Fresh concern over new Babergh cab fare plans

West Suffolk Council's cabinet agreed to several changes to its taxi licensing policy. Picture: ARC

West Suffolk Council's cabinet agreed to several changes to its taxi licensing policy. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

A fresh table of fares for Hackney Carriage cabs has been proposed for Babergh District Council following problems earlier this year - but cab firms have said the latest fares will still not create clear prices for passengers.

Revised fares were planned for earlier this year which aimed to clarify prices for travellers while also recognising drivers hadn't had a rise in tariffs since 2016 despite increased costs of running vehicles.

But the council's cabinet ordered a fresh look at the numbers in July after firms pointed out that the prices would actually leave them worse off, and create more confusion for passengers.

Last week, a fresh proposal was put forward to the council's licensing and regulatory committee, which unanimously agreed the changes to go to cabinet for a final decision. But cab companies have said those fares will still not be transparent for passengers.

The revised fares on vehicles that can carry between one and four passengers will be a £3.20 starting rate with 20p increases every 176 yards and a running mile of £2 for the day tariff; £4.80 with a 30p increase per 176 yards and a £3 running mile for 11pm-7am; and £6.40 with a 40p increase every 176 yards and a £4 running mile for Christmas and New Year.

For vehicles that can carry five passengers or more those prices will begin at £4.80 for a day rate with 30p increases for every 176 yards; £7.20 for the night rate with 45p increases; and £9.60 for Christmas and New Year with 60p increases.

Those fares only affect Hackney Carriages - vehicles that can be hailed from the roadside - and not private hire cabs,

But cab firms have questioned why the price rise is on the vehicle and not the number of passengers.

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Stuart Armstrong, of AAA Cabs Ltd, said 54 of the district's 68 cabs would need new meters fitted because of the change, and said that it would put people off getting into cabs.

He pointed out that larger vehicles are often used by those in wheelchairs or people with pushchairs, and would unfairly hit them harder.

According to Mr Armstrong, a passenger travelling from Sudbury to Bury St Edmunds train station, a journey of 17.9 miles, would pay £38.40 during the day in a cab licensed for between one and four passengers, but pay £57.60 for the same journey in a vehicle licensed for five or more passengers.

"I suggested that the rates should be per passenger numbers, not per vehicle," he said.

"We want to make it so the paying public know what they are going to be paying. But if they see £4.80 on the meter [instead of £3.20] they are going to be getting out rapidly."

A meeting was convened with cabbies in August to understand their concerns.

While most of those original issues have been sorted, questions were raised over last week's licensing committee not taking into consideration the latest issues around cab size, which were put forward by some cab operators during the latest consultation.

Mark Newman, chairman of the licensing and regulatory committee, said: "We have given it a lot of time. We did have a consultation with all the taxi drivers [in August] and I think that was really successful.

"We have had three letters, not really complaining but with different suggestions, and we will get that - you will never make everybody happy."

If approved by cabinet, the new fares will come into effect from April 5 2021, with a review taking place annually.