BOURNEMOUTH’S biggest taxi operator has increased its fleet from 220 cars to 310 after a merging with one of its key competitors.

United Taxis’ merger with Christchurch Radio Cabs went ahead yesterday.

The move leaves United as the owner of the biggest taxi fleet in Dorset and Hampshire.

Negotiations between the firms started in September 2016 with the aim of increasing United’s reach into Christchurch, New Milton and Lymington and further east.

Christchurch Radio Cabs will now begin the process of re-branding its 100-strong fleet and its three offices, which are in Old Christchurch Road in Bournemouth, New Milton and Christchurch.

The joint company will use both the businesses’ phone numbers, with all phone calls handled from one central call centre.

United says the merger will build on the growing popularity of its mobile app, which allows customers to book, track and pay for their taxi.

Derek Heritage, director of United Taxis, said: “It is a real pleasure to merge with Christchurch Radio Cabs at a time when there are many developments in our business.

“This deal sees United become the largest fleet in Dorset and Hampshire and offers our passengers more choice over a wider area.

“Further to that, our app offers a seamless and secure service that benefits many customers in terms of tracking their taxi, paying by card and identifying the car and driver.”

Chris Cullerton, who was chairman of the former Christchurch Radio Cabs, said: “In turn we had always wanted to get more business from the west and this merger allows everyone, within both companies, to benefit as one brand.

“Ultimately our customers benefit – collectively now we are on line to look after 170,000 customers a month – and with the development of our new app there isn’t an easier way to book at taxi and pay securely.”

United Taxis was established in 1995 and Christchurch Radio Cabs in 1970. Collectively the company employs over 485 drivers and 70 administrative staff out of seven offices.

United previously took over Star Radio Cabs in 2015, acquiring 40 more vehicles in the process and expanding the area it covered.