doc

A TAXI firm in Taunton has hit back against claims they dumped two girls in a lay-by following a night out.

The father of one of the girls contacted the County Gazette to say his daughter was ill in the cab, run by A1 Ace Taxi, and paid the soiling charge but then claimed she was left by the side of the road with her friend near Hollywood Bowl, around a mile from her Henlade home.

The man, who did not want to be named, said he was concerned other youngsters might be put in jeopardy on their way home from a night partying in Taunton.

Matt Woodford, director at A1 Ace Taxis, said his CCTV in the car showed one of the girls being sick, paying a soiling charge before asking the driver to leave his cab despite the offer of a lift home.

He said there is a growing trend of people becoming less prepared before a night out.

He added: “It is a hard one because we do not want to drop people off early - we want to make sure they get home safe but all the drivers are self employed and work on a commission basis too, so it is difficult.

“My advice would be for people to be more prepared, 15-20 years ago people used to get a taxi in and have another booked already to go home.

“Now it is so easy to get a taxi that people forget and spend all their money on alcohol and therefore there are a lot more people walking homes these days.”

Taxi trade is licensed by Taunton Deane Council who set maximum tariffs for firms to abide to.

Adrian Prior Sankey, of the Taunton Street Pastors, said they try to help people who are vulnerable or too drunk to get home.

He said: “Most people have a great night out in Taunton and we will do what we can but it is down to the youngsters to factor their journey home and money for it into a night out.”

Mr Woodford, whose firm have 60 cars around Taunton Deane, said there are occasions when people make it difficult for drivers.

He added: “We get some people who are genuine and do not have enough money to get home but then others will try to abuse that trust and get into a cab knowing they don't have the money and try to push their luck.

“We do what we can to get people home safe.”