Taxi customers could witness an initial rise in fares when metering goes ‘live’ across County Armagh and beyond in just 10 days time.
The meters – which have had to be installed under the requirement of the Taxi Act (NI) 2008 – will now have to be operational in accordance with that legislation.
The compulsory metering will see many customers paying more to begin with for local runs.
But it is a time of change for the industry too and a costly one for taxi firms and drivers; many have paid huge amounts to install the equipment to comply with the legislation which, if they do not, could see them face hefty fines.
The move is part of a government bid to increase standardisation and modernisation in the industry across the region.
It has not been without controversy and has taken some considerable time since the legislation was passed for it to be fully implemented.
The introduction of metering will see a change to local pricing customs in Armagh and across the north, and is designed to give greater transparency and fairness in the calculation of fares, based on measurement of time and distances travelled, according to officials in the new Department of Infrastructure.
“Metering is common industry practice across most regions and gives a greater level of confidence in the industry as a whole and also provides for a better level of fairness and protection to both taxi drivers and customers alike,” said one senior official.
There have however also been complaints from industry insiders at the cost of the equipment and installation fees, which have been passed directly on to taxi drivers, along with requirements for new signage and display plates to comply with the legislation.
In many cases these have cost individual drivers upwards of £700 each.
Some local taxi drivers are also concerned about the impact of the metering on local fares.
They have indicated that some journeys will now likely see a “noticeable initial jump” in price under the new system, as fares become aligned to distance and some existing pricing anomalies are levelled out.
Commenting on the matter, local Councillor Garath Keating said he felt it was “important to support the local taxi industry in what will be a challenging period of adjustment”.
He added: “Our local drivers have had no control over this regional initiative and they will now be required under law to use the meters and that will certainly take some getting used to for many customers.
“We have excellent and dedicated taxi drivers in this area who provide a first class and reliable service.
“If meters will ultimately help sustain and improve conditions for those drivers over the long term, then I think that is something to be welcomed.”