Cabbies tell of living in fear as passenger abuse level revealed

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EDINBURGH cabbies face more violence, abuse and fare-dodging from passengers than anywhere else in the country according to a new study.

An academic study of the trade has found that 88 per cent of black cab drivers in Scotland have experienced verbal or physical abuse and 98 per cent have encountered fare dodging. But among Edinburgh drivers abuse and violence was significantly higher.

Around 67 per cent have felt unsafe at work and a further 96 per cent have claimed to have been verbally or physically abused by a passenger under the influence of alcohol.

While the study – carried out by Moira Weir, an MSc transport, planning and engineering student at Edinburgh Napier University – was based on a relatively small sample of 75 drivers, trade representatives have called for the findings to be taken seriously.

The study also found 94 per cent of drivers in the Capital refused to pick up a passenger in the past year, and that all of those who said they avoided working nights did so because of fears over personal safety.

Ms Weir, 35, said: “I chose my research project because my brother-in-law is a cab driver and he and his colleagues have real concerns about the level of violence experienced.

“However, there was no actual evidence to back what they where saying up, so it was quite difficult to raise these concerns.

“I knew there were problems anecdotally but I didn’t realise the extent, particularly evening and night work, which get the worst of it.”

Many of those she spoke to said they could deal with drunk men, but were concerned by women under the influence.

She said: “A major concern was how to deal with very drunk women who pass out in the back of the cab, and that can be very difficult. There can be misunderstandings.”

Ms Weir added that she was told it was not uncommon for passengers to tell the driver they had to get fare money from their flat, and to leave a jacket on the back seat. When they did not return the drivers would discover the jacket was actually stolen.

Passengers causing damage to their cabs was also highlighted as a major concern among drivers.

Another cabbie recalled: “There was one guy who refused to pay the fare. On his way out he booted in the door. That is really bad as it means the taxi has to come off the road and I can’t make a living”.

The study found nearly 90 per cent said taxi marshals in the city centre helped prevent violence against cab drivers.

Central Taxis chairman Bill Purnell said: “Our drivers can suffer intimidation and violence, especially when working the night shift.

“All workers deserve to feel safe at work. We believe that installing CCTV in our taxis will offer a practical option to ensuring our drivers’ safety.”

rory.reynolds@edinburghnews.com