"It was a huge buzz": What Preston cabbies thought about 8-hour-round trips to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee to get stranded Avanti train passengers home

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Cabbies who literally went the extra mile for passengers this week have spoken about their eight-hour round journeys to Scotland and Cumbria.

On Monday evening, Avanti West Coast decided to pull the service from London to Edinbugh at Preston, with no trains going north that night.

The train company arranged for a fleet of taxis to take the stranded travellers onwards to their destinations, with hundreds of passengers ushered out of Preston station and into cabs for the remainder of their journeys.

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Read here about comedian James Nokise’s “insane” 11-hour journey

Taxi driver Zafar Iqbal at Preston Railway StationTaxi driver Zafar Iqbal at Preston Railway Station
Taxi driver Zafar Iqbal at Preston Railway Station

At around 8pm, Zafar Iqbal, a driver who works with Preston Railway Station bosses over disruptions, got the call and set to work mobilising more than 100 cab drivers with minibuses from the Preston area to drive hundreds of passengers home.

"It was exciting", said Zafar.

"The drivers were fresh and ready to work.

"We kind of travelled in convoy because a lot of us were going to the same places, and it was a huge buzz to see 15-20 minibuses from Preston crossing the border into Scotland at the same time."

Taxis waiting for passengers at Preston Railway StationTaxis waiting for passengers at Preston Railway Station
Taxis waiting for passengers at Preston Railway Station

Zafar was the one who issued the call to drivers on Whatsapp, with people cancelling meals and family events to jump in their cabs for a full nights work.

He said: "More than 100 drivers turned up to answer the call.

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"When it's a crisis, we pull together. And yes, taxi drivers will have made extra money that night, but it's about more that than - it's about getting passengers home safely, and honestly, the feedback was outstanding.

"People couldn't believe the service Preston station had put on."

Zafar had six people in his minibus, and took them to Glasgow - a journey of 183 miles.

He said: "Although the passengers were upset at the disruption, it was a great, friendly atmosphere in the cab. People were sharing their stories and making friends.

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"One of my passengers had a bad back and so I made sure to stop for him twice, so he could stretch.

"Another driver stopped for more than half an hour on his journey so that a mother could change her baby and he didn't get paid for that waiting time; he did it because it was the right thing to do.

"Another driver had passengers he was taking to a care home in Edinburgh, and he helped each one of them to the door.

"So it was a good end-to-end experience for all of them despite the initial upset."

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"Best in the country”

Zafar and his colleagues have been keen to praise the efforts of station staff, particularly station manager Shirley Ross, who Zafar described as "the best in the country".

He said: "There were lots of people turning up and hundreds of passengers to sort out, but the station staff had it all under control, and it was very well managed."

Mohammed Ayub decided to forgo a meal invitation to help out and ended up travelling to Dundee - a round trip of eight hours.

Heagreed that Shirley was "one of the nicest people you'll ever meet", adding: "The atmosphere was really good. The lads put their energy into it and they look forward to these kind of jobs."