THERE will be no increase in taxis on Southampton’s city streets – after cabbies said more competition would ruin their livelihoods.
Cabbies, who complained to councillors about already overflowing ranks from a lack of work, feared even more taxis will make it even harder for them to make ends meet.
Councillors agreed to follow the recommendations of a once in three-year review by transport consultants and keep the number of hail and ride cabs in the city capped at 283.
Clive Johnson, chairman of the Southampton Trade Association, which has around 450 members including 100 Hackney Carriage drivers, welcomed the decision.
“It was inevitable really. At the present moment in time we’ve got taxi drivers being booked for parking at the end of ranks because we’ve nowhere to go. There is no work out there.”
Consultants Halcrow, who were paid £15,000 to carry out the survey, found sufficient taxis were “generally available” in the city although there was a need for more wheelchair friendly cabs.
Only one third of those surveyed felt the taxi service could be improved, but nearly half thought fares should be cheaper. Nearly half the cabbies surveyed said they would leave the trade if more licences were issued, and 84 per cent said they wanted additional and longer ranks.
Ian Hall, chairman of the Southampton Hackney Association, told councillors there were only 15 24-hour taxi ranks in the city with spaces for 73 taxis, leaving a shortfall of 210 spaces. He added the council had shortened the ranks in recent years.
Despite opposition from the trade, three years ago the council agreed to issue 20 more lucrative taxi licences - worth up to £35,000 on the open market – in a controversial secret lottery exposed by the Daily Echo.
Perry McMillan, from the Southampton taxi section of the Unite union, said: “This survey confirms what we’ve been saying all along. We feel the decision three years ago to ignore our pleas has caused a lot of hardship for the trade. And the timing of the (latest) survey, before the last eight new plates went on in December, shows we didn’t need them.”
The survey also found more permits should be issued for taxis to work the docks, and that more needed to be done to improve access and reduce congestion.
Docks owners ABP signed an agreement with the council three years ago to issue permits and enforce standards after concerns about scruffy drivers, cherry picking of fares, and allegations of overcharging. The permits cost £63.
But the decision could be challenged as under Government guidelines Southampton City Council must show that retaining a limit on the number of taxis in the city benefits customers.
One Conservative councillor, Brian Parnell, questioned whether the city should remain closed shop to new cabbies.
The number of licensed private hire vehicles - around 550 - is not limited.