Taxi violence puts end to night shifts

A CAB driver has vowed never to work another night shift in Newcastle after a disgraceful night of violence and threats that brought him to tears.

The driver, who asked not to be identified, said he started working nights about two months ago, but will never do so again after he was repeatedly abused and threatened on Saturday night and yesterday morning.

A number of taxi drivers have been attacked and harassed around Newcastle at night during the past year, with driver advocates reporting staff are fed up with the risks they face doing their jobs.

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In September, a man was fined and ordered to compensate a cab driver after pleading guilty to assaulting him and maliciously damaging his cab.

Just a month earlier, a taxi driver reported being king hit after refusing to allow a muddy passenger into his cab.

The most recent driver ordeal began about 10.30pm on Saturday when the driver came across a young man of barely 20 who was kneeling or sitting in the middle of Wharf Road, Newcastle.

The driver slowed and gave a quick beep of the horn before the young man went berserk, punching and kicking the cab until the driver was able to move on.

The driver then picked up a fare near a bowling club about midnight _ a passenger, a neatly dressed man in his 30s, who refused to get rid of a large glass, described by the driver as ‘‘almost a stein’’ of wine.

The driver tried to refuse the man entry and tried to get the man’s friends to get out of the cab before the man drank the remainder of wine then threw the glass in the gutter.

The other passengers refused to get out and after much arguing the driver took them to Hamilton where he was continually abused and threatened.

The driver picked up another fare at New Lambton about 1am where one of the passengers got in the cab with a glass. There was much argument as the driver tried to enforce the rule that no one is to have food or drink in the cab.

‘‘Basically, the man continued to sit directly behind me with the glass in his hand and I thought he could glass me at any stage,’’ the driver said.

The driver later broke down in tears towards the end of his shift and called it quits at 3am instead of 5am. He said he was happy to forfeit the $400 to $500 he could make during a night shift in exchange for his safety and sanity.

‘‘These people think they can just do anything. They think we’re a government service or something. We’re not,’’ he said.

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