The Irish Taxi industry

The Irish taxi industry has undergone significant change since the introduction of deregulation and the establishment of the Commission for Taxi Regulation. The current economic crisis has impacted heavily on PSV licence holders and the reforms implemented by the Taxi Regulator may force many to exit the business. Taxis in Ireland provide a vital service to business and the consumer and must receive the same assistance as other forms of public transport. Having met with the Taxi Regulator and taxi representatives, Fine Gael’s believes a solution must be found which will allow the continued reform of the industry while also recognising the difficulties being faced by drivers in these hardened economic times.

1. Review the Nine Year Rule

Fine Gael supports the Taxi Regulators commitment to increase quality and safety standard of vehicles within the industry. However, in the current economic circumstances, it is unreasonable to expect drivers to upgrade to new vehicles. The Taxi Regulator estimates that 24% of taxis will need to be replaced by year end. The Nine Year Rule also means that the taxi industry is not eligible for the scrappage scheme.

We will review the Nine Year Rule and analyse the implications it has had for the industry.

2. Subsidy to existing Wheelchair Accessible Taxis for upgrade

Fine Gael supports the Commission for Taxi Regulation’s target to achieve a 10% target of wheelchair accessible taxis and hackneys. Since June 2010, new Small Public Service Vehicle licences are issued only in respect of wheelchair accessible vehicles and a new category of wheelchair accessible hackney was introduced.

However, the introduction of EU regulations in April 2012 may result in many wheelchair accessible taxis being taken off the road as drivers cannot afford to upgrade their vehicles to the new standards. Fianna Fail refuses to assist these drivers. Fine Gael, however, does support the Taxi Regulator’s proposals for a subsidy to assist existing 1,463 wheelchair accessible licence holders to upgrade their vehicles.

3. Crackdown on illegal taxi drivers

Illegal taxis will only be taken off the road through strong enforcement. However, with 27,000 taxi licences across the country, plus the illegal taxis, and only 9 Enforcement Officers working for the Taxi Regulator, the industry will never be in a strong position to tackle rogue drivers. Real action must be taken.

In government, Fine Gael will direct An Garda Siochana to robustly enforce taxi regulation through a national crackdown on illegal taxis as well as regular regional spot checks and blitzes at taxi ranks.

4. Immediate National Audit of taxi ranks and spaces

The lack of taxi rank spaces across the country is forcing taxi drivers to regularly break the law by joining queues at the end of ranks.

– In Dublin, there are approximately 12,000 taxi licences and only 661 taxi rank spaces (490 full-time, 145 night time and 26 for special events)

– In Cork, there are approximately 1,290 taxi licences and only 125 spaces (60 full-time and 65 night time)

The Taxi Regulator is currently developing a model for taxi ranks, based on meeting customer demand rather than taxi demand, and I look forward to the publication of this research. In the meantime however, Fine Gael wants an immediate national audit of taxi ranks and spaces to include public consultation on locations where ranks should be provided. For example, it is hard to believe that the National Convention Centre in Dublin’s Docklands, which caters for up to 2,000 people at a time has not a single taxi space.

Fine Gael believes these proposals strike the right balance between the stated goals of the regulator, the views of the industry and the interests of the consumer, and will be pursuing them with the Minister for Transport and the Taxi Regulator.