THE boss of Wigan’s biggest taxi firm has blasted rivals for jacking up fares by up to 100 per cent to compensate for the bad weather.
Peter Bailey, director of Bluestar, today accused other private hire companies of “taking advantage” of customers including the elderly and vulnerable.
Confusion reigned today as to how widespread and long-lasting the increased pricing regime with various firms approached either saying they had only doubled fares on the first wintry night on December 17, or saying that they had only been put up since by a quarter either because of the heightened risk of accidents or because they need to make up for the fewer journeys they can carry out on a shift.
But Mr Bailey said: “There is no excuse for putting up fares just because there is a bit of snow. It is completely unfair on loyal customers.
“We are in the motor industry and putting up with the vagaries of weather is just one of those things that we have to accept.
“Shops don’t double the price of all the goods on their shelves just because customers are being kept away by the weather.
“We have been getting a lot of reports from passengers and our drivers over the last few days saying that other firms have been putting up their fares by up to double the usual amount.
“We feel that although they are able to legally do this, it is simply taking advantage of the fact that people can’t get about.
“Taking advantage of the elderly at this time of year and in these kind of conditions is nothing more than disgraceful.”
Tom Hunt, manager of Pemberton Private Hire, said that his firm doubled the fare for 24 hours beginning on the Friday evening because it was the only way to persuade a skeleton crew to keep working with their own vehicles.
“Since then there has been a temporary 25 per cent increase in operation to cover the extra fuel and the fewer number of jobs that can be fitted in.
He said: “There was only us running on the Friday when the snow was really coming down.
“We have 48 cars but only six of the drivers were prepared to go out - one of them hasn’t done anything since that evening because he’s so worried about damaging his car which is his livelihood.
“I was going round in a 4x4 dragging cars out of snow to keep them going that night and people were offering me a lot of money for short journeys.
“Someone said they would give us £80 from Wallgate to Winstanley but we just didn’t have the cars.
“Since then we have been on 25 per cent but that should soon end too.
“It makes up for the extra fuel and the fact that we are only averaging two trips an hour rather than the usual four.
“We are not making extra money from this because we are doing fewer jobs.”
A spokesman for Crusader Cabs said it was currently charging a fare and a quarter to compensate for reduced income and extra overheads but said that he had heard other firms had been charging double for well after the first 24 hours of the snow.
Aristacars said that it had only charged double for the first 24 hours and that it had done so because it was the only way drivers could be persuaded to stay working in the difficult conditions.
And another firm’s driver, who did not wish to be identified, said: “It’s all very well these customers scryking about extra fares but I bet a lot of them will be leaving their own cars on the drive because they don’t want them damaging.”