Taxi drivers say they are suffering from “unacceptable” levels of verbal and physical abuse. Now, to protect drivers and passengers, the police are working with Bolton Council on a new scheme, ‘No Excuse for Abuse’. Seamus McDonnell reports.
“EVERY day private hire drivers suffer abuse and violence from a minority of the public to the point where it has become a normal thing for them.”
So says Yasif Kahn, secretary of Bolton Private Hire Association.
He says taxi drivers in Bolton suffer so much abuse from the public across the town that it has become an everyday commonplace occurrence.
But now the police and council are saying enough is enough.
In the run up to Christmas they are hammering home the message that anyone who physically or verbally assaults a driver will be reported directly to the police.
Any more verbal and racial abuse, violence and damage to vehicles will be reported immediately.
As a reminder, stickers are to be placed prominently in all private hire and Hackney vehicles with the slogan ‘No Excuse for Abuse’.
Bolton Council’s executive cabinet member for environmental services, Cllr Nick Peel, said: “We know that the vast majority of private hire and Hackney cab users in Bolton are courteous and well behaved.
“Unfortunately there is a minority who have no qualms about being abusive to drivers, especially when they have had too much to drink.
“We need to make it clear that this is totally unacceptable. We want all our drivers to be safe and feel reassured that we have made their welfare – as well as passengers’ – a top priority.
“There will be no hesitation for drivers to call the police immediately if their safety is compromised.”
Taxi bosses, including Mr Khan, have welcomed the campaign.
He said: “It is everyone’s right to feel safe in their workplace and our drivers are no different.”
He added: “Abuse can range from verbal abuse, racial abuse to damaging vehicles and kids throwing stones.
“We are looking forward to working with the council and Greater Manchester Police to help eradicate violence and abuse against drivers and educating the public that it is against the law to be abusive and violent.”
He was joined by director of the Hackney Drivers Association, Charlie Oakes, who said passengers need to understand that any abuse towards drivers “will not be tolerated”.
He said: “We welcome this campaign to raise awareness of this issue.
“It is unacceptable that any driver should be put in fear for his or her safety when they are doing their job. During the festive period, the job is more challenging as there are many more passengers in the town centre and some are adversely affected by alcohol.
“If that means they do not show drivers respect and courtesy or, worse, are abusive verbally or physically it is important for the public to know that this is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
“We want people to come into the town centre, enjoy themselves and then get home safely.”
In an effort to ensure the safety of both drivers and passengers, the council is working with security firm Exclusec to put more taxi marshals in place at key locations until the New Year.
Chief Inspector Mike Russell, from GMP’s Bolton Division, added: “It is important that people are able to do their job without fear or intimidation and I want to make it clear that we will not tolerate violence or antisocial behaviour in our community.”