The price war on taxi fares is hotting up as Belfast’s biggest taxi company has weighed into the battle for passengers by reducing its minimum fare.
But while the price reduction is good news for customers, self-employed taxi drivers are feeling the pinch.
Value Cabs has lowered its minimum fare by 60 pence to £2.40 — less than its rate three years ago. The move comes after rival taxi firm, fonaCab, introduced a controversial 25% discount card on cash fares which was criticised by its fleet of drivers.
There was speculation this week that fonaCab drivers are planning to strike over the discount cards, but this was rejected by the company as mere “rumours by competitors”.
It has also been reported that drivers may operate a “go slow” in which workers will not turn up on time to start their shift, leaving the firm without any taxis on the road for a short period.
Value Cabs director, Stephen McCausland, denied its fare reduction was triggered by fonaCab’s new marketing ploy.
He said the move is designed to help people making shorter journeys in the city and is part of a wider marketing campaign with the Belfast Visitor & Convention Bureau, which is encouraging businesses to reduce costs to boost tourism.
“We have been considering this reduction over the past two or three months — it has nothing to do with fonaCab,” Mr McCausland said.
“It is something we had discussed because we are sponsors of the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau. It is designed to help people making shorter journeys.”
The Value Cabs director also criticised the rival firm’s discount card: “It is not a path that we would have gone down. It is difficult enough for self-employed drivers. Some of them have left and gone to other companies including us. I don’t think it was thought out very well.”
The average hourly wage of a taxi driver is £7.50 but can be as little as £5. As self-employed workers they have to cover the costs of fuel, insurance and depot rents from their wages. The average shift worked is 60 hours per week.
One taxi driver gave the Belfast Telegraph an insight: “I left home yesterday at 2.30pm and came back at 3.10am with £109 takings. I put £25 back into the tank. It’s not much for a 12-hour shift and that was a good night.”