Hailing a taxi in the Highlands will become more expensive than taking an equivalent ride in Edinburgh, if councillors vote through proposed fare increases tomorrow.
The basic cost of the first mile on a weekday will rise from £4 to £4.50, as opposed to £3.85 in Edinburgh and £3.60 in Moray.
The price per mile after that will go from £1.80 to £2 in Highland.
The tariffs for more expensive periods such as night-time, weekends and the festive season will also rise, with the price starting at £5.80 for the first mile, (formerly £4.70) and fares per mile starting at £2.50 (formerly £1.90)
At Christmas and New Year these fares could start at £6.80 for the first mile.
The book-ahead fee will see a 100% increase from 50p to £1, and drivers will be allowed to charge their passengers for any airport parking charges incurred.
Public responses to the consultation dubbed the proposals “ridiculous” and “a rip-off”.
Objectors highlighted the impact on the elderly and those dependent on taxis, for whom fares are already a major expense.
At Castle Wynd yesterday, cabbies Gary Johnson and Mike Hayward said trade during the day was already dead, due to the high level of fares.
Mr Johnson said: “I had a regular customer whose fare to Alness Place was £5. When it went up to £6.20 after the last increase, I never saw her again.”
Mr Hayward added: “Recently a lady walked past and we shouted to her, ‘taxi?’ and she said ‘not today, you’re too expensive’.”
Nine taxi drivers or companies replied to the public consultation, with all but one opposing the increases.
Inverness driver Rod Hill said if they go through, he won’t change his meter.
He said: “I feel the proposed review will kill the already stretched taxi trade in the city.”
Fort William driver Colin Maclean said the fare rises could prove “catastrophic” to the long-term survival of his business, which includes use by the Belford Hospital to provide 24hr on call patient transport.
A lone voice in favour came from Raymond Munro, managing director of Sneckie Taxis in Inverness.
He said his business overheads had increased by more than 20% in the past 18 months.
“If fares are fixed at a level higher than the market can stand, the trade is free to reduce them,” he wrote in his letter of support.
A Highland Council spokeswoman said: “The licensing committee will consider the representations received following advertisement of the proposed tariff, all other further information before it and any submission which any taxi operator attending the meeting may make to the committee at the meeting, and thereafter agree a final tariff.”
Any new tariff would take effect from November.