30 September 2005

Petrol price rises drive up cab fares

Belfast Telegraph

Passengers to pay more for evening out

By Claire Regan and Fiona McIlwaine Biggins
cregan@belfasttelegraph.co.uk
30 September 2005

TAXI passengers were facing a hike in fares today as cab companies across Ulster put up prices due to the soaring global price of petrol.

Belfast cab giants Fon A Cab and Value Cabs say they are being forced to increase prices this weekend because of world oil price rises.

The raise could add around £1 to the cost of a night out for many people heading in to the central Belfast from the suburbs.

A snap Belfast Telegraph survey also revealed companies in towns across the Province - including Derry, Ballymena and Lurgan - are also planning imminent rises.

The development spells further misery for travellers coming just a week after Translink announced that bus and train fares are set to rise in six months' time because of rising fuel costs.

And householders have also been hit hard with home heating oil costs at an unusually high level and Phoenix Natural Gas rates rising by 30% from tomorrow to cope with a rise in wholesale gas prices.

The most recent AA statistics show that a litre of unleaded is retailing on average in Northern Ireland at 96.1p and 98.6p for diesel.

Fon A Cab and Value Cabs, both said they have not raised prices since late 2003 when fuel was retailing for around 30% less.

William McCausland is the managing director of Fon A Cab and chairman of the Belfast Private Hire Taxi Proprietors Association. Speaking on behalf of Fon A Cab, he said fares at his firm are to rise from tomorrow onwards.

"The high fuel prices have had a massive effect on our drivers. They are paying out an extra £20-30 per week which hits them hard," he said.

"Despite that we have tried to hold off for as long as possible before raising prices. We certainly didn't want to have a knee-jerk reaction. But it has got to the stage where we now have no choice but to raise the tariff by 5p per mile.

"The pick-up price will rise from £2.50 to £2.70, adding around 40-50p on to a five mile journey."

Director of Value Cabs, Christopher McCausland, said its prices would also be rising by 5p per mile and 20p on the minimum charge.

"We haven't raised prices in two years and in that time our drivers have faced significantly increased overheads, the biggest of which has been rising fuel costs. This has put them under a lot of pressure so it got to the stage where we had no choice."

According to the Ballymena Taxi Association, taxi rates for town journeys are to rise by 50p to £3.50 from next month and out-of- town trips accordingly.

In Lurgan, Brendan Loughan of Anytime Taxis said eight firms operating in the area recently struck a general agreement to raise prices by around 50p.

"It was getting to the point where guys were just leaving the job. It wasn't worth it - they couldn't operate with those prices," he said.

Trevor Doherty, owner of Stranmillis Taxis in Belfast, said he has not had to raise prices yet but was expecting to do so in the near future.

And in Derry, Foyle Taxis said it would be raising fares within the next two weeks.

"We are on the verge of having to put prices up for the first time in 14 months," said manager Joe Devenney.

"We would be one of the bigger firms here in Derry so when we move fares, others tend to follow."

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