Plea for higher cab fares to meet costs

Blackpool taxi cab
Blackpool taxi cab
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CAB fares in Blackpool could be set to rise.

The resort’s taxi drivers are asking the council for permission to increase charges by an average of 3.4 per cent across the board.

If it goes ahead it will mean passengers travelling in the town’s fleet of Hackney cabs having to pay an extra 20p on an average three mile journey, which would go up from £7.20 to £7.40.

It is the first application to increase fares since 2008.

Drivers say they need to remain competitive but the increased cost of maintaining vehicles has forced them to apply for an increase.

Bill Lewtas, secretary of the Blackpool Licensed Taxi Operators Association, said: “This is our first fare increase proposal since 2008.

“We have had huge increases in our operating costs since that date, but we are mindful of the need to remain competitive.

“For that reason we have kept the increase down to a little over three per cent, which is just one per cent per annum.”

The increasing cost of fuel, insurance and general maintenance has hit drivers who must now maintain their vehicles to a high standard set out in the council’s taxi policy in order to keep their licences.

Blackpool Council’s public protection sub-committee is due to consider the application when it meets at the town hall on Thursday.

A report to councillors says: “The council and taxi trade have previously agreed to use a formula to establish appropriate taxi fares which reflect average wages, vehicle running costs and enhanced insurance premiums.

“The average wage is based upon the North West of England rather than just Blackpool.

“Historically the increase in fares has been linked to agreed quality improvements, however, with the implementation of the Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy it is acknowledged that the costs incurred by the trade have increased.”

The last fare rise was agreed unanimously by the committee in April 2008 when the go ahead was given for an average nine per cent increase.

Rising fuel prices were blamed for the increase which saw the cost of a daytime journey of five miles go up by 60p from £9.80 to £10.40.

However individual operators, including the private hire trade, can offer discounts if they want to.

Councillors are also being recommended to approve a full review of taxis in the private hire sector.

Licensing officers say this would cover “ the issues of meters, fares, meter testing and vehicle licence conditions.”

If the sub-committee agrees to the proposals, a full report would be taken to a future meeting.

In recent years, the council has introduced an age limit on the taxi fleet as part of moves to drive up quality across all aspects of the town’s tourism offer.

Drivers say as well as having the burden of higher costs, recent roadworks in the town have disrupted their trade and drivers are having to work longer hours in order to make a decent living.