Unhappy over taxi meters

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THE owner of a Wisbech taxi company has hit out at a decision that will make it compulsory for Hackney carriages in Fenland to have meters from April 1.

Lisa Corbett, owner of Bev’s Taxis, claims having meters in her cabs will actually make it more expensive for customers and thinks the decision was rushed.

But Fenland Council has stood by the decision made by its Licensing Committee on Thursday.

A council spokesperson said: “The Committee heard that overcharging by Hackney drivers is common. Indeed, members were presented with a list of recent journeys with fares that showed that substantial overcharge element.

“It was clear from the evidence and representations made that most short journeys are being overcharged and that customers may well see the cost come down when meters are fitted.”

But Mrs Corbett said she has tested out a few journeys, using Fenland’s table of fees, and they are more expensive than on the fixed fee system Bev’s Taxis uses.

She said: “People won’t know what they’ve got to pay until the end. Meters are a bad idea in the current economic climate. People budget what they have to spend and they know how much their taxi fare will cost them.”

Mrs Corbett objected to the proposal and spoke at the Licensing Committee meeting, but said she spent most of her allotted slot defending one of her fares.

The Fenland table of fares states taxis must not charge more than £3.31 for a journey of less than one mile and two fifths. Bev’s Taxis charges £3.50 for an inner Wisbech job, but she defended this, saying she could charge extra for more than two adult passengers, people using the boot and booking the job over the phone but she doesn’t. She also said she would be happy to drop her fare to £3.31 if the council asked her to.

Mrs Corbett’s is also concerned that when meters are used, extra money is charged for waiting. Wisbech town centre can get congested, particularly with the traffic lights on Freedom Bridge and along Lynn Road, and she believes the extra minutes will mean fares go up quickly.

The council spokesperson added: “Hackney carriage drivers can charge less than the price shown on the meter, but it is against the law to charge over the tariff.

“The committee felt that protecting the public is its main priority and that people should have confidence in the service provided by Hackney Carriage operators. That includes paying the tariff permitted by law and not being overcharged.”

The meters cost £250 and will have to be paid for by the taxi drivers themselves. Mrs Corbett said although they will have the option not to charge what the meter says, she fears drivers will be tempted to go with the higher fare to recoup the expense of the meter.

She felt the proposal could have been better advertised to make the public aware of what having meters would actually mean for customers, but the council said there was “ample opportunity” for the trade and public to comment during the 12-week consultation.