TAXI drivers have reacted angrily to plans to raise the cost of a permit for “ranking up” in Southampton Docks by more than 500 per cent.

Dock owners ABP, in consultation with Southampton City Council, proposed increasing the permit from £68 to £370.

The permit allows Hackney Cabs to wait for passengers coming off the cruise ships.

In recent years ABP has employed ranks marshals who have told cabbies where to wait and helped passengers find taxis.

Each time a taxi picked up a passenger from the terminals the driver paid the marshal £1 - which was added to the fare.

The marshals were introduced at the request of the cruise companies after trouble with some taxi drivers refusing to accept short journeys, preferring to hold out for lucrative long journeys.

Both sides agree the £1 system is unsatisfactory - the drivers do not receive a receipt or token to say they have paid the fee and then have to explain why they are charging £1 extra.

ABP proposes to scrap the scheme when the new permit comes into force.

However angry drivers say that at least the £1 charge can be passed onto the customer unlike the extra £302 they are paying for a permit.

Driver, Perry McMillan claimed it was a money-making scheme for ABP who already “made a mint” out of the cruise ships.

He said Unite was now in talks with ABP.

In the letter sent out by licensing manager Phil Bates the following breakdown is give for the how the proposed permit price was reached: SCC costs £45.34 ABP costs £262.99 Sub total £308.33 VAT (20 per cent) £61.67 Total £370 Clive Johnson of the Southampton Trade Association (STA) which represents drivers said the increase in permit cost was unacceptable.

“A lot of drivers are saying they will not renew their permits at that price,” he said.

An ABP spokesman said: “We are exploring options with the council to devise an improved scheme that reduces the cost for drivers while delivering an enhanced service for our cruise customers.”

A council statement said: “This is only a proposal at present and no decision has yet been taken.”