Taxi firms' fury at lost contracts

SEVERAL Hawick taxi firms have been left in a spin after failing to win vital local authority contracts.

And the loss of the regular 'school runs' and pickups of youngsters attending specialist education, has placed some companies in serious financial distress.

According to these firms, Scottish Borders Council has awarded a string of regular local runs to a fleet based in Galashiels. And the loss of these contracts has resulted in one of Hawick's longest running firms, A.H Taxis, paying off drivers.

Dave Gentleman, a partner in A.H Taxis, said: "We have lost all our contracts with the council this year, and this has meant we've had to lay off three drivers."

Mr Gentleman tendered this year for 11 contracts, but the firm has failed to secure any. And questioning the ability of firms more than 20 miles from Hawick being able to successfully price for jobs in the surrounding area, including Newcastleton, he added: "How is that viable?"

Fellow partner Donna Gray says she was "gobsmacked" to be told they had been unsuccessful, stating: "We had not been greedy and deliberately put in quite generous prices. There's no way a Gala firm can be doing local runs cheaper than us, and making money."

And Donna, who had already been considering selling the business due to family commitments, revealed: "Losing our contracts has helped me decide to sell up, but we are still running."

P.K Taxis has also been left counting the cost of contracts being awarded elsewhere, having lost one lucrative run to Kelso. Owner Peter Knight admitted: "I'm going to have a big hole in my business every week and have no work for two new vehicles . If a Gala firm has beaten my cheap price, I'm baffled."

John Wood of J.W Taxis, which currently runs 11 vehicles, is currently waiting to hear news of 20 contracts, and says the decision will have a major impact.

He said: "This is really important to us and a significant part of our work. I've got three drivers sitting doing nothing, so I'm hoping something comes up."

A Scottish Borders Council spokesperson said: "All transport contracts are awarded through a tendering process with operators eligible to bid for any contract. These bids are judged against set criteria with taxi and private hire ones being judged by quality of service, how the bid meets the tender specification, and cost. Each are scored against the other with the operator with the highest score being asked to take up the contract.

"This summer so far we have tendered for 16 routes in the Hawick area. Of these, two Hawick-based firms have won two contracts each, with the other routes being won by companies from elsewhere in the Borders."

Sonny Murray, one of those who lost his job with A.H Taxis, says there is a sense of anger amongst local firms, stating: "I am disgusted Hawick firms have lost out."