TAXI fares across Somerset could soon be on the rise as the new unitary authority seeks to harmonise the cost of journeys across the county.

Fares in Somerset were previously set by the four district councils, resulting in substantial variations in the amounts charged to passengers.

Somerset Council, which replaced the district councils in April, has published new proposals which seek to harmonise taxi fares, allowing them to be adjusted across the county at the same time and reduce red tape for drivers.

But passengers face higher fares in numerous cases as officers admitted they were “tending to go up rather than down” when trying to bring the former districts into line.

A breakdown of the new fares was published before a meeting of the council’s licensing and regulatory committee held in Taunton on September 14.

Under the proposals, taxi and Hackney carriage drivers will all charge £4.60 for the first mile and 30p for every one-tenth of a mile or part thereafter.

This means a normal two-mile journey would cost £7.60 – the same as is currently charged in the former South Somerset area, but higher than in Mendip (£7.10), Sedgemoor (£6.80) and Somerset West and Taunton (£6.80).

Passengers will be charged a further £1 for every two minutes they are left waiting in traffic.

Somerset County Gazette: A breakdown of the new fares was published before a meeting of the council’s licensing and regulatory committee.A breakdown of the new fares was published before a meeting of the council’s licensing and regulatory committee.

Drivers will be able to charge a 50 per cent premium on fares collected on Sundays or on weekdays between 11pm and 7am, and a 100 per cent premium on journeys under taken on bank holidays or on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve between 6pm and midnight.

Drivers can also charge £2 extra per passenger if more than four passengers are riding, a £100 charge if the vehicle is soiled, and tolls or clean air zone charges as required.

John Rendell, the council’s licensing manager, said: “I suspect there will be objections.

“We know we have some vehicle licence holders, particularly those operating in the Taunton area, who aren’t fully on board with the proposals just yet.

“I would anticipate that members of the public may not be completely happy with the proposal either, because as we are harmonising, we are tending to go up rather than down.

“It’s fair to say that some travellers would notice increases, assuming that drivers charge the maximum – but they don’t have to charge that rate.”

Councillor Marcus Kravis (whose Dunster division includes numerous small villages near Minehead) questioned whether the higher fares would lead to fewer passengers – and asked how often the new fares would need to be reviewed.

He said: “Bearing in mind what’s going on with inflation at the moment, and the fare increases a few years ago (which were down to fuel costs), do you foresee this coming back again and again.

“We’re now getting to the point with taxi services that it’s £10 for a two-mile journey. If you get a taxi from Taunton town centre to Richard Huish College, that’s a tenner.

“Even for me, that’s almost worth walking. Maybe not if I had high heeled shoes on or was drunk – not that I wear high heeled shoes very often.”

Mr Rendell replied: “The intention at the moment is that we will periodically review the maximum fares that we set, just to make sure they are at the right level.”

The council’s executive committee is expected to formally adopt the new charges when it meets in early-November, and will set a date for when the new charges will be in effect.