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Chaguanas taxis parked on High Street, San Fernando, yesterday.

RADHICA DE SILVA

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More than 60 per cent of taxi drivers across T&T have increased their fares since the COVID-19 pandemic hit and now, three more associations – the San Fernando to Macaulay, Couva to San Fernando and the Chaguanas to San Fernando Taxi Drivers Associations, have announced they will be increasing their fares by $3, $1 and $4 respectively starting next week.

Speaking at a media conference in San Fernando yesterday, president of the T&T Taxi Drivers’ Network, Adrian Acosta, said fares across the country have risen from $1 to as much as $5 since March last year.

He said from May 31, the taxi fee to travel from San Fernando to Chaguanas will be increasing from $14 to $18.

He said although the move will put a strain on passengers, it had to be done because of reduced income caused by the 50 per cent capacity limit.

Acosta said legitimate taxi drivers were facing stiff fines for entering certain streets in Port-of-Spain, while PH drivers were allowed to ply for hire without any penalties.

“We feel we are being penalised for doing the right thing,” Acosta said.

Despite rising COVID-19 infections, Acosta called on the Government to increase the capacity from 50 per cent to 75 per cent.

He said taxi drivers have not contributed to the COVID-19 spike, yet were being told they must operate at 50 per cent capacity.

“It is ridiculous. We are losing money and right now everything we work for goes back towards purchasing gas,” he added.

He called on Government to provide statistics and proof that commuting was causing COVID-19 spread.

“As taxi drivers, we were trying our best to keep the fare the same but now we have to readjust our taxi fares. This is very burdensome to us and it is a burden we can no longer carry on our shoulders,” Acosta said.

He said he knew of only one taxi driver in Arima who contracted COVID. Acosta also said PH drivers were bullying legitimate taxi drivers at the nation’s taxi stands and the police had failed to crack down on this.

“We have a lot of individuals who are bullies and who are threatening other taxi drivers. Some of them have weapons on their vehicles and we are telling the police don’t wait until someone dies to help us better govern our taxi stands,” Acosta said.

San Fernando to Macaulay Taxi Drivers’ Association president Hemraj Narine also said fares were set to increase from Monday by $3.

He said the fee is usually $9 but from Monday it will jump to $12.

“From Marabella to Macaulay, it will be $11 and from the main road to St Margaret’s will be a further $2.

He also said the Couva Taxi Drivers’ Association have also raised their fares by $1.

Both Acosta and Narine promised that if the Prime Minister allows the capacity to increase to 75 per cent, they will reduce their fees.