerns that the system would have limited effect in the case of a real emergency.
At the height of security concerns during Freshers’ week, third year student Bronwen Weatherby explained that she was turned down five times when trying to find a taxi home to Crwys Road.
Talking to Gair Rhydd she said “by this point I was outraged but also a little scared that I wouldn’t get a ride back when I was on my own. We had already been told not to go home by ourselves since some of the attacks had already occurred”, she said.
“It is incredible to think that we have to beg them to do the job that they are there specifically to do and get paid for. There is no concern for the safety of their potential customers or awareness of the danger their actions could put someone like me in.”
In a similar situation, Lois Cernyw also voiced her anger after asking seven different taxi drivers to take her home from Cardiff Central without luck.
“Cardiff taxi men are a disgrace. It was at 12.30am,” she added.
However, when confronted, Cardiff Hackney Cabs Association refused to accept the misbehaviour of its taxis.
In a comment made to Wales Online, chairman Mathab Khan stated that “99 per cent of taxi drivers in Cardiff are very helpful”.
He added: “Our advice to our drivers is to be as helpful as you possibly can, especially to lone female students.”
According to Khan, customers are only refused if they are too drunk to travel. However this has been disputed by multiple students who made attempts to get home after working late in the city centre.
Whilst Cardiff University has advised its students to use its Safe Taxi Scheme during this time, some have also expressed doubt about the system currently in place.
At the moment, those wishing to use the scheme, which allows people to travel even without enough money, must prebook the taxi by phoning up Dragons in advance.
However, as pointed out by fourth year student Hannah Taylor, pre-booking a taxi is always not feasible in the case of an emergency.
“If you’re drunk then who is going to be able to book a taxi?”
This is particularly problematic at times of peak taxi demand, when cars are reserved for large amounts of time.
In response to the concerns, SU President Claire Blakeway stated that discussions will take place with Dragon Taxis to see whether the scheme could be extended in future to include all available drivers regardless of bookings.
She also appealed students to come forward with their feedback.
Blakeway continued that ‘In the meantime, we’re encouraging students to plan their nights out and organise how they are getting home, either by pre-booking a taxi or ensuring they keep enough money to pay for a taxi home.
Ultimately though the university scheme has been established in order to help students in situations without any money, rendering such advice disputable.
However, the latest issues with Cardiff taxis only form part of a list of ongoing issues experienced by students, including being routinely overcharging customers and taking deliberately long routes to a destination.
This problem has been greatly exacerbated by both the presence of the Rugby World Cup in the city and the bus strike that took place last week.
Cardiff University student Mared Parry said: “I’ve been charged so many upfront fees by black cab drivers. They haven’t put their meter on and charge us stupid prices, then sometimes ask for even more after we’ve gotten to our destination!”
Kieran Lewis added: ‘A standard trick of the trade is taxi drivers deliberately going a longer distance in order to rack up more on the meter.’
One angry customer took to Twitter to share their story as they explained: “The only driver that would take us back home [Taffs Well] said we needed to pay £25 for a £15 fare. Police were swamped with complaints but were powerless to intervene.
“Taxi drivers were fragrantly disregarding any complaints and police intervention and continuing with their unjust and dangerous practice.”
Lauren Smith added: “The situation in Cardiff is out of control. Regularly taxis have refused my journey because it’s too close.”
In response to the issue, local MP Jo Stevens has called on taxi firms to ensure that they don’t refuse short fairs.
Other issues include taxi drivers charging money to return lost mobile phones to owners.
In an attempt to resolve the issue, Cardiff council are now appealing for people to report drivers overcharging customers or refusing journeys. The council are requesting those affected to record the time, location, date, driver and registration plate to [email protected]
It has also been announced that mystery shoppers will be used during upcoming rugby matches to test the services provided by hackney cabs. If the mystery shoppers are refused or are overcharged then a maximum penalty of £500 will be issued.