Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Questions (598)

James Bannon


598. Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide a response to his objection to the changes to the driver and rental notifications for small public service vehicles, insofar as they discriminate against taxis operating in rural areas and also act against the interest of disabled persons living in rural areas with no broadband or smartphone coverage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11303/13]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

The transport requirements of people with disability and others living in rural areas was an important consideration of the Review Group responsible for the Taxi Regulation Review, which included representatives from rural areas and representative groups for consumers and people with disabilities. The view of the Review Group, giving rise to Action 40 of the Review Report, is that it is necessary to have a system that links SPSV licenced drivers to specific small public service vehicle (SPSV) licensed vehicles so that the identification of the authorised driver of an SPSV vehicle is available in real time. This is in the general interest of consumers who use taxis and for enforcement officers regulating the taxi industry. 

From the end of January 2013 it became a requirement that all SPSV operators notify the National Transport Authority (NTA) about the vehicles they are operating at any time. This is a once-off notification in the case of SPSV drivers who own their own vehicle. Any changes such as with respect to rental agreements or change of vehicle will also need to be notified.

I understand that the NTA has made available free IT tools to facilitate the notification process - the "Taxi Industry Portal" smartphone application can be downloaded onto both Apple and Android smartphones. In addition, SPSV operators can use any PC or laptop to access the Taxi Portal over the Internet. A call centre also operates all-day every-day to take notifications by telephone.

The Taxi Review Report envisages that more work is required to facilitate transport for people with disabilities including those in rural areas. For example Action 19 of the Taxi Regulation Review recommends that the NTA, in conjunction with the National Disability Authority, produce a website and smartphone application that facilitates self-ordering of wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs). The development of a simple database of SPSV operators of WAVs with telephone contact details on a geographical basis is in planning phase.

The regulation of the small public service vehicle (SPSV) industry is a matter for the NTA under the Taxi Regulation Act, 2003. The NTA is responsible for the implementation of the recommendations of the Taxi Regulation Review Report. I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the NTA in this regard.