Councillors back a freeze on taxi fares

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There will almost certainly be no increase in charges for Borders taxi users in the coming year.

On Tuesday, the council’s executive, which licenses the region’s 355 taxis, voted to keep fares at current levels.

In so doing, councillors rejected a recommendation from their own officers that the “flag rate” – the amount shown on the meter at the start of each journey – should be increased by 7 per cent from December 1.

A report from transport management team leader Tim Stephenson revealed that when this proposal was put out to the trade in September, only one taxi business responded with a letter. And at four consultation meetings set up by the council in Galashiels, Peebles, Hawick and Duns, a total of just nine operators attended.

That apparent indifference was cited by SBC leader David Parker as he moved for no change in current fare levels.

After this was endorsed with a 10-3 vote, he told The Southern: “The response from the industry, apart from one operator who challenged the whole formula for fare setting, has been negligible.

“In light of this and to help the hard-pressed Borders public, we agreed to peg maximum fares at current levels although operators can set fares as they see fit within these parameters.”

However, Mr Parker did concede it was unfortunate that such an important part of the region’s public transport sector had no trade organisation to represent it.

“I hope that next year when we do our annual fare review, this has changed and we can sit down with representatives of operators, perhaps on a regional basis, to discuss the best way forward, including a review of the fare-setting formula we use.”

The lone voice of dissent against the proposed “flag rate” increase was Colin Ross who runs the Yellow Cab Company in Peebles. In his letter calling for an increase in the mileage rate, he said each vehicle would have to make 300 journeys just to cover the cost of meter recalibration.

Taxi operators dissatisfied with Tuesday’s decision have 14 days to lodge an appeal with the Traffic Commissioner.