A FEMALE church minister was ordered to get out of a complimentary taxi miles from her East Lothian home in the middle of the night after missing the last train home.

Deacon Elizabeth Harfleet was in a taxi booked by Virgin Trains after delays to her journey on their service saw her miss her connection. But she said the taxi driver only took her as far as Newcraighall – seven miles short of her home in Tranent – and then insisted he had not been told to take her further.

Faced with being abandoned on the street at 1.15am on a freezing winter night, Mrs Harfleet said that she paid the driver an additional £16 to take her home.

But she has spoken out in concern for the safety of other women who may have found themselves in the same position without any money who could have been put at risk.

She said: “I was shocked that the taxi driver was prepared to leave me on a pavement, in the early hours of the morning with a large suitcase, if I did not have money to pay him.Surely in a case like this safety should be placed above profits?

“It concerns me that this could happen, particularly at this time of year, to women in a more vulnerable position.”

Mrs Harfleet, 56, of Forthview Walk, who is a circuit minister with the Methodist Church in Scotland, was returning from a conference in Birmingham on Saturday, December 2, when delays meant she did not arrive at Edinburgh Waverley Station until 12.45am.

Virgin staff immediately organised ongoing taxis for passengers who were stranded. She gave them her details and was told she would be sharing her cab with another passenger going to Newcraighall.

However, she said that when that passenger was dropped off she was in for a shock. She said: “I told the driver I would direct him to my home in Tranent and he said he had only been booked to go as far as Newcraighall. He was adamant I would have to get out and was ready to leave me there.

“I recognised that this was not the time or place to get into an argument with a man I didn’t know. I had been given an assurance by the train manager that I would get home safely. I should not have had to do this but I offered to pay to be taken home. Of course money talks and then, meter on, we were on our way. I arrived home at 1.30am.

“Virgin Trains have a duty of care to their passengers and this situation might have been avoided with clearer communication.

“The taxi driver concerned demonstrated the most appalling dereliction of duty and passenger care I have ever encountered. He put money above safety. Who would leave a woman stranded on a roadside in the early hours of the morning, knowing this was not the chosen destination? Clearly this man would, without a thought – shocking beyond words. I just happened to have cash on me. I just happened to be able to communicate easily and be assertive. What if that had not been the case for someone else? The outcome may have been different.”

Virgin Trains were asked for a comment but have not yet responded.