WINCHESTER’S largest taxi company has taken over the top spots by the train station, sparking anger with hackney carriages being forced to wait on the other side of the road.

Tensions are rising between Wintax and the Hackney carriages with Wintax purchasing a four-year tender from South Western Railway (SWR) to use the bays directly outside the station as a waiting area for its pre-booking-only vehicles.

One customer has spoken of "argy bargy" between the two sets of drivers.

Wintax vehicles must be pre-booked. Hackney cabs can be hailed in the street.

Winchester City Council has introduced a trial shorter taxi rank for hackney drivers on the opposite side of the road but they have been left frustrated by the lack of communication and decline in business.

Wintax said SWR gave them the opportunity to pay for the prime position tender after years of Hackney drivers refusing to pay their permits.

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Hampshire Chronicle: Wintax now has exclusive use of the spotsWintax now has exclusive use of the spots (Image: Adele Bouchard)

A Wintax spokesperson said: “The tender for the train station was offered to other taxi companies who could have paid but we had to do it as a strategic business move to stop a whole other company come in.

“The Hackney drivers shot themselves in the foot by not paying and now they’re trying to push the agenda that we’re taking their spot.

“I understand why they’re aggrieved but the council made it clear to them that they needed to pay to keep the rank.”

Hampshire Chronicle: Hackney carriages on the other side of the roadHackney carriages on the other side of the road (Image: Adele Bouchard)

A group of Hackney drivers said they didn’t pay in 2021 due to Covid but weren’t subsequently given the chance to pay for their usual permit following the pandemic.

A Hackney driver, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “The taxi rank has been in front of the station for more than 30 years and we have been paying SWR all of that time.

“We accepted the free rank but we weren’t informed of the tender at all and SWR has all our email addresses. Nobody told us anything. There should have at least been a sign up about the tender and more signs now to tell people we’re over here. People looking for a taxi are being told to book and wait without knowing we’re here."

Another added: “The permit price goes up every year, it's risen from around £400 to £890 but we still would have been willing to pay. This is our livelihood, 90 per cent of our business comes from the station and we’ve seen an 80 per cent drop since the changes.”

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Commuters have also been left confused. Carol McGill, of Colson Road, Winnall, has been getting taxis from the station for years but said the new system was “absolute chaos” after trying to get a taxi with her friend and her dog.

Hampshire Chronicle: Carol McGill and her dogCarol McGill and her dog (Image: Carol McGill)

Carol, 65, said: “It was a nightmare. All these people stood around puzzled after being told the taxis are pre-booking only.

 “It makes it much worse. There were two elderly ladies with heavy luggage confused to how to get a taxi and a hackney driver had to come over and get them so they didn’t have to cross.

“It’s no good for elderly people who don’t use a phone much. I had no idea about the changes and I know Winchester, it’s not a very good advert for the city.

“It’s been absolute chaos. Police had to be there at one point. There’s some argy bargy going on between the pre-booked and the Hackney drivers.”

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Hampshire Chronicle: Wintax pay phone and tablet inside stationWintax pay phone and tablet inside station (Image: Adele Bouchard)

New signs, QR codes, tablets and pay phones have been installed to help people pre-book since Wintax’s contract started at the beginning of the month.

A member of Wintax staff is also on hand to help people book a taxi but is not legally allowed to approach people.

SWR was contacted for more information on why the area was put up for tender. In response, a spokesperson for SWR said: “Wintax has exclusive access to taxi spaces at Winchester station and they are responsible for managing the individual taxis. They are required to provide sufficient vehicles to meet demand at the station and comply with local licensing laws.”