A fed up Hull taxi driver has revealed how years of abuse have convinced him to quit the trade for good after almost a decade.
Ako Swara has been driving his Hackney carriage around the streets of the city for nine years but 2019 is set to be his last.
The 33-year-old, who moved to the UK from Kurdistan almost 20 years ago, has been subjected to vile racist taunts and shocking violence by aggressive customers during his time as a driver.
He says he has been called a “P*** b******” among other names and admits he no longer feels safe in his role as a taxi driver in Hull with fare dodgers posing a big problem to cabbies.
“It is happening to all us drivers and we don’t feel safe,” Mr Swara said. “When somebody doesn’t pay you just think ‘why am I doing this job?’
“In the past six or seven months I’ve had my car damaged and it keeps costing me money to get it repaired. I get the police involved every time but it just doesn’t seem worth it.
“People don’t appreciate what you do for them. They abuse you and annoy you and it’s really bad. I hate going to work every day but I’ve got no choice because I’m self-employed.
“I need to pay the bills and I’ve spent a lot of money on this car. It cost me £23,000 and I have to go to Sheffield to get the parts for it.”
Mr Swara, who picks up fares from the taxi rank at Hull Paragon, says that on a typical night transporting 20 customers, a third of them will cause problems.
“When there is a long queue people will try to cut through and offer you more money to take the fare,” Mr Swara said.
“You can’t call the police all the time and I feel guilty when I do call them because you know they have more important things to do.
“I know they are busy but sometimes you need their help and have no choice.”
Recently, an incident in Mr Swara’s taxi saw him decide to quite the trade for good and apply for a HGV licence.
He was taking two women home from a night out who did not have any money to pay. He claims he was convinced they were going to do a runner so said he would take them back to where he picked them up.
However, he alleges the women began hurling abuse at the driver and says they caused over £400 worth of damage to his car, prompting Mr Swara to take them straight to the police station.
“That was the final straw and it made me not want to do it any more after eight or nine years of being in the trade,” he said.
“The majority of customers are good but sometimes people cause a fuss. Sometimes you ask for cash up front and you explain to them why you are having to do that but they won’t give it to you.
“Most of the time it is drunk people but sometimes people just get in the taxi with no money.
“People need to make sure that when they come out they have enough money for the taxi home. Taxis are very important, especially for drunk people, and we keep them safe but people don’t appreciate that.
“I will always wait for a person to get inside and people need to respect us. They need to be aware that we may ask for cash up front. It’s nothing against people – we just want to make sure we get paid.”
Peter Nilsson , who is the chairman of the Hull Hackney Carriage Association, reiterated that taxi drivers have a right to end journeys immediately should they be subjected to abuse en route.
He also said that if someone refuses to pay, taxi drivers are entitled to drop customers off at a police station.
“Each taxi is an individual business. We expect to be paid for every journey. We advise taxi drivers that if someone refuses to pay that passenger should be dropped off at the nearest police station.
“That is a safe place to leave anyone. We don’t expect people to be abandoned on the street.”
Anyone who wants to complain about their taxi experience should call Hull City Council’s licensing authority on 01482 300 300.