Westmeath drivers can expect to see the main routes into every major town blocked by angry taxi drivers unless action is taken on the issuing of plates.
So says John Doyle, chairman of Mullingar Taxi Association and sub-chairman of the BMW (Border, Midland, and West ) Taxi Association who hopes that Kathleen Doyle, the taxi regulator, will resign before such drastic action is needed.
The reaction follows the publication on Monday of a long awaited report on the future of the taxi industry which concluded there is no need for a temporary halt to the issuing of taxi licences.
Doyle says drivers in Mullingar, Athlone, and across the Midlands were devastated.
“Any dog or cat on the road sees there are too many taxis. We’re absolutely flooded with taxis and we’re absolutely gutted at what’s in the report.”
It concluded there was no need for a moratorium because there has been a decrease in the number of licences issued from 235 in March 2008 to only 33 in February 2009.
The report also stated that while taxi drivers’ working week has lengthened to an average of 52 hours, their income has not increased dramatically.
These conclusions fly in the face of the experiences of individual taxi drivers who have told the Advertiser in recent weeks of reductions of up to 50 per cent in their pay.
“Kathleen Doyle has got to resign. This is not going to settle until she’s gone. Why is she being paid so much money if she can’t do the job and she’s not doing the job?”
He added that a 75-year-old passenger recently pointed out to him that there were far too many taxis in Mullingar. “If a 75-year-old can see it, the regulator is not needed. Take her money off her.”
A cap on licences for a couple of years would have given time for the licence and other issues to be looked at and would mean “the enforcers would have enough time to enforce what’s out there”.
What will this mean for the people of Westmeath?
“We want to keep our service,” says John. “We don’t want to disturb customers but if it comes to the point where we have to, then we’ll have no other choice.”
He says that there has been “fabulous support” from the public and from other workers so far.
A march planned for Trim earlier this week has been postponed due to the death of a prominent taxi activist but this will go ahead soon.
It will be followed by a march in Dublin a few weeks later and if that fails to yield results “there will be a blockade of every bridge, every entry into any capital town”.