A Belfast taxi driver fears any increase in fares will drive away customers

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A Belfast taxi driver said the ability to raise maximum fares would not help the industry.

Robert McAllister, who drives a public rental vehicle, said rising costs would only turn customers away.

He made the comments after Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon launched another tariff review.

A 7.6% increase in the maximum fare was announced last November as part of a post-Covid support package for the industry and to encourage new drivers.

At the time, Ms Mallon said she had “taken into account the views expressed during a targeted consultation on taxi fares and the rise in fuel at this time and other running costs”.

It has also committed to another tariff review, which began yesterday.

“I really think raising taxi fares is not going to be good because you’re driving the public away,” Mr McAllister said.

“Along with Nichola Mallon, she recently made a statement to say that Translink was freezing its rates.

“At the same time, Translink is heavily subsidized by Stormont. To tell the truth, in these last two years with the pandemic and leading up to this fuel crisis, I feel that the minister has not helped the taxi drivers and that they are a service of 24 hour transportation.

“They want to know why so many taxi drivers left the industry – it was because there was no vision within Stormont to help independent taxi drivers during the pandemic.

“That’s what people don’t understand about taxi drivers. They are only busy on Friday or Saturday evening.

“What about all the other days they sit around waiting for business?”

“We are not paid by the hour. So I wonder, since we are part of the transport sector, why can’t we get some kind of subsidy instead? »

One suggestion was a voucher system for taxi drivers, where the Department of Infrastructure could help defray fuel costs instead of raising fares.

Belfast Green Party councilor Brian Smyth has suggested that the biggest taxi depots in Belfast need to take action to reduce costs for ordinary drivers.

“I think we’re almost in a vicious circle by the minute, with drivers saying they’re having to deal with higher costs with the increase in gasoline,” he said.

“There also seems to be a shortage of taxi drivers in Belfast at the moment, with people struggling to get home after weekend evenings.

“I think a lot of drivers also left the industry during the pandemic.

“You have to wonder how much they pay in terms of deposit rent, leases for their cars, increased fuel…

“A taxi driver told me recently that he had to earn £500 a week before he could earn a dime.

“I have a lot of sympathy for the drivers, because they are normal men and women.

“Maybe some people think the Green Party is anti-taxi, but I think it has a role to play.

“I would ask what are the big taxi depots doing?

“Would they consider reducing the amount drivers pay each week?

“Like I said, it’s a vicious circle because the cost of living is going up and people won’t be able to afford to take as many taxis.

“Who will feel this cost? Normal people who drive taxis.

Local taxi companies have previously warned of other pressures facing the industry, such as tougher entry requirements for drivers in 2013 and the impact of the pandemic.

One of Belfast’s biggest companies, fonaCAB, previously told the Belfast Telegraph it had to turn down 3,000 journeys in a single day last summer due to a shortage of drivers.

At the time, owner William McCausland said the taxi industry had been losing drivers here since 2013 and added that “this problem has only gotten worse because of the pandemic”.

He had previously called for a 50% increase in overnight fares on weekends and said the company had just 900 drivers, down from 1,400 before the pandemic.

Ms Mallon said yesterday she was determined to help the taxi industry recover.

“The targeted consultation process on the proposals for the revision of taxi fares will continue in the new mandate of the Assembly. I am committed to helping the industry recover from the pandemic and also to operate in these current difficult times,” she said.

Last year, it promised free taximeter tests for drivers and operators who applied between the operational date and the end of February 2022, as well as financial support to cover DVA costs for new drivers who obtain successfully obtained their taxi and vehicle driver’s license from April 21 to March 22.

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