Shropshire taxi fares set to rise steeply as drivers buckle under surging fuel prices

Costs of travelling by taxi are set to rise by up to 20 per cent as hard-pressed drivers look to pay for rocketing fuel prices.

A taxi rank
A taxi rank

A consultation is set to be launched next month into an inflation-busting increase in Shropshire's Hackney carriage fares.

Hackney carriage operators - who are exclusively allowed to use taxi ranks - have to approach the council to increase regulated fares.

Private hire cabs, booked in advance by customers, operate under different rules and can set prices independently.

One of the major private cab operators, Go Carz, has increased a "temporary" 2.5 per cent surcharge introduced in March to an eye watering 4.75 per cent on many cash and card bookings.

The extra cost is added to bookings to help drivers cope with filling up their tanks.

A Go Carz spokesperson said: “We are aware of the pressure on driver-partners due to spiralling fuel prices.

“We introduced a fuel surcharge in March, which we have further reviewed with the continued increases in fuel.”

A review of Hackney carriage fares was launched after an operator asked Shropshire Council for help in covering costs.

Councillor Roy Aldcroft, Shropshire Council’s deputy cabinet member covering transport, and chair of strategic licensing committee, said: "Shropshire Council is well aware of the difficulties our taxi and private hire drivers are suffering.

"Following the loss of business from the continuing pandemic, and also now fuel prices skyrocketing, it was felt that some measure of help was required. Hence the slight increase in fares; trying to balance the income for drivers against costs for customers.”

A meeting of the strategic licensing committee last week approved launching a formal consultation next month on increasing fares by 30p per mile.

The rate is set to increase from £1.50 a mile to £1.80 a mile on the cheapest weekday tariff, with no change to the first-mile rate of £4.90.

Mandy Beever, transactional and licensing manager at Shropshire Council told last week's meeting that drivers will have the "flexibiity to charge less to their regular customers".

"It is important to note that the fare card states the maximum fare that can be charged.

"The proprietor can agree a lower fare with the passenger. A meter can also be set at a level lower than the council’s agreed fares on condition that the proprietor displays two fare cards, these being the council’s agreed fare card and one to show the lower fare to which the meter has been set."

Following the formal consultation, and prior to new fares coming into force, there is a requirement for the table of fares to be advertised in the local paper with a minimum 14-day consultation period.

If no representations are received, the fares would be introduced on September 1.

If representations are made, the council must set a date, no later than two months after the proposed implementation date, for the fares to come into effect, with or without changes.

An informal consultation with Hackney carriage drivers before last week's meeting revealed splits in the trade.

One operator said: "I do not think in this current climate with people struggling financially with energy and fuel this is a good idea.

"Taxi drivers will in my opinion price themselves out of work also as the fares are adequate as they are."

The opponent, who was not named said that drivers get 100 per cent relief off tax for their fuel.

They added: "Now is not the time. I make a living, albeit harder than normal, they should do as well. I suggest that we look at this in another 12 months.

"Drivers in this business need to be more sympathetic with the public and not look to make a quick easy buck."

The proprietor added: "I for one would like my meter prices to remain the same I’m more than happy and have a good regular clientele who are willing to pay the rates we’re on.

"They have supported us during and after Covid. Do we really want to remove that support of them and lose what we have. I don’t do I am against the proposal."

But others said they needed the extra 30p a mile and suggested more charges for luggage.

One said it was costing an average of an extra £15 to fill a fuel tank, while another said jobs in Shrewsbury town centre were short distances to get to but longer to return to the rank. They wanted an increase in the first mile rate.

The last fare rates were set on April 1, 2021 but can be reviewed on request to the council. The council has to go through a defined legal process before Hackney carriage fares are changed. That situation does not exist for private hire operators.

Ms Beever, the council manager, told councillors who approved the consultation, that the revised fares were "considered fair and reasonable when balanced with the rise in fuel prices and the cost of living.

"Hackney Carriage Proprietors will be able to increase their income to offset some of the increased costs whilst at the same time does not price themselves out of the market.

"Consideration has been made for the impact any increase in Hackney carriage fares may have on the travelling public for the same reasons it has on the Hackney carriage proprietors themselves.

"To offset changes in the marketplace and for Hackney Carriage Proprietors to retain their existing customer base they have the ability to charge up to the maximum amount on the Hackney Carriage Fare Card.

"This allows them to negotiate a reasonable price with their regular customers and retain their custom, whilst still enabling them to gain a margin of profit."

The council, she added also had a duty to support Hackney Carriage provision.

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