Cabbies’ go-slow in fares protest - VIDEO

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SHEFFIELD taxi drivers took a stand against what they claim are minicab firms’ low fares by staging a drive-slow through the city centre.

About 50 private hire drivers joined in a protest to highlight the issue of fares set by firms, and rising fuel prices.

TAXI DRIVER PROTEST   Taxi drivers set off from the Pakistan Muslim Centre, Woodbourn Road, Sheffield, for their city centre protest.     22 March 2011

TAXI DRIVER PROTEST Taxi drivers set off from the Pakistan Muslim Centre, Woodbourn Road, Sheffield, for their city centre protest. 22 March 2011

“Our fare structure is set by the private hire companies that supply our work and prices have been the same since 2009, despite rising fuel costs,” said Mohammed Yasin, chairman of the Sheffield Private Hire Drivers’ Association.

“There is a price war going on in Sheffield between the cab companies. It is being fought at the drivers’ expense.

“We staged a peaceful protest and apologise for any delays we caused the public. We just want our concerns heard.”

Cab firm City Taxis hit back, saying the prices it sets for its drivers to charge are already among the highest in South Yorkshire:

“The problem is all the local firms are in competition with one another and, if we keep increasing fares, we’re going to make it more difficult for our drivers to get work,” said managing director Bob Turnbull.

“It’s not that we want to deny the drivers but I think many understand the dilemma. Some want the increases but just as many don’t, as they recognise pushing fare prices up will lose them work.

“We’ve got every sympathy with the drivers, we know the price of fuel has gone up a lot - as it has for all of us. I think fuel is the real issue here.”

Mercury Taxis has already raised its prices in line with drivers’ concerns.

“We made a decision to put our prices up to support our drivers,” said Ian Godbehere, call centre manager at Mercury.

“We realise it’s now £1.40 a litre and explained to our customers we needed to change our prices to reflect that.”

The drive-slow, from Woodbourn Road, Attercliffe, to the city centre and back, took an hour. One driver said: “It’s not the greatest way for us to demonstrate - we’ve all lost money on the fuel needed to take part! But if that’s what it takes, that’s what we have to do.”

Zulfiqar Ali, of Firth Park, has been a taxi driver in Sheffield for over 20 years.

“The response from the public seemed to be one of support which was great,” he told The Star. “We have several hundred members and we’re hopeful the companies will listen to our message.

“If not, we’ll keep going until they do.”