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Taxi group suggests 'village drivers' could be the answer to rural transport problem

A subsidy will be required to make it attractive for drivers to offer the service.

Image: Shutterstock/Irina Fischer

VILLAGE TRANSPORT DRIVERS could be the answer to the rural transport problem, the Oireachtas Transport Committee was told today. 

The Taxi Dispatch Operators Representative Association (TDORA), which represents taxi companies in Carlow, Cork, Dublin, Galway, Limerick and Waterford, has proposed a new rural transport scheme that would step in where hackney services have failed.

The group proposes that the service would operate in surrounding village areas, at a maximum distance each way of 15 kilometres. 

The taxi driver representatives stated today that the area surrounding a local village would be defined under the law as being, a maximum of 1,000 people.

Under the current legislation rural areas are not being catered to by local hackneys, with only 13 local area hackney groups operating nationally, the committee members were told.

Subsidy

A subsidy will be required to make it attractive for drivers to offer the service and for
passengers to use the service, the committee is to be told, with the chairman of the group set to outline that without a subsidy, there will be insufficient passengers to make the service viable.

The level of subsidy needed per journey can be determined by a consultancy study at a later date, but it is proposed the scheme could be used by licensed publicans.

There has been much debate about the lack of rural transport in Ireland, particularly in light of the introduction of the new drink-driving legislation.

Minister of State Jim Daly has made similar proposals, calling for an ‘Uber-style’ scheme for rural Ireland. He envisages that under his plan, people would be allowed to operate taxi services within 15 kilometres of their home, using their own cars.

In 2017, the National Transport Authority (NTA) banned ride-sharing company Uber from operating in the country, stating that its model was not appropriate for Ireland.

Drink-driving legislation

Kerry’s Danny Healy-Rae was particularly critical of the drink-driving legislation, stating that it would cause rural isolation and force the elderly who wish to socialise in the local pub to stay at home. 

Taxi drivers said that under their plan, passengers would be required to share the journey with others, with the vehicle being capable of carrying seven or eight passengers.

Similar to hackneys and taxis, all Village Transport drivers would be vetted and licensed by the gardaí and the vehicles would be subject to the NTA rules on suitability, NCT tests and be wheelchair accessible.

It is proposed that bookings could be made through an app, though the committee will be told that any plan must also take into account that some of those the service is intended to help, would not use smart phones.

Also appearing before the committee today, officials from the National Transport Authority (NTA) said that grant aid should be given to a number of taxi and hackney services in rural areas, stating that public transport is failing to meet the travel demands for people in rural Ireland.

The agency recognised that there is currently a lack of taxi services in rural communities.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has previously said he is open to liberalising licensing rules for taxi and hackney drivers in rural Ireland.

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