Taxi fare increase anger

ANGER is mounting at plans to increase taxi driver licences by up to 80 per cent in a town where a lack of public transport often leaves late night revellers stranded at weekends.

ANGER is mounting at plans to increase taxi driver licences by up to 80 per cent in a town where a lack of public transport often leaves late night revellers stranded at weekends.

Taxi firms in the Sudbury area have labelled the plans, which also include a recommendation to increase taxi operator's licences by 50%, as "appalling" and claim the proposals will make it harder to attract new drivers.

But Babergh District Council officials have hit back and said the planned increases will help improve passenger safety and amount to less than the cost of a chocolate bar a week.

A lack of available taxi drivers for late night weekend shifts makes it difficult for people to get home after nights out in the town because there is no public transport at that time. As a result groups of people are often seen gathered in the streets of Sudbury into the early hours.

Taxi firms fear they could lose drivers, who are put off by having to fork out up to £90 for a licence and then extra costs for a medical.

Some of the operators are now looking into joining forces in a bid to fight off the planned increases.

Most Read

The proposals, which have been circulated to all taxi firms in the area, suggest operator and driver's licences should only be issued on a yearly basis, instead of the current three-year system.

The plans say that from May operators should pay £50 a year for a licence, instead of the current £100 for three years, an increase of 50% over the three-year period.

And while driver's can currently purchase an annual licence for £25, most take up the option of paying £50 for a three-year licence. But under the new plans drivers would pay £30 a year, an increase of around 80% over a three year period.

Rod Gooday, who runs the Sudbury Cab Company, said: "Originally the offer to purchase a licence for a year was brought in to help the drivers who couldn't afford to pay for the three year fee, but to get rid of it all together will be disastrous.

"Any driver who wants to stay longer than three years will now have to pay 80% extra, which is unbelievable.

"This move will mean less drivers, which will definitely make it more difficult to clear the town on Friday and Saturday nights. I think the increase in operators licence is excesses, but the 80% increase for drivers is appalling, the sort of people attracted to cab driving can't afford that sort of money."

Town publican and district councillor, Nick Irwin, is also concerned the plans could reduce the amount of taxis available in the town.

"I advise all the taxi firms to make strong representations of their feelings at all the relevant council meetings concerning these plans.

"The is definitely a shortage of taxis in Sudbury at certain times and these charges do seem a bit over the top."

Babergh officials claim the safety of passengers must be paramount and added that the one-year licences allow drivers to be checked more closely.

Pauline McBride, Babergh's head of legal and administrative services, said: "Like the taxi operators themselves, we want to ensure the highest levels of passenger safety. The annual requirement to seek a new operator licence will ensure that operators maintain their vehicles to the highest possible standard at all times.

"The proposed increase in the driver's licence amounts to an extra £40 over an equivalent three year period which works out at only 25p extra a week. That's less than the cost of a chocolate bar.

"The emphasis in the proposals upon the need to maintain safety and other standards, alongside a moderate increase in licences, has already drawn support from the Sudbury area."

The recommendations will go before Babergh's strategy committee on May 2.