Taxi firms fail to ring up fares rise

TAXI fares in the Capital are to be frozen for up to 18 months after councillors rejected pleas by cabbies to increase tariffs.

Representatives of some of the city's leading firms had wanted to add 30p to the 1.60 daytime flat rate fee they charge at the start of each taxi journey. Evening "flag fall" charges would also have risen by 10p to 2.80.

They said the increase, which would result in the average daytime journey rising by about 3.8 per cent, was needed to counter rising costs.

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But councillors on the city's regulatory committee rejected the proposals, meaning fees will remain the same for up to 18 months.

A full investigation into taxi tariffs is now to be carried out by independent consultants ahead of the next fare review, in 2011-12.

Councillor Colin Keir, convener of the city council's regulatory committee, which is responsible for setting taxi tariffs, said: "Committee agreed that tariffs would stay the same. It was felt that, in these recessionary times and because of the fact that the previous award was based on higher fuel costs, it was right to keep things the same.

"We will now hold a series of consultations over the summer and we will look for an independent assessment of taxi fares through the procurement process.

"The main players in the taxi trade have accepted this and we are working with the trade to develop a strategy.

"I hope the travelling public will be pleased by this decision; I certainly don't know anyone that wants to pay a higher fare."

The increased fee proposed would have meant that Edinburgh would have had the 178th most expensive fares in the 380 UK council areas, based on an average two-mile daytime journey. The decision to freeze fares means the city remains 244th.

A full independent review of fares is likely to take place before a final decision is made, but Cllr Keir added that a review can happen earlier if there is a "material change" in circumstances, such as a big rise in the price of fuel.

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A meeting that included representatives from a number of Edinburgh taxi firms, as well as the Scottish Taxi Federation and the Airport Taxi Drivers Association, was held in February.

They argued that costs like license renewals, fuel, insurance and vehicle duty have increased. Les McVey, secretary of City Cabs, argued that the retail price index was 3.8 per cent in December.

Councillors rejected the fares increase despite council officials recommending that the rise gets the go-ahead.

In a report to councillors, Jim Inch, the city's director of corporate services, said: "The requested increase in fares appears to be justified and would not take fares in the city outwith the range of fares charged elsewhere in the UK."

Nobody at the Edinburgh Taxi Association was available to comment on the decision.