Uttlesford District Council turn down fixed price taxi fares
A SCHEME to introduce fixed taxi fares in order to protect drivers who often feel “unsafe” and “threatened” at work has been turned down.
Some cabbies in Uttlesford want standardised fares because the current system is causing mistrust amongst passengers who are paying one fare one day and a completely different one the next – for the same journey.
Steve Alsford, who runs four Hackney Carriages throughout day and night shifts, including regular stints to and from train stations and pubs, says that drivers are often faced with angry reactions.
“From the public’s point of view the fares are inconsistent and this is promoting mistrust in taxi drivers,” he said. “They are being questioned when someone is asked to pay more than they did for the same journey on a different occasion. It causes unnecessary friction and people feel like they are being ripped off.
“It can lead to an unsafe and uncomfortable situation where taxi drivers feel threatened. At least with fixed prices people know what they are going to get.”
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Currently, the district council’s licensing committee sets maximum fares only, in agreement with the Uttlesford Licensed Operators and Drivers Association (ULODA). Drivers are then free to set lower prices after negotiating with customers or by giving discounted journeys.
The licensing committee said that promoting a free market was too important in the interests of customers. They agreed to raise the maximum fare but not standardise it.
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Cllr Janice Loughlin said: “We cannot have a taxi driver cartel, this would take away freedom of trade and free enterprise. We would be stopping competition completely.
“I appreciate that different fares cause confusion sometimes, but passengers can see a chart in the car with maximum fares. If they negotiate a better deal then that is just good business.”
Licensing committee chairman Cllr Eric Hicks agreed. “We are not in a position to tell drivers that they cannot charge a lower rate,” he said.
“We have to give them that opportunity.”
A five per cent rise (20p extra for the first mile and 11p per extra mile) in maximum fares was agreed, mainly to balance fuel costs.
ULODA chairman Barry Drinkwater said: “Vehicle running costs have increased and we have all suffered in the past 12 months since the last increase in fares. This is a welcome decision from the council.”
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