Taxi boss defends Sunderland fare hike

Sunderland taxi driver Kevin Stoker is against the latest rise in taxi fares.
Sunderland taxi driver Kevin Stoker is against the latest rise in taxi fares.
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NEW taxi fare increases are being rolled out across Wearside.

Sunderland Hackney Carriage Operators’ Association (SHCOA) applied to the city council earlier this year to restructure the price of journeys at all three tariffs in operation, in one case a 6.9 per cent hike.

The move came 12 months after the authority’s regulatory committee last agreed to a fare increase.

Now, after being passed by Sunderland City Council and a period for objections to be heard, the changes have come into force.

Trevor Hines, chairman of SHCOA, said the price increases were regrettable, but inevitable as overheads for operators continued to soar.

It is estimated that in some instances, premiums have gone up between 100 and 200 per cent.

“This is always an emotive subject, whether its fare rises concerning taxis, buses or trains,” he said. “But we just have no choice.

“We’ve always been affected by any fuel prices, but insurance costs are hitting us the most.

“They are going up and up and up.

“It doesn’t matter if the driver has never made a claim, the price just keeps rising.”

The new price structure will see fares in tariff one, which covers Monday to Saturday between 7am and 11am, go up by an average of 4.7 per cent.

For tariff two, on Sundays and weekdays from 11pm until 7am, the average cost of a journey will rise by 4.1 per cent.

In tariff three, which applies across public and bank holidays, trips will cost, on average, 3.7 per cent more.

The biggest increase will be for journeys of 2.5 miles in tariff one, which will go up by 6.9 per cent.

These is no change to journeys of about one mile.

“The application was discussed and considered at length,” said Mr Hines. “We know, economically, this is a bad time for many people. We don’t have our heads buried in the sand.

“This wasn’t a decision that was taken lightly.”

However, independent cabbies have set up an online petition, which has attracted more than 200 signatures, and also contacted the local government ombudsman to object against the rises.

“We’re getting a lot of support,” said Kevin Stoker, who is spearheading the campaign.

“The petition has gone well and we’ve contacted the ombudsman to formally object to the increases.

“Hopefully, they will overturn the decision. People are already struggling and the city centre is dying.

“They can’t afford to go out on a Friday or Saturday. It’s like a ghost town.”

Mr Stoker said the increase has gone down “like a lead balloon” with passengers.

“You can imagine what people are saying about it,” he said. “It wasn’t that long ago that fares went up, now they’ve gone up again.

“I know a lot of drivers, like me, who don’t actually want the rise.

“It just isn’t right.”