Northern Ireland news

Belfast black taxis ‘on brink of collapse'

 Sinn Fein MP for west Belfast Paul Maskey (centre), with (left to right) taxi driver Michael Draine, Michael Culbert Chair of the Board of Belfast Taxis, Brian Barr Transport Manager of Belfast Taxis, and taxi driver Sean Carmichael, stands with a letter addressed for the Northern Ireland Department for Infrastructure Minister Nicola Mallon seeking an urgent meeting regarding issues to West and North Belfast Black Taxi drivers, at Clarence House in Belfast.
Michael McHugh, PA

A Belfast black taxi service is on the brink of collapse, a worker warned.

Second-hand Hackney-style black taxis have been providing a transport service in west Belfast for more than 50 years.

Operators feel disadvantaged because they are not included in Translink’s concessionary fare scheme providing refunds to carriers for passengers over the age of 60 who travel for free.

Brian Barr, transport manager for West and North Belfast Black Taxis, said: “Our company is entitled to it, we provide public transport, we provide bus services, although in a smaller vehicle, to the communities in West and North Belfast.

“We secure over 150 jobs in North and West Belfast and at the minute we are on the brink of collapse so we definitely need help as soon as possible.”

He urged Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon to meet them.

“We need clarification and we definitely need the concessionary fares scheme to be implemented to our services.”

Drivers also face stiff competition from the Glider buses and have expressed concern in the past about fare-dodging.

West Belfast MP Paul Maskey accompanied the drivers as they handed in a letter to the Infrastructure Department.

He said the drivers must receive immediate support for a vital public transport service.

“It is firmly our view that the Belfast Black Taxis should benefit from the same system as Translink – with the provision of subsidised travel for senior citizens and young people.

“Implementing concessionary fares for black taxis would be a small cost for the Infrastructure Minister.

“However, these subsidised fares would be to the benefit of the local community, as well as making Belfast black taxis much more financially sustainable and competitive.

“We are not asking for anything extraordinary, but merely for Black Taxis to be treated equally to other public transport services.”

He told the minister it was time for words to turn into action.

“The Belfast Black Taxis have ferried the people of Belfast for decades – I will do all that I can as the MP for West Belfast to ensure that this service remains in place for decades to come.”

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