Labour Cllr Niall Mc Nelis has said that the proposals in the Taxi Regulator’s new Action Plan for 2010-2011 yet again fail to address the ongoing crisis situation in the taxi sector.
He welcomes some elements of the plan such as the review of the National Maximum Taxi Fare in 2010, a new ID for all SPSV drivers and a county ID for taxi roof signs, a new consumer friendly website and an online register of active vehicle, driver and dispatch operator licenses.
“However after meeting taxi drivers in Galway City I believe many of the proposals are yet again too little, too late.
"The new Action Plan proposes that from June 8 all new SPSV licenses issued will have to be for wheelchair accessible vehicles.
"At the moment there are just 1,535 wheelchair taxis out of 26,483 active SPSV licenses according to the Regulator.
"Serious concerns have also been raised about the state of the current wheelchair accessible fleet especially in terms of their ramp and entry/exit facilities.
“Yet, given the cost of buying a wheelchair accessible vehicle (€40,000 plus ) and the current dire economic conditions in the taxi industry, it is highly unlikely that this move will actually encourage drivers to buy a wheelchair accessible vehicle,” he said.
Cllr McNelis said that the Regulator has also yet again failed to introduce a comprehensive demand-led mechanism for the issuing of licenses.
"There continues to be an incredible number of taxis on the roads. And this is forcing drivers to work often an unsafe number of hours for less than the minimum wage and where they can barely, if at all, afford to pay their mortgage and bills and feed their families.
“Last year in the Labour Party’s own comprehensive taxi policy, Hailing a New Taxi Service, we proposed a demand-led mechanism as part of a major overhaul of the taxi regulation system to achieve the highest quality service for passengers as well as providing a decent, sustainable income for all taxi workers,” he added.
He said that the proposal for the publication of new Taxi Rank Planning Guidelines to “encourage best practice in the planning and the standardisation” of taxi ranks is risible.
"There is simply a massive shortage of rank spaces which has resulted in huge congestion and parking problems for drivers in cities across the country. The Regulator and Local Authorities should just make sure that more taxi rank spaces are immediately brought on stream rather than issuing a new set of guidelines.
“The Regulator reports that the proposed new fleet license will bring “greater transparency and accountability to multiple vehicle license holders and the rental sector.” Yet again this does not go any way far enough to address the serious problems with the multiple vehicle license holders and the taxi rental sector. Perhaps instead the Regulator should have begun to phase out this problematic category altogether.
“As a safety critical industry where drivers interact with the public, the vetting and monitoring in particular of the taxi rental sector and multiple license holders still seems incredibly lax. Taxi workers and their representatives have suggested new legislation along the lines of the model in use within the private security industry and operated by the Private Security Authority to ensure the most comprehensive vetting standards are applied to all drivers within the industry.
“Disappointingly the new Action Plan also fails to review the fast-tracking of the 9 Year Vehicle regulation given that financial institutions and banks now view taxi drivers as “high risk” and will not extend credit facilities to them for the purchase of new vehicles. This will particularly affect drivers with older but high-quality and spacious vehicles who may be forced to approach sub-prime or other unscrupulous financial lenders or go on the dole.
“The introduction of an Action Plan for 2010-2011 also gives no indication of when the Taxi Regulator will finally come within the remit of the National Transport Authority (NTA ) which has long been promised by Transport Minister Dempsey.”