Taxi fare controversy prompts warnings that basic costs could double

Knockdown €5 taxi fares could be on the way out as drivers consider their 10-year practice of undercharging customers.

Higher metered rates were approved 12 years ago by the taxi regulator, but taxi drivers in Donegal towns like Letterkeny continued to charge €5 flat-rate fees because the national rates were “too dear”.

Some local taxi drivers are now warning that full metered charges – which include starting prices of up to €9.70 – could be ushered in after a member of the public went on local radio to complain that he was charged too much.

The member of the public claimed that a 1.7km (1.05 miles) taxi journey from An Grianan Theatre in Letterkenny to the town’s nearby Glencar Inn pub for three people cost €8.60.

He said on radio: “It showed €6.20 on the meter and then he [the driver] pressed a button and the fare went up to €8.60. It’s usually only €5. There were three of us. Have taxi fares gone up?”

The latest fare increases from the National Transport Authority (NTA) came into force on February 1 past and cabbies can be fined €100 for caught not using meters and not issuing metered receipts.

New national taxi fare rates from February 2018.

Members of the public were invited to object to the fare increases during a three-month consultation last summer from July to September.

It is understood that the Letterkenny man’s €8.60 taxi fare included a €1 per person charge for the two extra passengers, a legal €2 charge that drivers can apply, as per NTA regulations.

Other legal charges, which drivers can apply, include €2.50 for a callout on top of a €4.20 evening hire charge, plus a €3 fee for up to three extra passengers – a total of €9.70.

This is before the car even begins its journey.

CHEAP FARES COULD END

A veteran Letterkenny taxi driver has now told the Letterkenny Post: “This complaint has opened a can of worms. Customers in Letterkenny have been charged €5 for the last 10 years, but that could all change now.

“Drivers are allowed to charge €1 for every passenger besides the driver. I’ve never done it because I see it as a city charge, not something you’d do in Letterkenny, but the industry is getting tougher and regulation is stricter.

“Taxi drivers were fined in Letterkenny last year for not using their meters when the regulator carried out checks near Tesco.

“We have been subsidising the public of Letterkenny for over a decade, but we haven’t gone on radio to complain about it. Maybe it’s time that the €5 fares are stopped.

“The regulator does not allow exceptions. There will be no exceptions made for Letterkenny and I think the €5 fare is going to be phased out.

“Using the meter will become the norm and people in Letterkenny will be charged fares that they are not used to being charged.

“The status quo of the €5 fare hasn’t changed in 10 years, but that could end now. There could be a chronic shortage of taxi drivers in Letterkenny at night-time because drivers won’t want to take abuse for the new fares.

“They are fed up with the hassle and aggression of drunken punters. Letterkenny people have been spoilt.

“If you charge a full fare, you are made to feel like [18th Century highwayman] Dick Turpin and that’s because people have been spoiled.

“The basic problem is that the fares are being applied nationally, but city and rural is not the same. Downtown Dublin is not the same as downtown Letterkenny.

“But taxi drivers in Letterkenny have been undercharging for 10 years and now they are being forced to fall in line with the rest of the country.”

The Letterkenny Post is a sister publication of Donegal Now.

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