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Taxi drivers ask Barrow Borough for fares to be increased

TAXI drivers are pleading with Barrow Borough Council to raise tariffs, amid fears fierce competition for fares is posing a threat to passenger safety.

Prices for the town’s 181 hackney drivers have been frozen since April 2008, despite surges in fuel costs, insurance premiums and other running expenses.

Drivers claim this means many are earning less than the minimum wage, and some are forced to work up to 20 hours a day just to make ends meet.

Robert Laurie has worked as a hackney driver in Barrow for 17 years, and said some cabbies were getting so desperate for fares they were a risk to themselves and others.

He said fatigue, stress and tensions between hackney and private firm drivers were a potentially explosive mix that could be eased by higher tariffs.

“They’re having to work those hours because the income’s so bad,” Mr Laurie said. “No one’s making any money at all.

“The average, if you’re lucky, is £4 an hour, and tempers are rising.

“It’s every man for himself out there and unless it’s sorted, it will lead to violence.”

Hackney cabbies work mainly from the town’s ranks and are outnumbered almost two-to-one by drivers from private hire-only operators.

While private firms have discretion to set their own tariffs, hackney drivers are completely at the mercy of the town hall.

Mr Laurie, who works 54 hours in an average week, has presented the council with a detailed report into the costs associated with being a hackney driver. He said the tariffs, which start at £2 before midnight and rise to £3 after midnight, have contributed to ever-shrinking profit margins and added competition for precious fares.

“When I first started this job 17 years ago you didn’t even overtake a fellow taxi going down Abbey Road,” he said.

“You followed that car all the way into the rank and pulled in behind him and nobody ever picked up behind anyone else.

“That’s what I’d like to see come back, because it’s just total chaos.”

Fellow hackney driver Ted Clark has 20 years’ experience behind the wheel in Barrow, and said there were simply too many cars serving too few people.

He said the economic downturn meant fewer late-night revellers in the town centre on Friday and Saturday nights, meaning drivers were increasingly reliant on the limited daytime shopping trade.

He said as a result many taxi drivers had to rely on welfare payments to top up their weekly wages.

“It’s like a subsidised job,” he said.

“There’s more taxis in this town than there is in the whole of the rest of the Furness peninsula.”

Barrow Borough Council’s health and safety team leader Owen Broadhead said at this stage, there did not appear to be enough support within the local industry for the council to consider rising tariffs.

“I can confirm that a rise in the tariff for hackney carriages has to be requested by the majority of the trade before it can be taken to the licensing sub committee,” he said.

“We have received a recent petition which is in favour of a rise and as this has only 25 signatures it is some way short of the requirement.”

Have your say


Posted by ANJI on 15 May 2012 at 17:02

I'd like to take the time to reply to one or more of these comments, if I may? To Barry Green:- There is not a little "clique" between the Environmental Health Dept and six drivers trying to dictate fares and where ranks should be. These few drivers take time out of their day, for free as they lose what work there is, to try and help a growing problem with the trade in town and also the dangers that are beginning to concern Barrow police and highways. They were not elected as it was done impromptu as a matter of safety, a meeting was requested and a rapport was struck up between all parties involved. Unfortunately, you have been told (or led to believe) that it's some sort of 'conspiracy' to hinder everybody else in the trade and if that is your belief, then nothing anybody can say or do will change that! As for the free advertising for City Lynx, good on you.

Terence Brown:- I do not understand what you are trying to say. Sorry!

The taxi trade in Barrow has fallen behind everywhere else within the locality and needs to be brought in line with todays cost of living. This will not happen overnight and will take time, luckily, most of the general public realise this. Barrow taxi rates are very reasonable and when people visit the town, they cannot believe just how cheap they are.

Finally, I am not saying this as an outsider, I have been in the trade for over 20 years and have worked in quite a few areas of this country. I currently earn less than I did in 1996 and believe that fares need to go up to cover ever rising costs. What should have been going on was a yearly price rise in accordance with inflation but this has gone by the wayside. It's also wrong that there must be some sort of proposition put forward before a committee before a price rise is even considered, let alone agreed. This should be decided by the licensing officials who have been appointed.

Posted by Toe on 10 May 2012 at 17:42

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