Cab firms defend extra snow charge

CABBIES have come in for a pelting over an extra charge imposed on customers during the recent snow.

When temperatures dropped to freezing and thick snow forced public transport to grind to a halt, some of the private hire companies in the town introduced a “snow charge” - a rate of time and a half.

That prompted complaints from members of the public to Eastbourne Borough Council’s licensing team and a warning.

A council spokesperson said, “The licensing team has taken numerous calls in relation to extra charges being made due to the snowy conditions.

“We want to remind private hire operators that it is best practice for the operator who takes the booking to inform the customer that an extra charge is being applied due to the weather.

“This is obviously good customer service and we would suggest retain the good will of the customer.”

Private hire drivers are able to add extra charges but Hackney Carriages are not allowed to charge more than the Eastbourne Borough Council agreed tariff.

720 Taxis in Susans Road said it had not imposed extra charges.

Chairman of the company Barry Morris said, “We put nothing on whatsoever.”

Cab firms which did impose the rate of time and a half have now defended their actions.

Chris Islip, general manager at Sussex Cars in Pevensey Road, said it was done as a last resort when there were no buses or trains and drivers were reluctant to come out.

He explained: “We need to maintain a service to our customers but obviously drivers do not want to risk coming out so it is something of an incentive to get them out on the road in treacherous conditions.

“We have only done it twice in recent weeks when it has been particularly treacherous.

“Our operators are instructed to make it quite clear to customers that there is an extra charge.”

Larry Vesty, at Radio Cars, also in Pevensey Road, said his firm also imposed the time and a half rate only if conditions were so bad, drivers were reluctant to come out.

“There is an awful lot of drivers who will not work in the snow because of the risk to their vehicles,” said Mr Vesty.

“If someone bashes into their vehicle, they could be off the road for weeks and it means loss of earnings. They need an incentive because of that risk.”

Julian Ledger, at Call-a-Cab in Lismore Road said it was imposed as there was a higher risk for drivers .

He added, “When it’s snowing and the roads are particularly bad, each journey will,on average, take two to three times longer than it would normally.

“We only apply the extra charge when the weather is particularly bad.”