Commissioner orders hike in taxi fares

Taxi fares across the Borders will rise by 4 per cent next month following a decision by deputy traffic commissioner Richard McFarlane.

The hike represents a victory for operators who appealed last November’s decision by the council to freeze fares in the coming year.

“I believe the increase in fares is both justified and appropriate,” concluded Mr McFarlane, who presided over the appeal hearing in Galashiels last month.

His intervention and arbitration had been sought by David Cox and Michael Howell, who run taxi businesses in Peebles and Galashiels respectively.

“This is great news for an industry which provides a vital transport service across the region,” said Mr Cox of the increase which will apply to all 355 metered taxis licensed by the council.

From midnight on April 9, the flag rate – the amount shown on the meter at the start of each journey – will go up 10p to £2.25 for a standard four-passenger cab and rise 15p to £3.40 for larger vehicles.

The mileage rate will also go up, with Mr McFarlane decision to reduce the distance taxis may travel – from 97.5 metres to 93.6 metres – before a 10p rate (15p for larger vehicles) is clicked.

This means that for every mile travelled, a charge of £1.72 is incurred – up from the current £1.65.

The new rates will be reflected in unsocial hours and festive season fares, which will remain levied at 25 per cent above the norm.

The delay in implementation will allow meters to be recalibrated.

Messrs Cox and Howell had argued the council should have applied a tried and tested formula for annual increases.

The council contended that when it had suggested a 7 per cent increase in the flag rate alone at a series of consultation meetings last year, few trade members bothered to turn up. The decision to freeze the fares was also informed by the fall in fuel prices.

“The taxi industry is the only one in which businesses have their income set by councils and this is the third time in recent years that the Traffic Commissioner has upheld an appeal by local operators,” said Mr Cox. “It is a low-paid sector and this decision will make a real difference, not only for individuals, but also for the local economy.”

A spokesman for the council told The Southern: “The council welcomes the decision to reach a compromise of a 4 per cent rise. It will allow officers to set in motion the remaining process to fix the fare scale for 2015 [from December]. In his decision, Mr McFarlane noted the difficulty officers had carrying out the statutory consultation process with a trade that still has no association.”