Sudbury taxi companies fear transparency issues for passengers after Babergh District Council approves new fare structure
New fares for Hackney Carriage cabs in Babergh will be introduced from April, despite warnings from the taxi trade that they will not be transparent for passengers.
Babergh District Council’s cabinet on Thursday afternoon agreed the new tariff structure, which will be introduced from April 5.
It will see a vehicle that can carry up to four passengers charge a £3.20 starting rate, with 20p increases every 176 yards for the day rate.
There will be a £4.80 starting rate, with 30p increases per 176 yards, for night journeys between 11pm and 7am – and a £6.40 base rate, with 40p increases every 176 yards, for Christmas and New Year.
But for larger vehicles which carry more than four passengers, those tariffs will be £4.80 with 30p increases for 176 yards on the day rate, £7.20 with a 45p increase every 176 yards for the night rate and a £9.60 base rate with 60p increases for Christmas and New Year.
The council said it was designed to recognise that cab firms hadn’t had a fare rise since August 2016, and costs in that time had increased – as well as to remove the percentage uplift currently in place, claiming it had not been used consistently.
But while cab firms have welcomed a small increase, they have raised concerns that the rate for larger vehicles is too high and may actually put customers off – particularly disabled or single passengers, who would be penalised for paying a higher rate if a larger cab was at the front of the taxi rank.
The council said cab drivers had the discretion to charge less than what was on the meter, but drivers said it meant the meter wouldn’t be clear.
Steve Hale, from Hale-A-Cab in Sudbury, said that he “couldn’t see the point of having a meter in the car anymore” if drivers had to routinely charge less.
“We didn’t ask for a price rise, but it is welcome, but we have got to make sure it is right for everybody – it needs to be right for the drivers, the owners and the public,” he said.
“If you start charging too much people are not going to use them.”
Mr Hale said four out of every five Hackney Carriage cabs in the district are the larger vehicles, meaning that people could be “scared off” using them if they see higher prices on the meter.
It followed problems a year ago when revised fares were first assessed and presented to cabinet which would have left cab drivers making less than they do now.
“We have lost all confidence in the licensing department given the fact they haven’t listened to us,” he said.
Stuart Armstrong, from AAA Cabs Ltd, said the industry had asked for the fares to be based on passenger numbers rather than vehicle size to make it more equitable and transparent.
He said a normal weekday fare from Sudbury to Lavenham could rise from £13 to more than £23 under the new fares.
“Yes, these fares are the maximum that can be charged and the driver could possibly charge you less than the metered fare, purely down to their discretion, but these rates have to be displayed by law,” he said.
The cabinet voted seven to one in favour of the new fares, which only apply to Hackney Carriage cabs – those which can be hailed from the roadside and use the cab ranks. Private hire cabs run their own fares.
The cabinet recognised there were still issues with transparency but leader John Ward said “there is flexibility in this proposal” and vowed to continue liaising with the cab trade to monitor the new fares.
Cabinet member for the environment, Elisabeth Malvisi, said: “Fares for Hackney carriages in Babergh have not increased since August 2016, and our cabbies have faced increasing costs.
“We’ve addressed this in the new tariffs, by increasing the maximum fares.
“We’ve also brought our structure in line with UK best practice and made it unambiguous.
“We will, however, continue to regularly monitor the tariffs with the trade to ensure they continue to be fit for purpose.”