Broch taxi firms are fearful that their clients could be faced with sparing fares under new proposals from Aberdeenshire Council.
The local authority issued a statement last week explaining that a meeting was held in Inverurie recently to allow taxi trade representatives and licensing chiefs to discuss proposed changes for the year ahead.
It was claimed that there has been misunderstanding among some operators and members of the public since a consultation on proposed changes began.
It had been widely-reported and suggested that the council would enforce the purchase of a new vehicle every five years which, according to the council, is not the case.
It is understood that the council gave an undertaking to the taxi trade some years ago not to implement policy changes without consulting the trade in advance.
The council statement continued: “....given consultation was taking place with the trade on the current taxi fares review, it made sense to put other suggestions submitted to the council by its partner agencies to the trade at the same time for its views.
“Proposals put forward for consultation include increases, or not, in taxi fares, increases in operators’ fees and a system requiring taxis to display vehicle insurance details.”
After seeking views from the trade the consultation on the revised taxi fare structure will go out to members of the public.
But speaking to the Herald, one local taxi operator who did not wish to be named warned: “I have been in business for just over three years now and this propsal, of vehicles not being over five years old, has been on the agenda every year, although I think that it is the first time the proposal, has reached this stage.
“If this was introduced, I believe about 75% of taxis across the North-east would be off the road straight away and it would probably result in myself and many other Fraserburgh operators going out of business.
“At present taxi firms in Fraserburgh all charge a fixed rate for local and regular runs, whereas most of the other towns in Aberdeenshire charge by the meter reading.
“This practice would have to stop and Fraserburgh firms would be forced to use meters, resulting in a substantial increase in fares.
“For example a run to the airport would cost in the region of £95 and fares could reach £7 or £8 for local runs.
“Ultimately, customers would suffer as there would be fewer taxis on the road, making it more difficult to get a taxi and if they were lucky enough to get one, they would end up paying through the nose for it.”
It is understood that all remaining issues after consultation with the trade will be put to the council’s Licensing Sub-Committee on June 3 to determine which issues should move forward to the formal public consultation.
Aberdeenshire Council’s Head of Legal Services, Karen Wiles, said: “Some people in the trade have unfortunately misunderstood our consultation – there has never been a commitment from this council to force operators to replace vehicles over five years old.
“The suggestion was put forward to get the trade’s views, on the basis that a higher proportion of vehicles of that age are failing MOT tests at centres in Aberdeenshire.
“We realise, as it seems does the trade, that there are alternative ways to ensure the roadworthiness of vehicles which are not so financially onerous.
“In a letter to operators about the proposed changes and consultation it was made clear by us that these were only proposals and we were seeking the trade’s views.”
The law requires the council to undertake a fares review every 18 months, but in Aberdeenshire, at the request of the taxi trade, it is done every year.
All licensed taxis are inspected by the council on a six-monthly basis.