Taxi drivers at the San Fernando to Port-of-Spain stand wait for passengers at King’s Wharf, San Fernando, yesterday.

San Fernando to Port-of-Spain taxi drivers are not backing down despite a furore by the travelling public over their decision to raise the fare to $5 from June 1.

Defending their decision to raise the fare from $17 to $22, San Fernando to Port-of-Spain Taxi Drivers Association’s president Hayden Whiskey said even with the increase they will still be operating at a loss.

Members of the public have taken to social media to vent their anger and frustration over the increase. There have also been calls for a boycott with persons being advised to use other modes of public transportation.

However, one of their members, Andre Morrison, a trustee, has also spoken out against the $5 fare. He suggested that the fare be increased by $3. Morrison said he came up with that figure after soliciting the views of passengers who were comfortable with the fare being increased to $20.

While he is working for half the income he earned pre-COVID-19, he said if his passengers cannot afford the $20 come Monday he would accept $17. He called on his colleagues to have a heart. However, Whiskey said they were discussing raising the fare even before COVID-19 since the last time they raised the fare was in 2015.

Saying that raising the fare to $20 is unprofitable and unsustainable, he said some drivers were barely earning a net income of $250 per day before the coronavirus. Even when the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and they resume operating at full capacity, Whiskey said the fare will not be reduced. “If we should get back to full capacity of six as mentioned earlier, then we will now enjoy a marginal increase after having to wait and take all that pain for the last five years.”

He was surprised that the travelling public felt the fare is unreasonable when other associations have raised their fare as much as $10. “We choose to be reasonable. We are not breaking even with this $22, we are absorbing a loss.” He said most of his members will not qualify for the government’s fuel relief grant.

In a public appeal on his Facebook page, Nikoli Edwards, political leader of the Progressive Party, called on the Association to set aside the proposed hike and instead lobby the government to make the grant available to them. “I shall pledge my support to the Association if they choose this route and to also lobby for any further state relief,” said Edwards.