South East Wales

Cardiff taxi strike may hit Wales-England and Kylie

England captain John Terry and Kylie Minogue
Image caption Wales' match with England and Kylie Minogue's concerts are major events in Cardiff at the weekend

Taxi drivers in Cardiff may strike next weekend, as Wales play England in the Euro 2012 football qualifier, and as Kylie Minogue performs two city shows.

The Cardiff Hackney Carriage Association says a strike is a last resort, but claims its drivers are struggling to make a living.

It says the drivers need more rank space, better railway station access and the right to raise fares.

The council called a rise "unjustified" in the currrent economic climate.

It plans to which meet the drivers on Wednesday.

About 70,000 football supporters will be at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday for the sell-out Wales-England clash.

Thousands more Kylie Minogue fans will be at the Australian star's shows in the nearby Motorpoint Arena Cardiff - the former Cardiff International Arena - on Friday and Saturday nights.

Mathab Khan, the hackney carriage association's chairman, said he hoped "some kind of deal will be struck" on Wednesday.

Mr Khan said there were three main areas of dispute: the closure of the Central Square in front of the train station when there was a big event; the need to raise fares due to VAT increases, and a planned fuel duty rise; and the lack of ranks.

The association would like the council to reopen the access near the bus station to allow taxis to reach people.

'Very upset'

The drivers want a 5.83% rise in fares which Mr Khan said would "take into account the rises in VAT since our last rise in 2008, and also the proposed 1% fuel duty due in April".

He said taxi drivers were "very, very upset" the council had turned their application down, without giving a proper reason.

He said road works in one of the city centre's main routes, St Mary Street, was also affecting the number of ranks available, and there was already a shortage.

"All this needs to be discussed on Wednesday," he said.

Mr Khan said the 700-plus drivers who belong to the Cardiff association - out of 963 taxi drivers in the city - did not want to "cause any disruption".

He said the downturn in the economy in Wales had affected his members and it was important the council "be considerate".

Any strike would be "damaging to Wales" and neither he nor his members wanted to see that as "we care about Cardiff".

"We are not silly people... but when drivers' livelihoods are being affected we must do something," he added.

A Cardiff Council spokesperson said the fare increase was refused on the grounds that a fare increase in the current economic climate would appear "unjustified" to the travelling public.

The licensing committee will continue to work with the taxi trade to address their concerns.

The spokesperson said taxi drivers had been made aware of works to complete resurfacing of St Mary Street between 20-24 March which meant they had to pick up and drop off at Guildhall Place.

Taxi drivers had also been made aware of changes to station access during Six Nations rugby matches.

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