Taxi drivers’ fury at Yarmouth fare hike rejection

TAXI drivers in Great Yarmouth say their businesses will be brought to their knees after the council rejected proposals for a fare hike that would have made borough cabs among the most expensive in the county.

Ten drivers and taxi firm owners in the borough pleaded with councillors at a meeting of the borough licensing committee on Tuesday to allow them to raise daytime fares by what they termed a “modest” 24p a mile.

But the committee rejected the proposal by eight votes to three in a bid to protect under-pressure households struggling to make ends meet.

Committee chairman George Jermany said while the rise had been refused there would be a review of prices in a year’s time, instead of the usual three years, when changes could be made to the fares. He added: “The reason why we have refused the increase is because we are in a low employment area.

“And we thought that by agreeing this increase, Yarmouth would go from having the lowest to the second most expensive for fares in Norfolk.”

Following the meeting, Cliff Bennett, chairman of the Yarmouth Borough Taxi Drivers Association, said the last fare hike was five years ago when rates rose by 20p.

However, since then the economic downturn had triggered an inflationary increase in the cost of fuel, which had hit taxi drivers particularly hard, he added.

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“There will be taxi drivers going under, and I hope they bear that on their conscience,” Mr Bennett said.

And Michael Yaxley, owner of Yaxley’s Taxis, said he would struggle to pay insurance costs which were set to increase by 15 or 20pc.

The proposals involved keeping the starting rate the same but adding 20p at shorter intervals – every 176 yards (one tenth of a mile) – against 200 yards last year.

Mr Bennett told the meeting there had not been a fare increase for five years, and the association had considered the impact on passengers who themselves were struggling due to the downturn before calling for a fare hike.

He said: “I think it is a fair increase, not too high, not too low. Bearing in mind the business has slowly been declining and basically we do need it. We are working longer hours for less these days.”

Brian Walker, who represents Magdalen ward on the borough council, raised concerns that the new fares, which represented the maximum taxi firms could charge, would give leeway for some companies leaving the same taxi rank to charge less than others.

Another concern was that private hire fares would be affected, meaning passengers needing to get to London airports would also face a fare hike.

But Roy Symonds, the association’s secretary and legal representative, who owns Orion taxis, said taxi firms generally charged less than the metered fee for these longer journeys.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Was the council right to reject the increase to help passengers or should the drivers have been compensated for the fuel and insurance hikes? Write to the editor Anne Edwards at the address on our letters pages.