Judgement on taxi fare freeze delayed

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A hearing into Scottish Borders Council’s decision to freeze taxi fares across the region has been adjourned.

After taking evidence for two hours in Galashiels on Friday, Richard McFarlane, depute traffic commissioner for Scotland, decided he required more documented information from both sides in the dispute.

The hearing was called after two operators – Michael Howell from Galashiels and David Cox of Innerleithen – lodged a formal appeal against the fare freeze.

They objected to a decision made by SBC’s executive last November to peg the flag rate – the amount shown on the meter at the start of each journey – at a maximum off-peak level of £2.15 for cars and £3.25 for larger vehicles.

On Friday, the council, which licences 355 taxis, defended the way it had conducted its review of fares, which included four consultation meetings with the trade. Messrs Howell and Cox claimed the local authority had failed to honour and apply an agreed fare-setting formula that not only took account of the flag rate, but also of mileage and waiting times. They contended that only a small potential increase in the flag rate had been put out to consultation.

After the hearing was adjourned, a spokesperson for the traffic commissioner told The Southern: “The commissioner has asked both parties [operators and council] to provide further written evidence. When this has been considered, the commissioner will either make a decision based on this evidence or reconvene the hearing.”

Meanwhile, the council agreed last week to increase the price of a three-year taxi operator’s licence from £573 to £588, and to raise the annual fee for a taxi driver’s licence from £82 to £84 from April 1.