An overhaul of current taxi regulations needs to happen urgently to address the critical lack of taxi and hackney cabs available in rural Ireland, a Fine Gael Senator has said.
Fine Gael Senator Tim Lombard made his comments ahead of a briefing scheduled to take place today in Leinster House between public representatives and the Taxi for Ireland Coalition, which is comprised of six organisations representing the tourism, hospitality, and enterprise sectors.
“Whether you’re out in Kinsale, Castletownbere or any town in Ireland, chances are you won’t be able to get a taxi home on a weekend night,” Senator Lombard said. “This is having a negative impact on business and hospitality in our towns all year around, and is a source of huge frustration among people living in rural Ireland, who have to plan their transport into towns and villages to socialise well in advance.
“There is an unequal distribution between urban and rural areas. 60% of the country’s taxis serve 28% of the population, who live in Dublin, which is ludicrous.
“The National Transport Agency has admitted that there has been a very poor uptake on the Local Hackney Pilot grant aided programme, which was launched in January 2023 with the aim of improving and increasing services in rural Ireland. I believe it was only taken up by one taxi operator. There is clearly something wrong with this programme so a workable solution must be arrived upon.
“The onus is now on the NTA about changing taxi regulations, some of which can be prohibitive. Flexibility and common sense must be applied. Current regulations state that all Small Public Service Vehicles (SPSV) must be wheelchair accessible and that drivers must also take a geography test before being granted their license to operate.
“Most of us driving in 2024 utilise Google maps or SatNav aids to arrive at our destination – this is standard practice nowadays for all drivers on the road. Regulations need to reflect the times we live in. There are a number of people living in rural towns and villages in particular who would welcome the opportunity to operate a taxi services, if only just for weekend work or off peak times.
“People are increasingly worried about their ability to get home safely after a night out. This should not be the case and NTA hold the cards here in addressing this issue, providing customers with a service that’s fit-for-purpose and providing would-be drivers with the opportunity to make some extra money. It’s time this is dealt with.”