Simon Thacker

A SMALL taxi firm fears it could be squeezed out of business by a price war which has seen some firms slash their minimum fares by half.

Fears have been raised that many firms across Hyndburn have cut their minimum fare from £3 to £1.50 which could see smaller firms going out of business.

Concerns have also been raised that the firms which are left could form a monopoly over trade in the town.

Clayton Cars, on Whalley Road, Clayton-le-Moors, is a small firm which has been affected by the price cuts.

Owner Bashir Hussain said: £We have reduced our minimum fare from £3 to £1.50.

"We have no choice and around 30 per cent of our drivers have left and gone to Blackburn and elsewhere

"In the past, they did a job for £3, but now they are having to do two jobs to make the same money.

"And you are not making that, as you have extra fuel to pay. This will hit a lot of smaller firms.

"I personally am having to borrow money left right and centre and I am not making enough to pay my costs.

"The longest I can survive is for a month or two and then that's it.'

His fears were echoed by Mohammed Ishaq, owner of Central Cabs and A & B Taxis, Accrington.

He said: 'We have had to do this because otherwise we could not survive.

"We are reasonable, but we are not cheap. Our minimum fare is now £1.50 and it was £3.

"We have lowered our prices because if we don't we will lose all our custom. We are finding it difficult to survive and if we don't we will have no business left.

"The council says it can't do anything, but perhaps it doesn't want to do anything about it and have firms fighting.'

Tanny Sharif, a manager at Max Cabs, Accrington said: 'We did it because of the recession. It is really not about undercutting anyone, but we are doing the £1.50 minimum.

"I don't know about a price war and really, it's not, it is just a reality that other firms should see.'

A spokesman for Bash Cars confirmed it had also reduced its local fare minimum rate from £3 to £1.50.

Jackie Whittle, manager of Accrington Taxis on Union Road, Oswaldtwistle said her firm had not made the price drop.

She said: 'We are still charging £3 for our minimum fare. We couldn't possibly drop to £1.50.

"People who do this will have to just grin and bear it. They will have to be driving around like idiots if they are only charging £1.50.

"It will mean working longer hours and for less and you still have the same to pay on the vehicles. We won't be doing it as we can't afford to.'

Mohammed Arif, chairman of Hyndburn Taxi Drivers Association said: 'It is obviously smaller firms which will feel the pinch.

"But the drivers themselves will be feeling the pinch, too. We are hoping something can be done about it.

"A lot of drivers are members of the association and we have spoken to the council. A lot has been said, but not much has been done.'

One former driver who did not wish to be named said: 'If you don't show loyalty to your local companies, then don't be surprised if before Christmas you will be paying through the nose for taxi travel in Accrington.'

A spokeswoman for Hyndburn Council said: 'We set the fares for hackney carriages.

"But we have no input on fares for private hire vehicles and it is matter of negotiation between the hirer and the operator.'