TAXI fares will rise by 10 per cent from April in a bid to resolve a row over drivers’ earnings.

Private hire operators in Bolton had a meeting this week following a walkout by drivers just days before Christmas demanding more money — claiming in some cases they were earning less than the minimum wage.

The association represents 18 out of the 25 private hire companies in Bolton.

Asif Vali, chairman of the Private Hire Operators’ Association, said: “We told drivers that we would hold a meeting on January 15 after the walkout just before Christmas. We had already agreed to look at an increase at our quarterly meeting in October and had planned to hold a meeting in January.

“Operators have agreed to increase fares by at least 10 per cent. All our members charge different fares and this is a minimum percentage increase on that.

“Drivers were asking for a rise of more than 50 per cent, but customers would not accept that.

“The increase in fares will go to the drivers and is above the rate of inflation.”

An hour-long walkout took place in December, as a number of drivers staged a peaceful protest in a bid to force an increase in fares. Drivers were calling for a 50p extra for every mile of a journey.

A Christmas strike was averted as operators agreed to consider the pay demands.

An increase of 50p per mile would have meant a five-mile taxi ride would increase in cost from £7.50 to £10, if a private hire company charged £2.30 for the first mile and £1.30 for every mile thereafter.

Under the new pricing structure the journey would cost £8.50.

Mr Vali said a 10 per cent price rise would give drivers a substantial pay increase.

A spokesman for the drivers said members are pushing for an extra 10p on the mile on top of the 10 per cent rise — and they were unhappy that the radio rental charge was also going up by five per cent.

Mr Vali said: “Potentially drivers could earn more than £5,000 as an example, depending on the hours they work.”

He added: “Customers will see fares go up and taxi operators have a public duty. Customers would not have accepted the initial increase being demanded, business would be affected. A customer who uses a taxi to and from work could find themselves paying an extra £10 a week. We think 10 per cent increase is fair, but we will keep a dialogue going with the drivers, who we know are not happy. We have met with the drivers and listened to them and given them increase which is more than many other workers are getting.”

Yasir Amir, Chairman of the Private Hire Drivers’ Association said: “We had a meeting the with operators this week. I have yet still to speak to my members, but I do have concerns. I am happy there is a rise being put forward but we would like an extra 10p on the mile.

“But we have also been told that there will be a five per cent increase in radio rental charge, which we are not happy with. What is the point of giving us 10 per cent and then taking back five per cent.

“The feedback I am getting from drivers is that they are not happy. They would not mind an increase of up to £2.60, but five per cent is too much.”

Mr Vali said an increase in admin charges was up to the individual operator, but would not rise by more than a nominal fee, with some thinking about £5 extra, saying it would not be more than £240 per annum against the pay rise.

He explained: “Advertising is a big expense and we expect customers to shop around so more will have to be spent on publicity and associated costs.”

The price increase is expected to come into force in April.