How Jeremy Kyle show emergency tested Doncaster taxi firm's panic button
Taxi firm boss Jaan Saqlain knows the cabs his Doncaster firm operates are safe.
Mr Saqlain, whose firm has grown from one office and five cars six years ago, to four offices and 177 cars today, has had to use the safety procedures himself in the past
He found himself pressing his car’s high tech panic button when he was carrying passengers, former prison inmates, to take part in the Jeremy Kyle Show, in Manchester.
The passengers were refusing to obey rules which insist they wear seatbelts, and flouting a ban on eating and drinking in the cab. Things become heated, and he started to feel unsafe.
He pressed the emergency button, which sent a message back to the office, on East Laith Gate. That was passed on to the police, and his car was intercepted by police.
They warned the passengers, who took the warning and changed their behaviour. After that, they completed the journey peacefully.
The process was one of a number of hi-tech security features that have been brought in at Absolute Cabs since Mr Saqlain opened the firm in 2013, aimed at keeping both passengers and drivers safe.
He also has all his vehicles tracked by satellite so that he can follow exactly where the drivers, who are self-employed, have taken the passengers, and the speed they drove at. And all the details are available to Doncaster Council, which licences taxi drivers in the borough.
Those who order taxis using the apps he has set up also get a photo of the driver sent to them, so they know who is picking them up. And rather than the driver having the passenger’s phone number to tell them when they have arrived to pick them up, their call is diverted direct to the customer, with the driver never seeing the number.
He hopes this is revolutionising the way taxis work in the borough.
He came into the business having started out working in retail, as a manager with Kwik Save, before working for Free Serve internet at Manvers. He also opened one of Doncaster’s first internet cafés when the internet was in its infancy in the borough. He has maintained an interest in technology and brought it to taxis.
It has proved successful. The company has merged with several other local cab firms over recent years, and has now set up links with major businesses including some of the town’s biggest hotels.
The hotels have electronic boxes from Absolute that allow receptionists to just press a button to call a cab, which will then tell them when it arrives.
The result is that hotels are now their top users, and the most popular destinations on their books, along with other major businesses in the borough. Passengers have included the former education secretary Lord Baker, when he come to Doncaster to speak on the University Technology College.
Mr Saqlain, who employs 20 people at his offices at East Laith Gate, Wood Street, Waterdale and Cantley, said: “I’ve brought new technology into the market, and we think its changing the taxi industry in Doncaster. It’s moved things away from just the Friday night pick-up, to being around repeat business and more Monday to Friday commercial business. It’s also about booking online, by text, phone and app.”
The firm has also taken advantage of the presence of Doncaster Sheffield Airport, and has done a lot of work for airlines. For instance, late last year, a runway problem at John Lennon Airport in Liverpool led to a jet being diverted to Doncaster. Absolute was called in to provide 32 cars to pick the passengers up and take them to their destination.
“They asked how long it would take,” said Mr Shaqlain, “We said we could have the cars ready in an hour. We set out in 30 minutes.”
They have also done runs from Doncaster to Cornwall for airlines because of cancellations.
Now there are plans to expand further. Another office is in the pipeline, to open in a location away from the town centre, the first new office since it opened its Civic Quarter Office last year.
Beyond that, there are plans to move into other cities.
“We are looking to work with franchising in other cities,” said Mr Saqlain. “We want to be recognised nationally, as a Doncaster business.
“We’ve already had interest from three cities, who want to have our brand and our systems. It’s a brand that’s started in Doncaster, and I think we are in a position to put Doncaster on the map.”
He is also working on plans to develop a support group for taxi drivers to look after the interests of cabbies across the borough, under the name of One Voice.