Problems getting in and out of the city centre at night is a major barrier to attracting more people to use the capital after dark, according to a new report.
Cardiff residents have called for a public transport solution to allow them to get home once the clock strikes midnight.
The report shows how a survey of 3,000 people found there needs to be a public transport option late at night, particularly for those living outside of the city boundaries.
Over a third of those surveyed – by the council’s economy and culture scrutiny committee – said poor public transport prevented them from visiting the city centre more often at night.
After around 11.30pm the city centre becomes taxi reliant and councillors want to see more done to get people home after a night out.
The report states: “High taxi standards are an essential factor in improving the customer experience within the city centre at night.
“Many members of the public have highlighted that there is a need to improve the customer experience within taxis at night.”
Councillors will call on the council executive to improve the ability of customers to complain about taxis, improve the placement of taxi ranks and raise awareness of how customers can complain about taxis.
Cardiff council’s chair of licensing, Ed Bridges, said the council needed to make it clearer how customers could complain about taxis.
He said: “We need to provide easy access to the complaints procedure for people. We don’t see that many complaints as a committee but that doesn’t mean there aren’t many.
“The report shows there is some dissatisfaction with the taxi industry in Cardiff and we need to work with the trade to better educate drivers, make it clear how customers can complain and we will do this.”
Coun Bridges said the new BTEC brought in to improve driver standards would make a difference over time.
The report also want to council’s executive to “undertake meaningful discussions” with Cardiff Bus about how to improve late night public transport provision at weekends.
A late-night bus service, the L8, was withdrawn by Cardiff Bus in March 2006 because not enough people were using it.
Econony and culture scrutiny chief, Coun Mohammed Islam, said subsidising a night bus could be an option.
He said: “Although the companies tell us they can’t do a bus, I think if there is the demand and the need this could be something the council could pursue.
“For those on lower incomes and wanting to move freely between their homes and the city centre having public transport is very important.”
Manging Director of Cardiff Bus, David Brown, said there just wasn’t the demand to justify a service.
He said: “Cardiff Bus piloted night time services on core corridors in Cardiff on Friday and Saturday nights from 2003 to 2006. These were operated on a commercial basis, with Safer Cardiff providing trained security guards to ensure passenger safety, and support from the police.”
“In practice there was very limited demand for the service, with the only meaningful loadings occurring at times when there were long queues for taxis.
“We note that the respondents who cited public transport as an issue were primarily from outside of Cardiff. We offer an extensive network of services within Cardiff, with our last buses from the city centre leaving at typically 11.20pm, serving the many people who have gone for a traditional evening out – for example to the pub, restaurant or the cinema. For those staying out beyond this time, typically visiting night clubs, all the evidence we have seen indicates a preference for taxi use.”
Stage Coach Bus Service told the council the provision of night buses related to staff safety and whether the service can be operated viably (with local authority support or commercially).
They said some services had previously been double-manned to prevent alcohol-related incidents, and they needed to keep the safety of other passengers in mind.
Chair of Cardiff Hackney Carriage Association Mathab Khan said any night bus idea would be “ridiculous”.
He said: “It would be a waste of public money. It would be ridiculous.
“I do not believe what people say about a lack of taxis. We are queueing for the ranks from early in the evening.
“I think the council needs to think very seriously before putting any public money into a night bus. The bus companies are just getting greedy.”
Abdi Ahmed, chairman of the Union of Taxi Drivers, said he welcomed any move to raise standards.
He said: “I want to work with the council to make sure we’ve got the best taxi situation in the city.
“You have to understand the financial pressures on taxi drivers at the moment, and any bus service would hurt us.”
Mr Ahmed said it was important taxi drivers were being positive about the city as they were often the first people tourists would meet.
From the archives: Cardiff’s previous night bus trauma
February 2003 – Cardiff Bus announces plans for an all-night bus service on Friday and Saturday nights. Running to areas like Pontprennau and Llanrumney, the buses would run on an hourly basis until 3.30am or 4am.
September 2003 – Six month trial begins from September 26th of the late-night buses. The buses have security staff onboard. Passengers are charged a flat £2 fare but revellers who travel in earlier using the bus can get a £3 return ticket.
October 2003 – The Cardiff L8 night bus is declared a success – the first weekend saw 271 people taken home and the second weekend the numbers jumped to 454.
December 2003 – Admiral sponsors the L8 service during the Christmas period to help party-goers to get home safely.
July 2004 – The L8 bus service is extended beyond its initial pilot date, while the first signs of trouble show as the Echo publishes CCTV of a fight breaking out on a night bus and one man pinning a victim up against a window by his throat.
August 2004 – Barmaid Caz Williams is left with horrific injuries after she’s attacked by a man after getting the N17 night bus home.
January 2005 – A raunchy advertising campaign to encourage young revellers to use the night bus is given the thumbs up by regulators. The stickers with the slogan “Goes all the way for £3” drew complaints after it featured an image behind the headline of a photograph of a man and a woman hugging as the woman removes the man’s shirt.
August 2005 – First Cymru consider withdrawing the X2 late night bus between Cardiff and Bridgend after violent behaviour by “drunken yobs”.
February 2006 – The L8 bus service from Cardiff Bus is scrapped due to falling usage numbers. Managing director David Brown said: “The L8 partnership with Cardiff council and the Community Safety Partnership is a high-cost operation because of the need for security staff, and back-up control and engineering staff. It was always dependent on funding support from a variety of organisations and on growing passenger numbers.”
“Buses stop operating too early and taxis are too expensive” – say Cardiff’s residents
A survey of 3,000 residents found late night transport was a big put-off to people coming into the city centre, here’s what some of them had to say:
“Poor public transport both in to and out of the city centre. Buses stop operating too early and taxis are too expensive.”
“Taxi cabs are extremely poor at taking passengers home – they ‘cherry pick’ the best fares, often refusing to take local people home instead preferring to take passengers to out of town areas. This is a phenomenon that has been happening for a couple of years since Cardiff centre has become busier.”
“Lack of public transport to the valleys after 10pm. The last bus stops too early.”
“The taxi drivers are a disgrace at night. I have had numerous problems with drivers demanding £40-£50 for a trip home to Radyr! Please look into the taxi service at night.”
“An ongoing problem is that many of the taxi drivers in Cardiff today lack knowledge of the basic geography of Cardiff and the surrounding areas.”
“The taxi situation in Cardiff is a disgrace. Taxis do not pick up from designated ranks which forces people to walk out of town in the hope that one will stop on a busy road. It is dangerous.”
Your views: On a Cardiff night bus
Adam Johns, 21, Llanishen, student: “I believe buses should operate later into the night but the problem in implementing a ‘night bus’ of sorts is the extra security it involves. It opens a can of worms really!”
Matthew Blackhouse, 26, Penylan, event planner: “I think the taxi situation has improved markedly over the last few years with the introduction of the marshalls to keep order. It used to be the case that the taxi’s wouldn’t take you further than five miles, that’s changed now.”
Laura Young, 23, Barry, marketing executive: “I used to live on St Mary’s Street which was obviously very ideal for going out but now I’m living back home in Barry which makes a ‘night bus’ more of an appeal to me than taxis.”
Chloe Price, 19, Cathays, student: “Trains and buses do stop really early but if you’re sharing a taxi I suppose it’s not that bad. It’s when you’re on your own at night where it become expensive.”