The Minister for Public & Commuter Transport, Mr Alan Kelly TD, published the Government’s report into the future of the taxi sector on Tuesday. The report contains over 40 key actions to address deficiencies in taxi regulation as part of a Programme for Government commitment to review the taxi sector.
“This is the most radical examination of the taxi sector in Ireland ever,” said Minister Kelly.
“The powers of the Gardai will be extended as a key action, with strengthened collaboration with the National Transport Authority for more effective on street enforcement. We will also be tightening up on the rental sector, removing criminal elements from the sector and creating a much more robust system of regulation,” he said.
“The broad aim of this report is to increase consumer confidence in the sector and eliminate the rogue elements in the sector. We also want to ensure that legitimate and professional taxi operators and drivers can be rewarded fairly by operating under a regulatory regime that is adequately enforced. We want it to be a sector worth working in. This report will allow us to achieve this and we have brought taxi regulation right back to the top of the transport agenda,” said Minister Kelly.
Speaking following the publication of the report, Labour Deputy Mr John Lyons has welcomed the review as a major step towards addressing areas of concern in the industry, for the benefit of consumers and drivers alike.
“Last year’s Prime Time investigation raised significant public concerns about unlawful and dangerous practices by rogue elements in the taxi industry. This behaviour undermined public confidence and unfairly affected the vast majority of legitimate taxi operators and drivers,” he said.
Proposal for Change
The report proposes actions under six categories: Compliance & Enforcement, Consumer and Industry Assurance, Driver Licensing, Vehicle Licensing & Standards, Accessible Services, and Fleet Management & Rental Controls. These measures include increasing Garda powers to issue fixed-charge penalties for breaches of legislation, the facilitation of a smartphone app to check if a driver is licensed, and limiting the age of taxi cars. Low cost hackney licences for rural community groups or businesses with limited areas of operation are also to be introduced.
As part of the report, Indecon consultants were also engaged to examine the current market situation regarding taxis. They identified a significant oversupply of taxis in the Irish market currently, which they estimate to be in the region of 13-22 per cent ahead of taxi demand.
Speaking at the formal publication of the report the Minister said: “This is an action-orientated report, and work on these measures will start immediately. The National Transport Authority will be key partners in driving these actions.
“One new provision I’m keen to develop is the specific hackney for rural places. Transport is not just an urban issue, and we need to adopt a different regulatory approach for many isolated places that currently have no taxi service. With rural Ireland suffering from social isolation we have to give people some form of transport options,” he said.