Decision on taxi fares is reserved

A hearing into Scottish Borders Council’s decision to freeze taxi fares across the region has been adjourned.

After taking evidence for two hours in Galashiels, Richard McFarlane, the depute Traffic Commissioner for Scotland, decided he required more documented information from both sides in the dispute.

The hearing was called after two operators – Michael Howell from Galashiels and David Cox from Innerleithen – lodged a formal appeal against the fare freeze.

They objected to a decision made by SBC’s executive last November to peg the flag rate – the amount shown on the meter at the start of each journey – at a maximum off peak level of £2.15 for cars and £3.25 for larger vehicles.

At the hearing, the council, which licenses 355 taxis, defended the way it had conducted its review of fares which included four consultation meetings with the trade.

Messrs Howell and Cox claimed the council had failed to honour and apply an agreed fare-setting formula which took account not only of the flag rate, but also of mileage and waiting times. They contended that only a small potential increase in the flag rate had been put out to consultation.

After the hearing was adjourned, a spokesperson for the Traffic Commissioner said: “The Commissioner has asked both parties [operators and council] to provide further written evidence. When this has been considered, the Commissioner will either make a decision based on this evidence or reconvene the hearing.”

Meanwhile, the council have agreed to increase the price of a three-year taxi operator’s licence from £573 to £588 and to raise the annual fee for a taxi driver’s licence from £82 to £84. These increases will be from April 1.