A CHRISTMAS taxi strike has been avoided.

The Bolton Private Hire Association has confirmed drivers will not strike over the Christmas and New Year period despite no agreement on a fare increase being reached.

On Thursday drivers walked out and staged a peaceful protest outside Metro Cars in a bid to force owner, Nick Astley to increase their fares.

That evening, drivers and operator bosses met to try to come to an agreement after a Christmas strike was threatened.

A spokesman for the private hire association, said: “It didn’t go according to plan and there was nothing agreed.

“The operators keep asking us to sit down on January 15 and go through it again.

“We are not happy about it.”

Mr Astley said: “We had a meeting and it is not for me to discuss what was said there.

“As an individual, I can see the need for a fare increase.

“The drivers have good a lot of good points, you would be a fool not to recognise that. But any increase needs to be in moderation and in line with inflation.

“It is going to be really difficult to say how much the increase should be.

“I am sure that negotiations will follow over the next few days and weeks and hopefully we will be able to come to a satisfactory conclusion. I do see the genuine need for a fare rise. But the upsetting thing is that I have been saying this for a few months, long before this has happened. Hopefully we will be able to find a happy medium soon and not cause the public any hardship.”

The spokesperson for the Bolton Private Hire Association, said: “We are going to have a meeting with the drivers and in the meantime we have decided that we are not going to disturb the Christmas period for out customers. We are looking at our customers now and we don’t want to spoil their festive period. We will not disturb that.”

The drivers walked out on Thursday at 2pm for about an hour and after discussions with Mr Astley a meeting at the 3D Centre in Bella Street was set up.

Drivers said after all their expenses, such as fuel, insurance and radio rental were paid, they were earning less than the minimum wage.

They are looking for a 50p per mile increase. This would move the current base rate from £2.30 to £2.80 and subsequent miles from £1.30 to £1.80. On Thursday the spokesman said: “The money all goes on our expenses. We have insurance and fuel and we have to pay radio rent. After all that, we are earning less than minimum wage and drivers are struggling.”

During the negotiations with the drivers on Thursday afternoon Mr Astley said he was sympathetic but believed the price rise was too much and would turn customers away.

Mr Astley said: “If customers would pay a £5 minimum fee we would have that, but there’s only so much customers will pay. Then you start losing customers.”