Hunt for culprit after Normacot taxi firm has phone line cut on New Year's Eve
TAXI drivers believe they are being deliberately targeted after their phone line was cut on New Year's Eve – costing them thousands of pounds in lost fares.
Ace Private Hire says it missed out on up to 1,000 bookings as it was unable to receive calls for two-and-a-half hours on Monday night.
An unknown offender cut a phone cable running outside the firm's base in Normacot Road, Normacot, at 10.30pm.
Directors at Ace, which was launched last month, suspect the offence was part of a campaign to drive the company out of business.
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Five advertising signs belonging to Ace were also smashed a week earlier.
Company co-founder Mohammed Amin said: "It was about 10.30pm on New Year's Eve when we stopped receiving calls. At first we thought it was a problem with the phone company, but when we looked outside we could see that someone had actually cut the phone line.
"We had to pay about four times the standard rate to get an engineer out that night to fix it. But even if it had cost 10 times as much we still would have paid it, as we had to get our phones working again.
"We had 30 drivers standing around doing nothing. Everyone was getting very stressed out. We could hear the New Year fireworks going off outside but we still weren't getting any calls. As soon as the line was fixed we took 300 bookings in half an hour. We must have lost between 800 and 1,000 bookings. We want to apologise to our customers."
A group of existing taxi drivers launched Ace last month, hoping they would be able to compete with bigger firms by offering a cheaper minimum fare.
Whereas most firms charge a minimum of £3, Ace offer a £2 minimum, which Mr Amin believes makes the company more attractive to pensioners and others on a limited income. But it appears that not everyone has been happy with the new company's arrival.
Mr Amin added: "We've sponsored two roundabouts on Lightwood Road, but in the early hours of Christmas Day, one of our drivers saw that our signs on the roundabouts had been smashed. You see sponsored roundabouts all over the place, but only our signs have been damaged.
"I've never heard of anything like this happening."
A spokesman for Staffordshire Police said: "We received a report of damage to five wooden advertising signs in Lightwood Road between 12am and 6am on Tuesday December 25. It was also reported that at around 10.30pm on Monday December 31 damage was caused to a phone line at a business premises in Normacot Road."
Anyone with information on either incident is asked to contact Staffordshire Police on 101 quoting incident number 502 of January 1.