Taxi driver warns of backlash after scrapping of multiple passenger surchargeBy Laura Herbert
January 22, 2013
A taxi driver has warned there may be a backlash from drivers after a huge surcharge on multiple passengers was scrapped.
Imran Hussain, who has been a taxi driver in the town for 14 years, fears some Hackney carriage drivers may refuse to pick up more than four people after Wokingham Borough Council’s licensing committee agreed to scrap a 50 per cent surcharge for five or more passengers.
The surcharge means five or more people hiring a taxi between 6am and 11pm pay £4.50 and 30p for each subsequent 167 yards.
Councillor Malcolm Richards said: “There’s a justification for a higher price [for five or more passengers], but not this.”
There are 101 Hackney carriages in Wokingham borough and 90 vehicles can carry five or more people and disabled passengers.
The committee unanimously agreed to change the 50 per cent surcharge to a set fee of 50p per person when five or more people use a Hackney carriage, meaning the basic tariff for five people to hire between 6am and 11pm will be reduced to £3.50.
This change brings the borough in line with Guildford, which charges the same rate for additional passengers, while Slough drivers charge 20p per person for additional passengers over two and Reading and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead charge 20p per person for two or more passengers.
The committee also agreed not to increase tariffs by the recommended 10 per cent, as part of its annual review on Monday night.
After the meeting Mr Hussain accused the committee of being ‘out of touch’ and having a ‘lack of understanding’.
He said: “If the council makes a pig’s ear of this, which they have, drivers are going to refuse to pick up more than four passengers.
“A lot of guys want to go back to cars that fit four people.
“Ninety per cent of the fleet is MPVs, they should have had a mixed fleet.”
He continued: “It is a low skilled, low paid job, but it’s difficult with the abuse, the racism, the pukers and the runners.
“When I work late nights it’s not time-and-a-half, it’s danger money because you don’t know what’s going to happen. You are an easy target.”
Of the 101 Hackney carriage drivers only 26 responded with 20 people wanting no change, three wanted the 50 per cent surcharge to remain, one wanted to use their own discretion, one was in favour or removing the surcharge and one gave a general response about the tariff.
Mr Hussain added: “The guys didn’t buy big vehicles to become millionaires. We now pay double insurance, double road tax and more for fuel and maintenance.
“These drivers sit in their vehicles all times of the day, all weathers and the customers essentially go to them, it’s all about convenience. A private hire company would charge an extra 75 per cent to carry larger numbers of passengers.
“The taxis are an integral part of Wokingham’s transport logistics and you have got to pay a premium for that.”
The committee’s decision will now go to consultation.