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Two-thirds of taxi drivers 'feel unsafe at work'

One driver said he had a gun held to his head over a £4 fare, as part of a survey by a university.

Taxi drivers: Survey of Scottish workers.

A taxi driver claimed he had a gun held to his head over a £4 fare as part of a survey which found that more than two-thirds of cabbies feel unsafe at work.

The violent incident was one of a catalogue of experiences documented by an Edinburgh Napier University student looking into the working lives of taxi drivers.

Other incidents included a passenger who punched through a taxi partition, abusive teenage girls and elderly fare dodgers.

Moira Weir, an MSc transport, planning and engineering student at the university, interviewed 75 taxi drivers from across the country about their experiences behind the wheel.

More than 70% reported feeling unsafe at work, and a further 88% said they had been verbally or physically abused by a passenger under the influence of alcohol.

One Glasgow taxi driver recalled feeling "cold metal" on his neck. The unnamed driver said: "The man had put a gun through the hole in the partition. It was all over a £4 fee."

Another told how an inebriated male passenger "punched his way through the partition".

Although taxi drivers reported feeling most threatened by men, anecdotal evidence from the study found intoxicated female passengers also caused real concern.

Another Glasgow driver said: "It's gangs of women that bother me, three or four women all together. I always make sure that if one of them passes out, her friends sort her out."

A Dundee driver said: "I have learnt how to handle grown men when they've had one too many but 15-year-old girls is a different matter. I have no idea what to do with them if they become abusive. The sooner I can drop them off to their parents the better."

Almost every cab driver (98%) surveyed had experienced fare dodging and of those, 45% claimed passengers skip payment on a regular basis. One driver said an elderly lady had skipped out on a fare.

Passengers causing damage to cabs was one of the major concerns among drivers.

Ms Weir said: "I found it shocking to hear how frequently taxi drivers have to deal with threatening behaviour or fare dodging which directly affects their work and ability to make a living. No one should have to put up with that kind of behaviour at work."

Central Taxis chairman Bill Purnell said: "Our drivers can suffer intimidation and violence, especially when working the night shift. These types of behaviour will not be tolerated and as such, we are working with Edinburgh City Council's Licensing Department to explore the possibility of installing CCTV across the fleet.

"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."
 

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