Talks between unionists representing taxi drivers and Transport Minister Evripidis Stylianidis have produced a «gentleman’s agreement» that will allow cabbies to gradually increase their fares by 100 percent over the next year in exchange for improved service to customers, it emerged yesterday. According to ministry sources, the fare charged by taxi drivers per kilometer will increase 33 percent to 0.48 cents from 0.36 cents on May 1. The next increase is planned for November, when the rate will rise to 0.60. The final hike is due in May 2010 when the rate will reach 0.72 cents per kilometer. The minimum charge for a cab journey – 3.80 euros – will not change. But the cost of ordering a taxi by telephone will rise from 2.80 euros to up to 5 euros. The deal foresees additional benefits for taxi drivers, including much-coveted access to bus lanes, which cabbies will be able to use on weekdays but not during the peak periods of 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m., and only if they have a passenger. In exchange for these advantages, taxi drivers will be obliged to clean up their act, improving treatment of passengers and cutting out common violations such as overcharging and taking on multiple passengers. «Improvement means cleaner vehicles, better behavior, customer service for passengers and the strict observance of the law,» Stylianidis said yesterday. It remained unclear how authorities would determine that cabbies are holding up their side of the deal. Sources said taxi unions will be asked to monitor their behavior and police will carry out checks. A presidential decree foreseeing strict fines for offending cabbies, signed by Stylianidis yesterday, is expected to have some impact. Drivers who refuse to pick up a passenger or take multiple fares will face fines of up to 1,200 euros.