THE cost of the maximum taxi fare in West Berkshire is set to rise – and further changes could be on the horizon.
West Berkshire councillors approved the request for the increase, backed by a 58-strong petition signed by licensed drivers, at a recent meeting.
Speaking at the meeting, taxi driver Rodney Nemeth said: “We used to come in once a year and ask for a small increase.
“Now we are asking for a three or four per cent increase after four years.
“We are asking for a 40p increase on the average fare.”
He said that fuel prices were not a major cost, but that costs instead came from council fees, tyres and vehicle maintenance.
But Graham Bridgman (Con, Mortimer) said he had difficulty with the proposed fares and, by his calculations, the fare for a two-mile journey would be £7.40 and not the proposed £7.20.
“This was done by extremely more clever minds than me,” Mr Nemeth said.
“It was done at national level and I just assumed his figures were correct.”
Mr Bridgman said that West Berkshire was “unique” in the way it calculated fares and that other authorities, such as Wokingham Borough Council, worked on a much more straightforward system.
“I can’t speak for Wokingham, we are Newbury,” Mr Nemeth said.
“We are working on getting an increase on what we are already working with.”
The 40p average increase was questioned by council chairman Quentin Webb (Con, Bucklebury), who said the rate represented a 65p increase.
Mr Nemeth explained that the average fare in Newbury was between one mile and one-and-a-half miles.
“The average fare is going to be 40p more to Paddock Road, Craven Road and Greenham shops.
“I speak from experience. A trip to Greenham shops will be £5.50 or £5.60 to £6.”
Council documents had said that West Berkshire fares would jump to the joint fifth highest in the country should the increase be approved.
The information, based on a league table published by Private Hire and Taxi Monthly, ranks fares charged for a daytime two-mile journey in most areas of the country.
West Berkshire is currently 25th on the list.
Mr Webb said he was concerned by the jump, but also understood the reasoning behind the request.
Paul Bryant (Con, Speen) agreed saying “a three or four-per-cent rise doesn’t seem to be unreasonable”.
He said: “This sort of rise seems to be less than inflation over this time.”
However, dissent came from Richard Crumly (Con, Thatcham Central), who asked for one tariff to be adopted instead of the three currently in place.
He said: “There’s no reason why they should be charging extra for Sundays, weekends or whatever.
“I would like to see a set tariff that would help the customer know that the right fare has been applied.”
Mr Bridgman said that he wanted to take a different approach and change the way the tariff was calculated.
Under his suggestion the rate would be applied on a 10th of a mile instead of the current 12th.
The changes would require consultation before being adopted, however.
Jeff Beck (Con, Clay Hill) said the current system had operated satisfactorily and that changing taxi metres would be an additional expense to the authority.
Councillors approved to raise the maximum tariff, with Mr Crumly voting against and Manohar Gopal (Con, Calcot) abstaining.
Mr Webb said: “Customers should be aware that these charges are the maximum.
“They can negotiate if they ask the question.”
As he left the meeting, Mr Nemeth said: “Thank you, we look forward to a consultation then.”