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Local taxi drivers fear that they will driven out of business when a new Taxis Act for Northern Ireland comes into effect from the end of next month.

At a meeting organised by Independent MLA Claire Sugden on Monday, taxi drivers from across the borough vented their frustrations about the changes, which will see the implementation of a new maximum fare structure.

Taxi Meter.

Taxi Meter.

Under the new Act, drivers will have to have a meter and a printer in their vehicles and new roof signage.

Representatives from DVA’s taxi unit were in attendance at the meeting, which took place at the Lodge Hotel.

A number of well known operators told the meeting that they fear that they will be ‘put out of business’, because of the additional costs they are having to pay to meet the new guidelines.

Many claimed that the new rules would encourage more illegal taxis onto the road.

“The Department is doing nothing for us,” said one man.

“Being a legal driver only means expense to us, yet illegal drivers are happily driving past us,” he said.

“The taxi industry is falling on its knees,” said another frustrated company owner.

“A new minimum wage was introduced last week, and we are in the middle of a recession, yet we are having to fork out money for new signs, meters and printers.”

The drivers heard that the new rules aim to encourage fair competition in the taxi industry and protect customers from over charging.

Alex Boyle from DVA’s Taxi Unit reassured drivers that there would be a ‘period of grace’ for drivers to meet the new requirements.

Under the new regulations a fare from Coleraine train station to Portrush could cost a customer up to £8.50, a fare that would currently cost £7 with many local firms.

Another worried taxi driver told those present: “We all thought that when these new rules came in it would put us all on an equal playing field, but some companies will have to raise their prices to recoup what they have had to spend on meters and new signage.

“We are hearing that this is to protect the consumer but many customers will end up paying more for their fares,” claimed another driver.