The Deputy refers to a specific company, which is licensed as a dispatch operator in Ireland.
In Ireland, carrying passengers in a car for a payment is regulated under the Taxi Regulation Act 2013. That Act provides for regulating the small public service vehicle (SPSV) industry including taxis, hackneys and other similar activities. The Act requires the holding of an SPSV licence for the vehicle and also one for the driver, in order to carry passengers for hire or reward. The regulatory regime places no quantitative restriction on the number of licences in place.
The regulatory regime requires drivers to be Garda vetted, to have demonstrated knowledge both of industry standards and of the areas in which they will be working, to have a vehicle meets specific safety standards, to have appropriate insurance in place, and to operate to an appropriate standard of service, within a pricing system.
The focus of the regulatory regime is to protect the consumer and to help personal safety. These are important objectives and central to how the SPSV industry is operated and regulated. Within this context, there is also a need to evolve and be open to new technologies and innovation. In this regard, there is now widespread use of technology in the SPSV industry, and such innovations are of benefit to both consumers and operators.
As regards the rural areas, the Deputy will be aware that the NTA has responsibility for providing integrated local and rural transport. This includes responsibility for the Rural Transport Programme which now operates under the "Local Link" brand. The number of services has been expanded in recent years and spending on the programme has increased substantially also. In recent months, the NTA has been conducting a pilot scheme to test evening and night-time services as part of the Rural Transport Programme. This pilot was recently extended and future arrangements will be informed by an evaluation of its experience.