Taxi crisis plagues quake-damaged Christchurch

By Shelley Robinson

Taxi companies say tougher regulations and costly maintenance on vehicles because of damaged roads meant six operators had stopped since the earthquakes. Photo / Geoff Sloan
Taxi companies say tougher regulations and costly maintenance on vehicles because of damaged roads meant six operators had stopped since the earthquakes. Photo / Geoff Sloan

A lack of taxis in some parts of Christchurch is causing major problems for evening revellers trying to get home safely.

The drop off in taxi numbers is leaving agitated people outside pubs, leading to fights and tempting people to drive home after drinking.

Some taxi drivers are refusing to go to the eastern suburbs because of concern about damaging their vehicles on quake-damaged roads, which is compounding the problem.

New Brighton's Pierside Cafe owner Tony Brooks said since the earthquakes they could not get taxis to take their patrons home.

Security staff, bar managers and DJs were driving patrons home.

"This has been an issue from the moment the earthquake hit - this is not just a little problem, this is a big problem," he said.

"We had Midge Marsden here on Saturday and it was an amazing gig - but it was all soured at the end of the night by the lack of taxis," he said.

Mr Brooks said he had been pre-booking taxis for when the bar closed at 1am but they never turned up.

People were driving home drunk as a result.

"There is never an excuse for drink driving, but this isn't helping. They wait out in the cold for an hour for a taxi to show up and it never does," he said.

Fights among intoxicated people waiting for taxis were also a problem.

"They're drunk, they say something or do something and a fight will break out. This isn't just in New Brighton, I know it is happening in Merivale too," he said.

Taxi companies say tougher regulations and costly maintenance on vehicles because of damaged roads meant six operators had stopped since the earthquakes.

Blue Star Taxi's general manager Bob Wilkinson said: "Part of the issue is the way the bar scene has split, now the hotspots are in Riccarton, Lincoln Rd and Merivale and The Palms and it is pretty hard to cover all of those areas instead of just the central city before the earthquakes.

"Six taxi companies folded because new regulations mean they had to have 24-7 rosters, cameras in cars, a phone room and this added to the cost of running them."

First Direct's owner Pam Jackman said: "Our drivers don't want to go out to Brighton because of the roads." Ms Jackman said their taxi could do between 1000 and 3000 kilometres a week.

Ferrymead's Speight's Ale House restaurant manager Joseph Poulter said the most frustrating thing was waiting for the taxi companies to answer the phone on a Friday and Saturday.

"We just give up and try another number," he said.

Mr Wilkinson said there were only three major taxi companies left in Christchurch which were covering a city once serviced by more than nine.

- Christchurch Star

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