One way the University of Essex boosts the local economy big-time is through the use of taxis and minicabs by staff and students.
They are hailing and booking to get their way to and from work — and late at night after going out.
According to Dave Cox, 53, from Five Sevens Taxis, the university is a main source of work on weekdays — though it doesn’t make a big difference to business on weekends.
With about 16,000 students and staff, the demand for taxis is shaped by the academic year.
“I mean, we do miss the university business in the summer,” he says. “We are very quiet and that’s for two reasons; the students are away and so are the army, so July and August you notice the difference.
“We definitely dip off in the summer and Easter holidays and it definitely affects the trade. For every three people you pick up in town, there’s one pick-up at the university.”
Business slows down towards the end of term as the students’ loans are running out, says Dave, who has been a local cabby for 20 years.
A survey of 70 staff and students at the university showed that more than half get cabs in the evening between 9pm and midnight, more than a third do so after midnight and one-fifth catch them on their morning commute to the university.
On Wednesday nights, the most popular night out of the week on the university campus, business can be bustling.
Dave says there is usually a peak early Thursday mornings when the students are making their way home.
“They tend to get there by themselves and we will take them home.”
Students aren’t the early-morning commuters, says Dave. “I mean, there is a bit of movement in the morning — things like if they’ve got an exam or need to get papers in by a certain time, they’ll jump in a cab. And the ball, you know the summer ball, we’ve come to pick them up and they are still having sex on the field – we’ve had that yeah…
“But no, the students are good as gold. I’ve never had a problem with them and I’ve been doing this 20 years.”
The survey says that Hawaii-5-0 is the most used by the university campus, with over half choosing the company as their main cab service.
However, Dave says that are also some downfalls to having a student population around.
“So say there are three cars out at town – we’re talking half-five, it’s a classic – not any of them cabs would want to go down to pick them up for two reasons.
“One is the traffic that side of town and two, they’ll book a taxi and jump in another taxi. But if you’re asking are they good for the economy, then yeah.”
Currently in Colchester there are 131 taxis, also known as Hackney Carriages, which can be hailed in the street, 568 private hire vehicles, which have to be prebooked and 58 private hire operators registered in the Colchester Borough Council.
The university campus is three miles outside town and has a regular bus service from the town centre and the railway stations in Colchester and Wivenhoe — but it has never managed to persuade railway operators to open a station in easy walking distance.