The Liverpool Echo reports that Police have said a shortage of cabs could lead to increased crime in a Merseyside area, with it also being revealed some fares there will rise by over a THIRD.
The substantial increase is set to hit black cab customers in Wirral across all tariffs following a consultation with drivers.
It came as results from a survey about cabs in the area revealed what a difficult position the industry is in – including insufficient demand, fears visitors to the area will not return because of bad experiences, and potential crime caused by a lack of night time services.
Two separate documents are set to be discussed by Wirral council’s licensing, health and safety and general purposes committee when it meets on September 19.
The first of those – a review of Hackney carriage fares – has revealed how they are set for a significant rise – some by as much as 37.5%.
That will mean a one-mile journey on the night tariff will increase from £4.30 to £5.40 – by 25.6%,
Other fare rises aren’t so steep but are still going up – a one mile journey on the normal day rate tariff will rise from £4 to £4.60.
For a one-mile trip on public and bank holidays, that will mean a 14.3% increase from £4.90 to £5.60, while on the Christmas and New Year tariff, that will see a huge 37.5% rise – from £6.40 to £8.80.
Several representations from industry figures were made to the council over the proposals, with both supporting and opposing views submitted.
One said the proposed increases were “excessive”, adding that it will lead customers to seek alternative transport options.
The letter said that the proposals were made by a “small minority” of union members, adding: “I personally believe that what with the financial pressure some of our customers are under, to ask for this increase shows a total lack of common sense.”
Another letter to be discussed by councillors was from a private hire operator, who wrote that the changes “will assist us greatly”. He said “ill-conceived and unsustainable” Hackney carriage fare structures through the Liverpool city region meant private hire services already dominate “more than 80% of the Merseyside taxi market”.
He added the rise meant private hire would be able to corner the “remaining 20%” of their target market.
Members will be asked to consider the representations received by the council, and decide whether to bring in the new fares.
Also at the meeting, the committee will discuss a survey about the supply and demand for Hackney carriage vehicles in the borough.
That survey came out with the following observations:
Police officers felt there was a weekend and overnight “shortage” of both Hackney carriage and private hire in the area and, as they told the survey, “that did lead to potential issues of crime and disorder”.
It suggested there was “insufficient demand” for the current Hackney carriage fleet, although many “gain significant fares” from phone orders.
There were no “significant” levels of unmet demand, but said a lot of the off-peak demand was by phone rather than people going to ranks. But there does not appear to be “enough sufficiently rewarding work available either for these pockets of demand to be met by either Hackney carriage or private hire means.”
Asda in Birkenhead was the busiest rank, with the next two busiest Claughton Road and Liscard.
The night rank Conway Street provided just 3% of total estimated weekly passengers.
Of six ranks surveyed, one saw “poor” service, one was “fair”, and all others were “good” or “very good”.
The only request for a new rank was for locations in New Brighton.
People interviewed said they were more confident of getting a Hackney carriage in the day than at night, with 14% of those surveyed saying they could not get one. People were also unaware they could flag down a black cab.
There are currently 258 licensed vehicles out of a current limit of 289.
Mystery shoppers found good service from ranks and on trips taken.
Hackney carriage drivers told the survey the limit on that number “should be retained”.
The demand in Wirral is “generally both disparate and low volume”, but there are “frustrated” potential customers who need the service to benefit Wirral’s economy. It said the impact from that was that there was a “very high potential” people visiting the area would have poor experiences that may prevent them from coming back.
It added: “The issue is how to marry supply to demand at these lower levels. Something needs to happen to reverse the spiral of decline.”
The committee members will be asked whether they want to continue the policy of limiting Hackney carriage vehicle numbers, or to remove the policy “in order to allow further future development of the fleet when required”.
That question will also be put to a public consultation.