St Albans taxi drivers accused of illegally cherry picking fares at nightclub

Potters Bar residents are being asked to give their views on transport in the town

Potters Bar residents are being asked to give their views on transport in the town

Archant

Taxi drivers have been accused of cherry picking fares at a popular city nightclub and leaving young people struggling to get home safely in the early hours of the morning.

Clubgoers living near Batchwood in St Albans maintain they have been turned away by taxi drivers because their journeys home are too short to clock up enough on the meter.

That is leaving them with no choice other than to share their taxi home, with its associated safety risks, or walk home from the club, which is situated well away from lit main roads.

A 22-year-old woman, who lives near Club Batchwood and wishes to remain anonymous, told the Herts Advertiser that she had been rejected for a lift home on numerous occasions, most recently on the bank holiday weekend.

She said: “When I was leaving Batchwood the taxi driver locked his doors before I had a chance to get in.

“He told me to go to another taxi but when I tried they all pointed me back to the taxi at the front of the queue, and the driver wouldn’t take me.

“Luckily, there was a group going to Harpenden that let me in their cab, otherwise I would have had to walk down the long wooded driveway. It’s not acceptable or safe.”

Another woman, 20, who lives on Harpenden Road, said she had encountered a similar experience returning from Club Batchwood when she tried to get a taxi home with her friends who live in Ellis Fields.

She said: “They were hesitant to take us because they thought the journey wasn’t long enough. When we got to my house, they said they wouldn’t take my friends back to Ellis Fields unless they paid him another £10 - he expected two girls to walk home alone in the dark from my house. They ended up paying him the extra.”

The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act is quite clear on the issue - it says that drivers who fail to pick up a fare without good reason could be prosecuted or dealt with on a licencing level.

Mudassar Yasin, general secretary St Albans & Harpenden Taxi Association (SAHTA), an organisation which supports and advises taxi drivers in the district, was very shocked to hear that drivers were denying customers a safe journey home.

He said: “They can’t refuse the customers unless they have a good reason. That’s the law.

“If they are breaching that law then customers need to make a complaint. They can’t carry on doing what they’re doing.”

St Albans council said it had not received any complaints recently but a spokesperson commented: “The council takes any complaint about cherry picking very seriously and any complaints should be passed onto the council so we can investigate and take action.”

The council is currently appealing to city centre bars and clubs to share the financial cost of the taxi marshall scheme which was set up to ensure people returned safely after a night out.

A number of pubs and clubs, including Batchwood, have made financial contributions to the scheme and Cllr Anthony Rowlands, chair of the council’s local services scrutiny committee, said: “We are now giving other late-night licensed premises a nudge to do their bit. We are not asking for a great deal of money, so we are hoping for a good response.”

Anyone who has been refused a fare can complain to licensing@stalbans.gov.uk or call 01727 296125.

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