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No happy New Year for revellers as taxi fares pushed up by 50pc

TAKING a taxi on New Year's Eve will now cost almost 50pc more than usual -- and it will cost 22pc more to take a taxi home at night under new rates introduced by the Commission for Taxi Regulation.

The Commission has imposed a special Christmas and New Year premium rate for the first time this year.

A 20km journey taken during a normal weekday, based on an initial flat fare of €4.10 and a charge of €1.03 per kilometre for the first 14km and €1.35 a kilometre for the subsequent six kilometres would cost €26.62. The same journey taken on New Year's Day before 8pm will be charged at the standard public holiday rate, coming to €34.17.

However, the same journey taken between 8pm on New Year's Eve and 8am on New Year's Day when the new so-called "golden time" rates are in effect will cost a total of €39.85 -- an increase of €13.23, or almost 50pc.

The same journey taken on a normal weeknight between 8pm and 8am would cost €32.55 based on the new premium rate -- an increase of €5.93, or more than 22pc.

Michael Kilcoyne, chairman of the Consumers' Association of Ireland (CAI), said the new Christmas and New Year charges -- on top of the 8.3pc fare hike imposed five weeks earlier -- cannot be justified.

Excessive

"I accept the principle that they're entitled to something extra but it's excessive, particularly in the middle of a recession," he told the Irish Independent last night.

The absence of public transportation means that consumers are left with no choice but to either drive or pay the high fares, he said.

"It's unreasonable there's that kind of a hike. I don't think you can justify it," he said.

Taxi Commissioner Kathleen Doyle insisted that the new fares were imposed following public consultation last April.

She claimed the new rate structure was imposed to act as an incentive to get more taxi drivers on the road to address a severe shortage of drivers during the holiday period.

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She denied that customers were being 'gouged' because of the lack of alternative public transport services.

"It's in line with the economics out there," she told the Irish Independent last night. "It's got nothing to do with raising prices during a recession."

She said the new holiday rates are the maximum fares a driver can charge and claimed that many taxi drivers can and do offer discounts on their fares.

"A maximum fares order means that's the maximum someone can charge. But drivers can offer discounts and many do," she said.

But Pat Claffey, co-owner of Blue Cabs, based in Dublin, said that while taxi drivers believe it's only reasonable that they should be compensated for working over the holiday period as other workers are, "at the end of the day it's supply and demand".

But the new "golden time" rates aren't incentive enough to get many taxi drivers to work this New Year, he added.

He added that anyone hoping to get a taxi at New Year would have to book ahead to secure one, for which another €2 fee will apply.

He also questioned the wisdom of imposing the rate increase at the current time.

"I don't know the rationale why it was put forward this year. I'm not quite sure where it came from.

"It is substantial, there's no doubt about that," he said, adding "consumers may very well vote with their feet".

But he added that the taxi industry shouldn't be to blame for the lack of alternative public transportation.


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