Town taxi firms hoping to strike deal on new meters

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Taxi companies in Portadown are trying to reach an agreement which will see newly-introduced meters set at the same rate.

Under new legislation, taxis across Northern Ireland must be fitted with the meters by October 1.

Nigel Cumberland, owner of Call a Cab in Carleton Street, the town’s biggest taxi firm, said the intention was to keep the starting fare at £3 for the first mile - below the maximum rate set by the government.

Mr Cumberland, whose company has around 35 cars on the road, predicted that there would not be a big change in fares, with prices fairer and decided by “every turn of the wheel”.

However, he was critical of the uncertainty surrounding the scheme, after an original date of June 1 had to be extended to October 1 and a rural tariff provoked opposition among drivers. It has since been revised and amended.

He said, “We did have the meters in operation for a number of weeks before the change in date. They are more of a city thing and aren’t really widely welcomed in a rural setting.

“Some fares were slightly cheaper and some were more expensive.

“The aspect the customer didn’t like was the unknown. The same journey five times in a week could be a different price each time - there’s a big difference between a Monday afternoon and Friday afternoon. But the difference probably wasn’t more than £1.”

He said the benefit of setting a fixed rate would mean that any competition between companies would be decided by the service provided.

A DfI spokesperson said the new legislation will help protect consumers from overcharging and promote much greater transparency on taxi fares.