TAXI drivers in Southampton will be forced to pay £1 to pick up passengers from the city’s cruise ships.
And the new levy, which will come into force next month, is set to cause fares to rise for thousands of cruise-goers.
Associated Brit-ish Ports (ABP), which has agreed the new charge, says it is needed to fund new marshals for the city’s four cruise terminals after a series of rows between cabbies at the ranks.
The Daily Echo understands a number of arguments have broken out between cabbies over fares at cruise terminal ranks in recent years.
But members of the taxi trade have hit back, criticising ABP for forcing them to foot the bill and warning it will be “unpopular” with passengers.
From April 1 taxi drivers will have to pay £1 to the marshal running the rank.
Today the city council’s Cabinet will debate amending the table of hackney fares to allow cabbies to recoup the charge from passengers.
ABP says the charge will go ahead regardless of the Cabinet’s decision to amend the table.
Speaking about the new charge, port director Nick Ridehalgh said: “A series of incidents between hackney carriage drivers at our terminals has underlined the need for the port to ensure a professional standard of service for our cruise passengers.
“To that end, we have introduced marshals to manage taxi ranks on the port estate.
“Following lengthy consultation with the city council and drivers serving the cruise terminals, a small charge will be introduced on April 1.
“This is needed to support the on-site management required to deliver a high standard of service for our customers.”
A spokesman for the firm added that the £1 charge would only cover part of the cost of introducing the marshals.
Perry McMillan, chairman of the Southampton cab section of Unite, said: “I find it astonishing that a multi-million company like ABP is not prepared to pay for the marshals.
“The fact they are passing the buck to the taxi drivers and customers is penny-pinching and tacky.”
Clive Johnson, chairman of the Southampton Trade Association, said: “In terms of the incidents between cabbies, they are making a mountain out of a molehill.
“Cruise passengers in Liverpool don’t have to pay £1 like this.”
Kevin Wright added: “I don’t understand it.
“Is this going to be monitored?
“And will we be given receipts when we pay the charge?
“With fuel costs, the £67 permit you have to buy to park at the docks and other costs, I won’t be able to afford to run a taxi there, so the customer is going to incur the cost.”
Not all taxi drivers are against it, with Ian Hall, chairman of the Southamp-ton Hackney Association saying: “We think it’s a brilliant idea.”
There is also confusion over whether ABP spoke to Carnival UK and P&O Cruises before deciding to bring in the charge.
ABP declined to comment while a spokesman for Carnival and P&O would only confirm that the firms are currently “discussing the issue with ABP”.