In Abingdon we have to work from an offside taxi rank, where customers wanting to sit on the left side of the car next to the driver have to get in from the roadside, adjacent to moving vehicles. It is situated in a one-way street, next to some lights at the heart of Abingdon’s notoriously congested traffic. For anyone wanting to go to South Abingdon, it is often necessary to pull out across two lanes.
For these public safety reasons, it is not the best planned taxi rank in the UK.
It is paid for by licence holders through our fees, ring-fenced from council tax, but it is regulated by the district council and we have to put up with what they are content to leave unimproved.
There is still no let-up in the amount of time spent waiting. Every Saturday night, the queues continue to stretch around The Square, all the way back to the High Street. And every Sunday night, the time it takes to get from the back of the queue to the front is typically one hour.
There are those living among us who would visit harm upon unsuspecting taxi drivers, waiting to drive people safely home in the middle of the night. Whether through drunkenness or a premeditated act, the resultant loss of income is the same.
One such incident occurred recently when a man approached my taxi, from the road side of the vehicle and got in without me seeing him beforehand, because my head was down, reading.
An immediate warning sign as to this passenger's conduct was that he did not know where he wanted to go, indicating to me that I should: "Just drive." But I am a trusting soul and I persevered.
We ended up in a village near Abingdon, with him decamping from my taxi, failing to pay a fare of £23.70, just staggering off.
These incidents, known as bilking, are dispiriting and a matter which can be referred to the police, provided the aggrieved person can spare the several hours necessary to report them.
Most do not, and just shrug it off.
Bilking is still relatively rare, though, with about four incidents a year, one of which would be serious.
Also this last weekend occurred the annual incidence of someone being sick in my taxi.
It is not only unpleasant for everyone concerned, but it effectively puts most drivers off the road for the rest of the night, because of the time it takes to clear up. For this reason, Vale of White Horse District Council has set one of the highest soiling charges in the country, at £75.
Setting it at that level and actually collecting it from a recalcitrant and drunken passenger at 3am are two different things.
Both of which are good reasons to no longer work Abingdon taxi rank at night.
As published in the Herald Series on Wednesday 08 August 2018
- Vale of White Horse District Council, Tariffs chargeable by Hackney Carriage vehicles (vehicles up to 4 seats), 20 January 2014, retrieved 07 August 2018 (pdf, 72.8 Kb)