Cab company becomes a big cat of the taxi world after swallowing up a competitor

Hawaii Five O taxis outside their base on Port Lane in Colchester. Picture: David Hill

Hawaii Five O taxis outside their base on Port Lane in Colchester. Picture: David Hill - Credit: Archant

A taxi company in Colchester has become one of the biggest cab companies in the region, after taking over one of the town’s other leading taxi operators.

Panther Cabs, which is based on Gosbecks Road, has just bought Hawaii Five-0, and now employs a total of 160 drivers.

Hawaii Five-0 began in 1999 and was run by Christie Wettasinghe, who has decided he wants to retire.

All calls to Hawaii Five-0 are now being redirected to Panther.

It’s the second buy-up for Panther, as two years ago the company bought another Colchester cab firm, PDQ cars.

Despite managing to successfully growing her business, Panther’s managing director Christine Hardy says the taxi market gets “harder and harder each year.”

“We just have to put the hours in to earn the money,” said the 56 year-old. “The drivers have to do 10 to 12 hours a day to earn enough money. They really have to put the effort in.”

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Panther Cabs was set up by Ms Hardy in 2000, and she’s been in the cab market - as both a driver and as a control room operator - since she was 17.

Is she worried that Uber might expand into Colchester and start taking business off the town’s established taxi companies? “I’m not worried about Uber,” she said. “We have an app, so its the same sort of service that Uber provide - if not better. Our drivers are all CRB checked and we can check where the drivers are at any given moment.”

Colchester Borough Council is currently considering plans to install cameras in all the town’s cabs, and Ms Hardy says she is supportive of the plans.

“Its extra security for the drivers and the customers, but more for the drivers in this day and age,” she said. “Two weeks ago, one of my drivers had a knife held to him to hand over his wallet.

“Is it getting more dangerous to be a taxi driver? It depends who you speak to - this year, knife crime and drugs have gotten worse. But you could get attacked anywhere. I advise my drivers to keep calm and always try to be nice to people.”

As well as offering ladies cars for those who prefer a female driver, Ms Hardy now runs an ‘executive hire’ service at Panther, with a fleet of Mercedes and BMWs. “I’m going into that side of the business more now,” she said.