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Increase in taxi fares during peak weekend hours expected to entice drivers back into night work

Taxi fares are set to rise by 12% on average from 1 September.

AN INCREASE IN taxi fares weighted in favour of those working ‘unsocial hours’ is expected to entice drivers back into city centres during busy weekend evenings, an industry expert has said.

Taxi fares are set to rise by 12% on average from 1 September following a review this year by the National Transport Authority (NTA)

It is the first fare increase since 2018 when the average cost of a taxi journey rose by 4.5%.

The new fare structure will see the standard initial charge increase from €3.80 to €4.20.

The initial charge during premium periods covering 8pm-8am and Sundays and public holidays will go from €4.20 to €4.80.

Speaking to The Journal, David McGuinness, chairperson of the taxi driver representative organisation Tiomanai Tacsai Na hEireann (TTnH), said he believes this new fare structure “may encourage drivers to work more unsocial hours”.

“I think it’s a good move by the NTA, I do think it’ll make a difference,” he said.

The NTA’s 2022 driver survey showed that 93% of drivers were working, but only 29% currently were undertaking night work. According to the survey, 30% of drivers said they would consider doing night work if the relevant fares were to increase.

McGuinness said that while the move is welcome it is long overdue because of the increase in costs over the last year and the fact that drivers have not had a fare increase since 2018. 

“In terms of costs, you can really notice the difference,” he said. “Even from my own experience, the other day I bought two tyres for the car and this time last year it would have cost €220 or €230 and now it costs over €300. To get your car serviced now is €220 – that’s gone up from €190. It all adds up.”

A survey conducted among taxi drivers in July 2019 showed they earned an average of €28,800 for working 48 weeks of the year. A review of fares conducted in 2019, which has recommended a fare increase to be implemented in 2020, was put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The NTA said a driver’s income would increase by €3,456 annually as a result of the latest fare increase.

It said average operating costs for taxi drivers had increased by 11% between 2017 and 2022, while a further 1% fare increase was being provided to cover the cost of facilitating cashless payments.

Although there have been public complaints about the number of taxis for hire, particularly at night-time in Dublin, an NTA report earlier this year said the number of taxis in Ireland at 3.7 per 1,000 population far exceeded most countries in Europe where the average is 1.3 per 1,000 population.

However, the number of licensed taxis in February was 15,838 which was 11% lower than in 2019, with over 9,000 based in Dublin.

At the time, almost 80% of customers said they had to wait no more than 15 minutes to get a taxi on the last occasion that they used one, but 10% had to wait in excess of 30 minutes for a cab.

McGuinness said that he expects that the situation in Dublin in particular will improve over the rest of summer as there are fewer events planned in the city centre. 

“Five years ago if you had a big event on you would have had a lot of additional buses put on to cater for them, but that’s not happening anymore and that means there’s a huge demand when they’re on,” he said.

“Maybe the licensing of these events should be looked at more seriously to include how customers at concerts or events can actually get back from these places. It can’t just fall on the taxi industry, we need a proper late night bus service and the Luas and Dart should be running later.”

In response to a recent parliamentary question from Sinn Féin TD Ruairi Ó Murchú about costs in the taxi industry, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said it is hoped that the 12% increase in taxi fares from 1 September this year will have an impact on the situation, particularly at evenings at weekends.

Minister Ryan pointed out that the proposed fare increases have been weighted in favour of the premium rate that can be charged for journeys between 8am to 8am, as well as on Sundays and public holidays.

“The increase in cents/euro for each taxi user per journey is not substantial; however, the cumulative impact is significant for drivers, and the weighting in the increase has been designed so as to encourage more drivers to operate during these periods and also encourage drivers who may still not have come back since the pandemic, to re-activate their licences,” he explained.

The minister said he recognises that rising fuel costs are a “significant challenge for all sectors”. He pointed out that the government had, in response, announced a temporary reduction in fuel-related excise duties of 20 cent per litre of petrol and 15 cent per litre of diesel in March.

“These reductions, which were due to finish at the end of August, will be extended until Budget Day on 27 September at an additional cost of circa €80 million, and should help reduce the operating costs of all private and commercial vehicle owners, including non-electric SPSV (taxi) operators,” he said. 

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