TAXI drivers lose up to £55 per week through customers failing to pay fares, according to an initiative designed to combat the problem.

More than 400 instances of non-payment have been reported to Cleveland Police over the last 12 months.

On average, taxi drivers lose between £30 and £55 per week, with most fares lost on weekends when dealing with drunk or abusive customers.

Cleveland Police is now launching an initiative whereby passengers pay in advance for their journey.

The force's Assistant Chief Constable Jason Harwin said: “We’ve been working with our partners across the Cleveland Police area and identified that taxi drivers are victims of crime, including assault, racial abuse and making off without payment.

“We will treat all investigations of crime seriously and we have been talking to local taxi firms to minimise disputes and altercations.

"Taxi drivers from across our area have been encouraged to take payment up front and there will be information inside their vehicles to highlight Cleveland Police fully supports this – if you don’t want to pay up front, don’t be surprised if your journey doesn’t start.

“Under Operation Deal, we will also deliver training to our officers, so they can deal with offences against taxi drivers or companies.”

For more information on the scheme, contact council taxi licensing teams.