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FUMING taxi bosses last night rounded on Southampton’s transport chiefs as traffic chaos decimated their takings for the third time in six weeks.

Scores of minicab and private hire drivers were stranded for more than three hours in monster jams at Southampton Docks yesterday.

Drivers reported journeys taking up to five times longer than expected as the combination of major roadworks and five cruise ships arriving at Dock Gate 4 caused congestion chaos.

Frustrated cabbies were forced to wave fares for furious customers and were unable to reach new fares before competing companies arrived.

Bosses warned it was hitting their pockets hard, with one company even threatening to withdraw pick-ups from the docks until Southampton City Council improves the situation.

Bitterne Cars managing director Alan Taylor said one driver spent 70 minutes to complete the 15 minute journey from Bitterne to Dock Gate 4 The usual 10 minute trip crossing the Itchen Bridge took 30 minutes.

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He said “It’s completely ridiculous. The drivers are self employed and it’s been hitting their takings.

“Customers have been getting angry and we’ve had to give a couple of freebies.

“It’s very embarrassing because we are the biggest cruise terminal in England and but if it’s going to take three hours to go a mile it makes us look awful.

“If something’s not sorted the whole city is going to come to a standstill.”

Meanwhile drivers at Viking Cars based in Bursledon reported two trips from Hamble and Swanwick to Dock Gate 4 took 90 minutes.

Manager Donna Richards said: “It was a nightmare.

“We organise a standard fare rather than having metres in the car so it’s the same price regardless.

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“We’ve had some irate customers and we’ve had to farm out some of our business to other companies because we haven’t been able to get our cars back in time.

“They shouldn’t have five cruise ships in at the same time if there aren’t roads to cope.”

Owner Roger Vivian took the unusual step of getting into a cab to serve as an extra driver.

He got stuck on West Quay Road for 25 minutes on his way to pick up customers from the port who eventually got into hackney cabs waiting there.

He said: “We’re getting to a stage where there is little point in us picking people up from the docks.

“It’s not financially viable for the company if you are just sitting in a queue. It’s embarrassing.

“The council goes on about how they want to promote the city but anyone who comes here and is stuck in traffic for nearly two hours won’t want to come back.

“They need to be talking to the ports and moving ships to different dock gates.”